Saban: Davis’s “devil” comment “disappointing”

Two days after Florida Gators offensive line coach Tim Davis jokingly referred to Alabama’s Nick Saban as “the devil himself” during a Gator Gathering with boosters in Melbourne, FL, the four-time national championship-winning head coach responded.

“It really is a little terribly disappointing,” said Saban, according to AL.com.

Davis on Tuesday was discussing how pleased he was to be working for Florida head coach Will Muschamp when he decided to make light of the differences between Muschamp and Saban in order to entertain the crowd.

“Will and I go back to the Miami Dolphins,” Davis began. “I’ve always wanted to work with Will. Will’s got a plan. Will coached under the devil himself for seven years. I only did three. He did seven. And his DNA is not any different than Nick.”

He soon continued, laughingly referencing and juxtaposing Saban with Muschamp while coaxing repeated laughter from his audience.

“[Muschamp’s] like the other guy, only he’s got a personality,” Davis added. “He’ll smile at you. He’ll talk to you. You understand? That’s what he’s all about. That’s Will. I’m proud to work for him.”

Like many members of the media – notably ESPN’s Mark May, who referred to Davis as “a classless backstabbing coward” despite noting the two had never even met – Saban did not find Davis’s words the least bit comical.

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Boynton fuels Florida to second-half comeback over Alabama in 2013 SEC Tournament semifinals

In a pair of meetings over the last three weekends, the Alabama Crimson Tide have led the No. 11/13 Florida Gators midway through the second half only to see Florida go on a late run and pull off a double-digit victory.

The one-seed Gators (26-6) completed their mission once again on Saturday in the semifinals of the 2013 SEC Tournament, using a 22-5 second-half run to complete a come-from-behind 61-51 victory over the four-seed Crimson Tide (21-12).

Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton, marred in a massive slump in the tournament, broke out in a big way for the Gators. He scored 11-straight points as part of a 15-0 run that took his team from a 10-point deficit with 16 minutes remaining to a five-point lead with 11:19 left in the contest.

“I was really, really happy for Kenny, personally, just to see him bounce back and to continue to have confidence and belief in himself and to play with that fire that I see him play with so often,” head coach Billy Donovan said.

UF matched Boynton’s intensity from there and parlayed his play into a victory that advances Florida to the finals of the SEC Tournament on Sunday at 1 p.m. against either three-seed Ole Miss or 10-seed Vanderbilt. The Gators are looking to win the fourth SEC Tournament Championship in program history.

“When you see our team get excited – our team loves Kenny Boynton – and when people watch him and the ball doesn’t go in the basket, it’s very easy to point fingers and be critical. But I would say that maybe of anybody on our team, Kenny Boynton is truly loved inside of our team because he’s a great teammate,” Donovan said.

“He does want to win. He wants to make every shot he takes. He doesn’t intentionally try to miss, but he’s gone through a little bit of a tough shooting period. And I think as a coach, when you can see somebody’s intentions every day, his intentions are always good. He’s about the team. He wants to play well. He wants to compete. He’s not selfish, doesn’t take a ton of bad shots.

“And for me, I was personally very, very happy for him, and when he’s getting — when he’s making some shots, it livens up our team because our team looks to him in a lot of ways. When he’s got that kind of swagger and that bounce to his step, it can’t all be on him. They all got to step up and assume their own responsibilities, but I always think that that’s a sign of how much a guy is excited when the guy starts to make a couple shots, everybody gets excited for him.”

Read the rest of the Florida-Alabama game story…after the break!
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SEC Tournament – Gameday: Florida vs. Alabama

Location: Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, TN [Capacity: 18,160]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

TV: ABC/ABCHD (Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes, Shannon Spake)
SiriusXM: 126/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: None | Mobile Video: None
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper app

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (4) ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 25-6 (14-4 SEC) Record: 21-11 (12-6 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -11.5 | O/U 117

ANOTHER INJURY; TOUGH PRACTICES

After Friday’s victory, Donovan explained that senior forward Erik Murphy suffered a knee contusion during practice on Wednesday and was limited for the rest of the week. Murphy wound up having a career game on Friday, registering career-highs of 27 points and 12 rebounds despite wearing a brace on his knee during the contest.

“I just was feeling a little pain in it in practice and wanted to be cautious coming into the tournament and just pretty much treated it, iced it and went a little sleep. But it’s fine,” Murphy said after the game.

Donovan, however, was worried that Murphy may not even be available to play.

“I was concerned because the trainer was concerned. He didn’t practice. It was really bizarre,” he explained. “We had just finished a stretch, and we were doing just some going through like pick-and-roll coverage. It wasn’t even a contact drill, more of a teaching drill. He kind of planted his foot and went to turn. He felt something, had kind of a sharp pain in his knee. Didn’t know what it was. They pulled him out. He went back in the training room and then came back out and it was still bothering him. And the trainer felt like it was in his knee joint and really didn’t know what it was.

“Nothing showed up on the MRI. It was negative. That night he started to feel progressively better. There was no swelling. There was nothing on the MRI. So, more than anything else, we felt like everything was fine. At the time they were concerned. Not being a doctor, I don’t know, I just go by what they tell me. They were concerned. I think when the MRI came back later that night and it was clean, I think we felt like he was going to be able to play, wouldn’t be a problem.”

