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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Florida trounces Arkansas 71-54, Frazier injured

Fresh off its second league loss in five games, No. 4/5 Florida Gators basketball (22-4, 12-2 SEC) extended its lead in the Southeastern Conference standings to two games with a dominant 71-54 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks (17-10, 8-6 SEC) on Saturday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida, in its second meeting with Arkansas during regular season play for the first time in program history, earned a measure of revenge for the initial showdown in which the Razorbacks upset the Gators 80-69 on Feb. 5 in Fayetteville, AR.

Four Florida players scored in double figures, all of whom gave complete efforts throughout the contest. Redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario led the way with a team-high 15 points, but junior center Patric Young made a bigger impact with 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go along with seven rebounds.

Ensuring that Arkansas did not take the upper hand out of the gate like it did two weeks ago, Florida opened the contest on a 7-0 run but was soon tied with the Razorbacks at 8-8 after the visitors matched the Gators’ intensity with a 8-1 scoring stretch including seven-straight points from forward Marshawn Powell.

Minutes later, Powell found his way to the bench as Florida junior F Casey Prather entered the game and drew a pair of charges on the big man. The Gators completed a 9-0 run to take a 23-13 lead before being given a taste of their own medicine.

Young left the court with 5:53 to play in the first half after committing his second foul, and Arkansas took advantage with a 6-0 run to get within four of the hosts, a margin that would hold until halftime.

Continue Reading » Florida trounces Arkansas 71-54, Frazier injured

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Gameday: No. 4/5 Florida Gators vs. Arkansas

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPNU/ESPNUHD (Tom Hart, Matt Doherty)
SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper app

No. 4/5 FLORIDA GATORS ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Mike Anderson
Record: 21-4 (11-2 SEC) Record: 17-9 (8-5 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -18.5 | O/U 138

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Arkansas 15-11 with every victory coming under Donovan (15-6). The Gators are 8-2 at home in the series (8-0 under Donovan). The teams are meeting twice in the regular season for the first time ever.
» UF is looking to rebound from an 80-69 loss at UA on Feb. 5.
» Florida is undefeated at home this season (12-0) and looking to start 13-0 in the O’Dome for the sixth time under Donovan.
» Four Gators starters are averaging double figures in scoring. The Tigers have two players that score in double digits; each averages 15+ points per game.
» Florida is 46-4 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding opponents under 71 points in a game (20-3 in 2012-13).
» Arkansas has won three-straight games and five of its last six after starting 3-4 in league play over its first seven games.
» 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.
» UF is outscoring SEC opponents by an average of +20.8 points per game.
» Florida freshman guard Michael Frazier II (.506) is chasing school history as he looks to become the most proficient single-season three-point shooter ever at UF (Kenyan Weaks – .508).
» The Gators are second nationally in scoring margin (+20.7), third in scoring defense (53.0), seventh in field goal percentage (.493) and three-point shooting (9.0 per game), ninth in field goal defense (.374), 13th in assist-turnover ratio (1.39), 18th in assists (16.0), 20th in three-point percentage (.390) and 23rd in rebound margin (+6.3).
» Florida is also seventh nationally in fouling, committing 14.0 per game.
» The Razorbacks are second nationally in turnover margin (+6.5), 14th in steals (9.3), 16th in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.37) and 24th in assists (15.7).

Read the rest of the Florida-Arkansas preview with much more after the break!
Continue Reading » Gameday: No. 4/5 Florida Gators vs. Arkansas

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Arkansas shocks No. 2 Florida with 80-69 upset

A pair of 10-game winning streaks were on the line on Tuesday night in Fayetteville, AR, but it was the unranked Arkansas Razorbacks (14-9, 5-4 SEC) that kept theirs alive and strong with a shocking and dominating 80-69 upset of the No. 2/2 Florida Gators (18-3, 8-1 SEC) at Bud Walton Arena.

Arkansas won its 11th consecutive game at home dating back to Dec. 4, 2012 while ending Florida’s 10-game winning streak, its longest since the 2008-09 season. The Gators, which had beaten their first eight Southeastern Conference opponents by an average of 26.5 points, were shook early and outplayed for the duration of the contest.

The Razorbacks, which strung together runs of 12-2 and 10-0 early in the contest, found themselves up 23 points with 7:18 remaining in the first half by starting the game 14-of-18 from the field and 7-of-9 from downtown.

Arkansas eventually cooled off and allowed Florida to cut its lead down to 15 points with 1:44 left on the back of a quick 10-2 run.

