Gators get revenge with 79-60 win at Gamecocks

Looking to avenge their only Southeastern Conference East division loss of the season, the No. 17/19 Florida Gators (19-5, 8-2 SEC) traveled to Columbia, SC on a mission and took down the South Carolina Gamecocks (13-9, 4-5 SEC) 79-60 Wednesday evening at the Colonial Life Arena.

Junior point guard Erving Walker led the Gators with a season- and game-high 25 points, and senior forward Chandler Parsons added 14 points and 12 rebounds for his third-straight double-double and fourth in the last six games.

Florida started the game on a 9-0 run as South Carolina missed their first eight shots from the field. The Gamecocks answered back by scoring seven-straight points but failed to even-up with the Gators. UF closed the first half with an 8-0 run to take a 14-point lead and entered the locker rooms up 38-27 after USC hit a three toward the end of the half.

Though Florida outplayed South Carolina early on, both teams coughed up 10 turnovers; the Gators shot 60.7 percent from the floor while the Gamecocks only hit 39.3 percent of their attempts to start the game.

Florida kept their collective foot on the pedal in the second half, using a 9-2 run to jump ahead 53-35 with 13:58 left. The Gators would eventually take a game-high 19-point lead, 57-38, with 11:32 remaining and ended up tying that mark on a three-pointer by sophomore guard Kenny Boynton with the clock running down at the end of the game.

Walker scored his 25 points on 7-for-9 shooting and hit 4-of-5 attempts from downtown, while Parsons nearly had the team’s first triple-double since 2009 by also registering eight assists. Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, who made all six of his first-half shots for 14 points, finished with 16 to go along with six boards.

South Carolina G Bruce Ellington, who scored 23 points against Florida on Jan. 15, was held to a team-high 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting. F Sam Muldrow added 10 points and led the Gamecocks with six rebounds.

With their first win in Columbia since 2008, Florida has now defeated South Carolina in 21 of their last 27 meetings. Head coach Billy Donovan won his 350th career game in orange and blue Wednesday as he watched his team improve to 16-1 when holding opponents under 70 points this season. The victory over the Gamecocks also marks the first time the Gators have won six road games since the 2005-06 season.

Having now won 11 of their last 13 games, Florida returns home to face Tennessee on Saturday at 6 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN.

Photo Credit: Mary Ann Chastain/Associated Press

No. 17 Florida at South Carolina Gameday Preview

Location: Colonial Life Arena – Columbia, SC [Capacity: 18,000]
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: SEC Network
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 17 FLORIDA GATORS USC GAMECOCKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Darrin Horn
Record: 18-5 (7-2) Record: 13-8 (4-4)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -4.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against South Carolina 36-22 and has won 20 of the last 26 meetings in the series. However, the Gators have lost back-to-back contests against the Gamecocks including a 72-69 defeat in January. UF is also 20-11 against USC under Donovan, which includes a 5-3 record in Columbia.
» Eleven of the last 13 games (including January’s contest) between Florida and South Carolina have been decided by six points or less.
» The Gators have won 13 of their last 16 games with 10 victories against RPI top 100 teams. Florida is 5-1 in true road games this season and can reach six victories on the road for the first time since 2005-06.
» UF is 4-1 against the SEC East this season after finishing 3-7 in the division last year.
» The Gators earned back-to-back victories against ranked opponents for the first time since 2007 after defeating then-No. 24 Vanderbilt and then-No. 11 Kentucky last week.
» Florida improved to 15-1 when holding opponents under 70 points this season after limiting Kentucky to 68 points on Saturday.
» Donovan is one victory shy of notching 350 wins with the Gators.
» Florida bests South Carolina in three of four major statistical categories including points per game 71-70.3 (117th-152nd), assists per game 14-11.6 (100th-278th) and field goal percentage .453-.415 (102nd-278th). However, the Gamecocks and Gators are relatively even in rebounding with USC holding a slight advantage 39.0-38.9 (27th-29th). UF ranks 14th in RPI (.6352) and sixth in strength of schedule nationally compared to their opponent being 95th (.5444) and 117th, respectively.