Donovan was quite pleased with how Murphy and the rest of the Gators performed on Friday coming off of the first significant amount of practice time the team has had with a full complement of players.

Read the rest of the Florida-Alabama gameday preview…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: softball, tennis, baseball, basketball

1 » No. 4 Florida Gators softball (23-1) continued its stellar start to the 2013 season by upending the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (22-1) on Wednesday in Tuscaloosa, AL. Florida handed Alabama its first loss of the season in the non-conference showdown (the game was scheduled outside of league play) by scoring six runs in the final two innings to turn a 4-2 deficit into an 8-4 victory. Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (11-1, 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R [2 ER], 3 BB, 5 K) threw well but was victimized by a pair of untimely errors before leaving the contest. Sophomore RHP Lauren Haeger (1.0 IP, 2 BB, 4 K) replaced her in relief and ensured that the Gators maintained the advantage they gained early in the top of the seventh. A two-RBI double by freshman pinch hitter Taylore Fuller (1/2, 2 RBI) put Florida ahead in the seventh. Haeger (2/3, RBI, R, BB), senior right fielder Kelsey Horton (2/4, RBI, R) and junior third baseman Stephanie Tofft (2/4, RBI, R) each knocked in runs for the Gators.

2 » No. 5 Florida women’s tennis (8-2) bounced back from its tough loss on Sunday with a 4-0 sweep of the No. 16 Florida State Seminoles (8-3) on Wednesday in Tallahassee, FL. The Gators debuted some new doubles pairings in the contest after struggling to win the doubles point in recent matches. The switch worked out for Florida on Wednesday as it took the doubles point before running through singles action as No. 11 junior Sofie Oyen earned a 6-0, 6-1 victory, No. 1 Lauren Embree picked up a 6-1, 6-1 win, and No. 53 junior Alex Cercone took her match 6-4, 6-3. UF improved to 53-1 all-time against FSU, according to the school.

3 » Gators baseball (7-7) has fought hard over the last four games to get its record back to .500 after losing six-straight games from Feb. 20 to March 1. In a home-and-home series against the Jacksonville Dolphins (4-9) on Tuesday and Wednesday, Florida came from behind twice to pick up a pair of victories. On Tuesday, the Gators trailed 5-4 heading into the top of the seventh but scored four runs over the final three innings to pick up the 8-5 victory in Jacksonville, FL. Back at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Wednesday, Florida rallied to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth including a walk-off RBI single by sophomore PH Connor Mitchell (1/1, RBI) that brought home senior first baseman Vickash Ramjit (3/4, 2 R, BB), who was intentionally walked earlier in the wild frame. UF looks to extend its four-game winning streak this weekend when it hosts Indiana for a three-game series from Friday-Sunday.

4 » Nine-seed Gators women’s basketball (18-13) delivered in the first round of the 2013 SEC Tournament on Thursday, taking down the eight-seed Arkansas Razorbacks (18-12) to advance to the quarterfinals against one-seed Tennessee on Friday at noon. Florida pulled off the 64-59 victory by going on a game-ending 10-2 run to erase a three-point deficit late in the contest. Junior guard Jaterra Bonds scored a game-high 17 points (12 in the second half) by hitting 10-of-12 free throws; she made just 3-of-10 field goals. Freshman G Sydney Moss also struggled from the field (3-of-11) but was just as solid from the line, draining 7-of-8 attempts to finish with 13 points.

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Gators clinch share of SEC regular-season title

No. 6/8 Florida Gators basketball (23-5, 13-3 SEC) has its sights set on the outright league championship but took the first step toward that goal on Saturday by clinching at least a share of the Southeastern Conference regular season title with a little help from a team that handed them a devastating defeat, the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Just a few hours after Florida ousted the Alabama Crimson Tide (19-10, 11-5 SEC) from the title race with a 64-52 come-from-behind victory at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, the Kentucky Wildcats (20-9, 11-5 SEC) fell 73-60 on the road at Arkansas (18-11, 9-7 SEC) and dropped two games back in the SEC standings.

UF led both UA and UK by a single game at the start of play on Saturday.

The Gators, which now have six SEC regular season titles in program history, captured at least a share of the championship in two of the last three seasons (2011).

Florida can win the title outright with one victory in its next two games. UF hosts Vanderbilt (12-15, 6-9 SEC) on Wednesday evening in the O’Dome before concluding the regular season at Kentucky on Saturday, March 9.

Discussing the possibility of winning the SEC regular season title after his team’s victory on Saturday, Gators head coach Billy Donovan said he would be proud of the accomplishment though he would see it as the result of something much larger overall.

“That to me is always a byproduct of doing the right things,” he said.

Florida also clinched a bye in the 2013 SEC Tournament on Saturday as it solidified its standing as a top-four seed in the event. UF will not play until Friday, March 15.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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Prather helps No. 6/8 Gators surge past Tide 64-52

Sometimes a late-game substitution can make all the difference.