LAST TIME OUT…

Florida and South Carolina will square off for the second time this season; the Gamecocks defeated the Gators 72-69 in Gainesville, FL on Jan. 15. In the contest, Florida rallied back from a double-digit deficit but finished 12-for-22 from the charity stripe and missed their final five throw attempts, points which could have won the game.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Senior forward Chandler Parsons…who is back to averaging double-digit points (11.0) while leading the Gators with 7.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (753), No. 3 in points (1,297) and No. 4 in assists (284) and steals (117). He has notched consecutive double-doubles and now has five this season alone.
» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.2 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.413) and three-point percentage (.373). Walker also leads Florida in turnovers (59) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.5 percent as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but is struggling with consistency in his field goal percentage. Boynton is only shooting 35.6 percent from the field and 29.7 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second on the team in scoring with 13.0 points per game and hits 83.3 percent of his free throws.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat last Tuesday against Vanderbilt.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging just over 17 minutes per game. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5:1), while Young averages 3.3 points and 3.4 boards off the bench.
» South Carolina G Bruce Ellington…who leads his team in scoring with 14.4 points per game and dishes out 3.4 dimes per contest. Ellington posted 23 points against Florida on Jan. 15, his second-highest total of the season.
» Gamecocks F Sam Muldrow and G Ramon Galloway…who each average 10.8 points per game as the team’s other two scoring threats. Muldrow adds 7.2 boards and 3.5 blocks in 28.6 minutes per contest.

TWO BITS: swimmers arrested, Heimerdinger fired

1 » A pair of Florida Gators women’s swimmers, juniors Lily Ramirez and Daniela Victoria, have been indefinitely suspended from the team after being arrested for shoplifting at Nordstrom at the Orlando Mall in Orlando, FL on Saturday. “We are extremely disappointed in the actions of two of our student-athletes this past weekend,” head coach Gregg Troy said in a statement. “Both individuals have been suspended indefinitely and will miss the 2011 SEC Swimming Championships and beyond. University of Florida student-athletes are held to a high standard of character. This was unquestionably a massive error in judgment, and our program simply cannot and will not tolerate this type of behavior.”

2 » With the Tennessee Titans hiring a new head coach, offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger knew there was a chance he would not be allowed to keep his job. Heimerdinger, who is in the process of getting chemotherapy treatments for a rare form of cancer detected this year, was informed Tuesday that he had officially been fired. “It’s never easy to be fired,” said Heimerdinger, formerly a wide receivers coach with the Gators. “I appreciate my time here, but it’s never easy to be fired.” Heimerdinger delayed cancer treatments during the season in order to continue coaching the Titans but his offense was not as prolific in 2010 as it had been in years past.

FOUR BITS: Parsons, Gillespie, basketball praise

1 » Just a day after being named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week, Florida Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons was honored with the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week award by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Parsons averaged 17.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in back-to-back wins last week against No. 24 Vanderbilt and No. 11 Kentucky, Florida’s first consecutive wins against ranked opponents since 2007. He is the first Gators player to ever pick up the honor, which was instituted last season, and earns an automatic nomination to the Oscar Robertson Trophy watch list.

2 » If you think Florida head coach Will Muschamp’s first choice to replace former running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton was to simply change tight ends coach Brian White’s responsibilities and hire someone in his place, that would be an incorrect assumption. In fact, the Gators initially reached out to former Florida running back Robert Gillespie, who accepted the same position with the West Virginia Mountaineers one month earlier. For Gillespie, not returning to his alma mater was possibly the toughest choice he has had to face as a coach. “I’m a man of my word,” Gillespie told The Daily Athenaeum. “I left a good job at Oklahoma State to come [to West Virginia], and I gave [offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen] my word that I would help him build this program. [Florida’s] a place that holds a special place in my heart, but I didn’t make a decision based off of emotions.”

3 » Looking at No. 17/19 Gators basketball’s status for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan considers them an absolute lock to make a second-straight appearance in March Madness…this year with a much better seed.

How impressive is Florida’s NCAA tourney profile at this point in the season? Let’s count the ways: The Gators have the benefit of high RPI and strength of schedule numbers, as well as a 6-1 record against the RPI top 50 and an 11-2 record against the top 100. They’re also 7-2 in conference play, which puts them alone atop the jumbled SEC East standings. They added notches to all three of the aforementioned belts Saturday night with their huge home win over Kentucky. After that win, few teams in the nation can boast a more impressive résumé against top competition than the Gators. Welcome to lock territory, Florida fans. It’s all smooth sailing from here.

4 » Similarly complimentary is Sports Illustrated, which pegs Florida as an elite program who suffered a downturn but is quickly gaining steam once again.

Florida took a step back to respectability last season by winning 21 games and reaching the NCAA tournament, and had expectations ratcheted up this season with all five starters back to go with a talented freshman class. The Gators opened the season at No. 9 and moved to No. 17 this week after dropping out of the polls. Florida (18-5) bumped off No. 10 Kentucky over the weekend and No. 23 Vanderbilt before that to take control of the SEC East at 7-2 – and another step back toward notability.

2/7: Donovan hopes to ride momentum wave

No. 17/19 Florida Gators (18-5, 7-2 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability Monday.

AVOIDING A LETDOWN AFTER A BIG WEEK

All but one of the Gators’ losses this season have come after a hard-fought and/or impressive victory. Florida fell to Central Florida after beating Florida State 55-51 on the road, lost to Jacksonville in overtime after defeating then-No. 6 Kansas State in South Florida, dropped a tough one to South Carolina following a 81-75 overtime win at Tennessee, and lost to Mississippi State after taking down Georgia 104-91 in two overtimes. Coming off two difficult home games against top 25 opponents, UF looks not to repeat a trend Wednesday at USC.

“We are at an interesting time right now in our league, because we will start to play people in the East for the second time,” Donovan said of his team’s second game against South Carolina. “[We’re] going to Columbia against a team that I thought played very, very well here in Gainesville, they really out-played us all the way through. Their front court did a great job blocking shots. I thought when the game was close [Bruce] Ellington, really made some key free throws and some key plays coming down the stretch. It was a hard-fought game; a game that they really out-performed us, and out-played us, and we now have the challenge of going there to play.”

He also realizes the Gators must mentally adjust to being successful and adapt accordingly. “There’s got to be a level of awareness and a step that we can make to understand what we got to do. We do have a very, very clear visual understanding that the team we are playing against beat us already – and beat us on our home court. We’ve got to understand why we got to do to get better,” Donovan said.

“They’ve got to understand very, very clearly what we have got to try to do against South Carolina. They are a great offensive rebounding team. They are a great shot-blocking team, and they are a team that takes a lot of three-point shots. Those things really, really hurt us. Our energy and our effort; emotionally, can we get to a level that we need to get to on Wednesday night to try and play at the very best of our ability?”

PARSONS’s RESURGENCE

Florida senior forward Chandler Parsons has improved his offense substantially over the past few games, but what he has done rebounding the ball has been equally impressive. Donovan notes that his growth in that area is simply due to putting himself in the right place at the right time and being aggressive.

“The biggest thing is, for any rebounder, he’s active. He makes the effort to go to the glass. When you are a small forward like he is, there is an advantage there for his size because he is on the perimeter a lot,” he said of Parsons. “It is a lot more difficult, believe it or not, for Vernon Macklin or [Alex] Tyus to rebound the ball when you are in a smaller space. For a guy like Chandler, who is playing on the perimeter, it’s a lot easier to see flights of balls and run in. The tendency when someone’s on the perimeter a lot of times is not to block them out, to lose sight, to be caught in a rotation. That gives him a lot of times the free run to go in there. It helps us when he defensive rebounds, because of his size he can start to break and run quickly without having to outlet the ball. He provides effort when he goes to the back board.”

GOOD DEFENSE MAKES UP FOR POOR SHOOTING

Junior point guard Erving Walker, perhaps the team’s best pure shooter at this point, continues to struggle at points either for portions of games or for full contests. Saturday was one of those nights as he went only 1-for-9 from the field (1-of-6 from downtown) and scored six of his nine points from the charity stripe. Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton has also had issues scoring this season, mostly stemming from his reliance on the three-pointer. Donovan believes that even though the duo may not be shooting as well as he’d like, what they’ve done on the other end of the floor has been huge.