That was the case on Saturday afternoon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL when head coach Billy Donovan inserted junior forward Casey Prather into the game with 11:49 left and saw the No. 6/8 Florida Gators (23-5, 13-3 SEC) erupt on a 27-7 game-ending scoring stretch to pull off a 64-52 come-from-behind victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide (19-10, 11-5 SEC).

Down eight points with 12:23 left in the contest, Florida looked prepared to settle for its third loss in four games but instead turned on the jets when Prather brought a boost of energy to the court and scored eight points as part of a 19-2 run that gave the Gators a nine-point lead with three minutes to play.

“He was the only guy who had a level of energy,” Donovan said.

Florida scored 15-straight points to jump ahead of Alabama and outscored the Crimson Tide 8-2 down the stretch to end the contest with its biggest margin of the game.

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Gameday: No. 6/8 Florida Gators vs. Alabama

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD (Mark Jones, Jimmy Dykes)
SiriusXM: 85 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper app

No. 6/8 FLORIDA GATORS ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 22-5 (12-3 SEC) Record: 19-9 (11-4 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -16 | O/U 120

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Alabama leads the all-time series against Florida 73-60, but the Gators are 17-5 against the Crimson Tide under Donovan. UF is 38-19 all-time against UA in Gainesville including 8-0 since Donovan took over.
» Donovan is 4-0 against Grant, his former assistant coach.
» Florida is undefeated at home this season and has started 13-0 in the O’Dome for the sixth time under Donovan (second in the last three seasons).
» Four Gators starters are averaging double figures in scoring. The Tigers have three players that score in double digits on average.
» Florida is 47-5 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding opponents under 71 points in a game (21-4 in 2012-13).
» Alabama has won five of its last six games, an impressive feat considering the Crimson Tide lost six of eight over a five-week span from Dec. 1, 2002 to Jan. 8, 2013. UA’s lone loss in its last six games was in a triple-overtime thriller at LSU.
» The Gators are 4-1 against top-25 opponents this season after going 3-5 against ranked adversaries last season with all five losses coming to top-three teams.
» Florida is 0-4 this season in single-digit decisions; Alabama is 8-2 in similar contests.
» The Gators are second nationally in scoring margin (+29.6), third in scoring defense (53.5), seventh in field goal defense (.375), eighth in field goal percentage (.489), ninth in three-point shooting (8.7 per game) and assist-turnover ratio (1.40), 20th in turnover margin (3.4), 21st in assists (15.8), and 24th in three-point percentage (.384) and three-point defense (.300).
» Florida is also seventh nationally in fouling, committing 14.1 per game.
» The Crimson Tide is 16th nationally in steals (9.0) and 20th in scoring defense (58.2).

INJURY REPORT

FLORIDA
» Active: Freshman Michael Frazier II (back), junior Casey Prather (facial laceration)
» Questionable: Junior Will Yeguete (knee)

Read the rest of the Florida-Alabama preview with much more after the break!
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Florida clears Yeguete, Frazier, Prather for practice

Believe it or not, No. 6/8 Florida Gators basketball (22-5, 12-3 SEC) will have its full roster active and practicing together for the first time in three weeks on Thursday as the team officially announced Wednesday that trainers have cleared junior forwards Will Yeguete (knee) and Casey Prather (facial laceration) and freshman guard Michael Frazier II (concussion) to return to the court.

Yeguete, who aggravated a knee injury and left the court after a single minute of action on Feb. 5 at Arkansas, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Feb. 8 and has missed the last six games while rehabilitating. Florida, already thin in the frontcourt before Yeguete went down, is 4-3 over the last seven games while he has been sidelined.

A “dirty work” player and the squad’s best defender, Yeguete cleans up for a lot of his teammates’ shortcomings. He averaged 6.0 points and 6.3 rebounds (second-most on the team) before going down three weeks ago.

Frazier suffered a concussion at home against Arkansas on Feb. 23 and missed Tuesday’s away contest against Tennessee. UF fell 64-58 partially because it shot a low percentage and struggled mightily with UT’s length in the backcourt, two areas in which Frazier would have been of great assistance.

He is averaging 6.4 points and 3.4 boards per contest while shooting a team-high 48.9 percent from beyond the arc and team-best 95.2 percent from the charity stripe.

Knocked from Tuesday’s contest after his head began bleeding following a collision with redshirt senior G Mike Rosario, Prather skipped the bench and immediately headed to the locker room with Gators trainer Dave Werner.

Head coach Billy Donovan said after the game that he did not know whether Prather suffered his third concussion of the 2012-13 season.

In the end, it appears as if Prather’s injury was a simple facial laceration as he otherwise would not be returning to practice. He has already been out of action for 10 games this season due to two preseason concussions (five) and a high-ankle sprain (five).

Prather has been an important bench player for Florida as of late, filling in admirably for Yeguete and averaging 9.2 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 75.7 percent from the field over the last six games.

The Gators have not yet determined whether Yeguete or Frazier will be active for Saturday’s showdown against the Alabama Crimson Tide though things are obviously looking up for UF’s depth. Florida and Alabama are separated by one game in the Southeastern Conference standings with three left to play, making Saturday’s contest an important one for both teams.

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