“I thought [Walker] was really pretty good [Saturday],” he said. “I did not think that he forced very many shots; he took nine shots. He really tried on defense. He had a huge steal that he got fouled on when we were down. He ran our team. I did not think he got to a point where he was over-penetrating and trying to be too aggressive and make too many plays. He and Boynton, when the ball goes in or out, it is going to be kind of part of it with them. I do think both guys try at the other end of the floor. Boynton has been on some tough matchups these last couple of games. He gives it to me at the end of the floor; both those guys try to do that.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 2/7: Donovan hopes to ride momentum wave

SIX BITS: gymnastics, track, tennis, softball

1 » Don’t bother asking them to, because it does not look like No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (6-0, 3-0 SEC) plans to slow down anytime soon. Drawing nearly 7,000 fans to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Friday, Florida took down the previously undefeated No. 6 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1, 1-1 SEC) 197.55-195.45. Gators freshman Mackenzie Caquatto led the team with two event wins (uneven bars, balance beam) and took the all-around title with a score of 39.575, while senior Maranda Smith captured the vault event and sophomore Marissa King won the floor exercise. Florida will be tested once again on Saturday as they face No. 4 Georgia on the road.

2 » Gators sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps and junior jumper Christian Taylor became the fourth and fifth members of the team, respectively, to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships after posting strong individual showings over the weekend at the Virginia Tech Elite Meet. Demps recorded a 6.57 in the men’s 60-meter dash, the second-fastest time in the NCAA this season, during his first race of the year. Taylor won the triple jump with a mark of 16.61m/54-6 for the sixth-straight time in his last six competitions. The duo join jumpers junior Will Claye and sophomore Omar Craddock and junior heptathlete Gray Horn as Florida’s current NCAA automatic-qualifiers off the No. 1 men’s track & field team.

Read the rest of this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: gymnastics, track, tennis, softball

TWO BITS: Brissett signs LOI, Murphy to Duke

1 » Four-star Florida Gators quarterback commitment Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) officially sent his National Letter of Intent to the University of Florida Monday morning, head coach Will Muschamp confirmed early in the afternoon. “Jacoby will be a good fit in our program,” Muschamp said in a UF release. “He is an outstanding quarterback and we are excited to have him join the Gator family.” Check out Brissett’s whirlwind commitment process and what he brings to the table.

2 » Five-star 2012 forward recruit Alex Murphy (Southborough, MA), the brother of Florida sophomore F Erik Murphy, committed to the Duke Blue Devils over the weekend after strongly considering UF and several others programs. Alex told FOX Sports‘ Jeff Goodman that telling Gators head coach Billy Donovan he would not be heading to Gainesville, FL like his brother was the most difficult part of the process. “They started recruiting me before anyone else,” Murphy told Goodman. “I had such a good relationship with Coach Donovan, obviously my brother, and a lot of their players. That was hard for me. It basically came down to them and Duke.”

Pair of Top 25 wins vaults Gators in latest polls

Following back-to-back home victories against Top 25 opponents in the then-No. 24 Vanderbilt Commodores and then-No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats, the Florida Gators (18-5, 7-2 SEC) not only took a slightly larger lead in the Southeastern Conference East division, they also found more respect from voters in the latest ESPN/USA Today coaches’ and Associated Press polls released on Monday.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

ESPN/USA TODAY
Last Week 1-25: Ohio State (31*), Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Purdue, Kentucky, Villanova, Louisville, Georgetown, Missouri, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Washington, Minnesota, Utah State, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Vanderbilt
+ Florida received 51 voting points

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (31*), Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Connecticut, Villanova, Georgetown, Purdue, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Louisville, Arizona, Utah State, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas A&M, Saint Mary’s, Vanderbilt, Minnesota
+ Florida received 243 voting points

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last Week 1-25: Ohio State (65), Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh, Duke, Connecticut, San Diego State, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Purdue, Villanova, Georgetown, Missouri, Louisville, Texas A&M, Syracuse, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, Arizona, Utah State, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, West Virginia
+ Florida received 80 voting points, good for 27th overall

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (65), Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Brigham Young, Notre Dame, Villanova, Connecticut, Georgetown, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Purdue, Arizona, Louisville, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah State, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Temple, West Virginia
+ Florida received 534 voting points

* Numbers represent first-place votes.

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