Opening the second half up 17, the Hogs continued their dominance over the Gators by forcing three turnovers and scoring six-straight points to increase their advantage back to 23 points. Florida answered with an 11-2 – run including five-straight from redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario – to cut its deficit to 14 points with 15 minutes remaining.

Looking to put away their visitors, the Razorbacks responded by forcing six more turnovers and outscoring the Gators 16-3 to take a game-high 27-point lead that also marked UF’s largest deficit of the season.

Florida refused to be put away, however, and used an 11-2 scoring stretch to find itself down 13 points with 3:52 to play. The home team was able to maintain for the duration of the contest and pull out the impressive victory.

Tuesday marked the fifth time in school history that Arkansas beat a ranked Florida team at Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks also scored more points against UF (80) than any other team since Dec. 29, 2011 (Rutgers).

Rosario led all scorers with 15 points. Junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin added 14 for the Gators but was just 5-of-15 from the field. Junior center Patric Young, who scored nine points, fouled out late in the game and junior forward Will Yeguete sat for most of the contest after his right knee tendinitis flared up early in the first half.

Guard B.J. Young came off the bench to lead Arkansas with 13 points.

UF committed 16 turnovers in the game and shot 41.1 percent from the field.

Florida will look to get the bad taste from Tuesday’s contest out of its mouth when it hosts Mississippi State on Saturday at 5 p.m. in a game that will air live on FOX Sports Network. The Gators defeated the Bulldogs 82-47 in Starkville, MS on Jan. 26.

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Florida-Arkansas, defense, Boynton, Gators notes

No. 2/2 FLORIDA GATORS ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Mike Anderson
Record: 18-2 (8-0 SEC) Record: 13-8 (4-4 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Location: Bud Walton Arena – Fayetteville, AR [Capacity: 19,200]
Time: 7:05 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD (Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes, Shannon Spake)
SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper app

Odds: Florida -11.5 | O/U 140

QUICK TURNAROUND IN A TOUGH ENVIRONMENT

Donovan is known as being no fan of the three-day turnaround during SEC play but that is exactly what the Gators and Razorbacks both have leading into their game on Tuesday evening. “It’s always different when you have a quick turnaround like this,” he said. “You just have to deal with that. We’ve got two legitimate days to prepare, as does Arkansas. … So, we’re both dealing with the same thing with the Saturday-Tuesday.”

While the prep time may be the same for both squads, nothing else will be equal on Tuesday. UF is looking like one of the best teams in the country and heads into Fayetteville on a 10-game winning streak, it’s longest since the middle of the 2008-09 season. The hosts, while not necessarily having a great season, have been playing fantastic at home. The Razorbacks have won 10-straight in the friendly confines (4-0 in SEC play) with an average margin of victory of 17.6 points in those contests.

“The biggest thing you look at is the field goal percentage, the offensive numbers are different. I think that’s not abnormal. Most teams shoot the ball at home better than they do on the road but those numbers are drastically different,” Donovan said Monday. “Winning on the road is really hard. It’s really hard to do. There’s probably a comfort level and a confidence level for those guys, playing in Fayetteville. It’s a unique and really a great environment, which I’m sure they enjoy very much. I think most teams feel a little bit different when they play at home.”

Florida is also in the middle of a a scheduling oddity with Arkansas and will be playing in Bud Walton Arena for three-straight seasons despite only seeing the Razorbacks in Gainesville, FL once (Feb. 23, 2013).

“With the expansion, the scheduling has gotten a little different. Last year, we played them because we had 16 [games] in the league. This year, we’re in a home-and-home with them and we’ll play them twice. Next year, we have to go back to Arkansas. We’re going to play in Fayetteville three times in relation to them coming here once [in three years],” Donovan explained. “Because of the off-set schedule, that’s a little bit unique and a little bit different. I think Bud Walton is a great place to play. They have great fans, good enthusiasm and a good environment. I’m sure there will be a great crowd in there. Our guys have gone into that building, they know what to expect. They know how it is in there and [Arkansas] plays very, very well at home as the stats and records show. They are exceptionally a very good home team.”

Continue Reading » Florida-Arkansas, defense, Boynton, Gators notes

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FOUR BITS: Donovan, Spikes, volleyball, soccer

1 » The Florida Gators announced on Tuesday that head coach Billy Donovan’s son of the same name has decided to transfer to Florida and walk on to the team to play for and learn from his father. Billy Donovan , who spent his last two years playing for the Catholic Cardinals (Division III) in Washington, D.C., has already joined the team and will don the No. 42 though fans will not see him on the court this year as he will be forced to ride the bench during games due to NCAA transfer rules. As was noted a year ago when Catholic traveled to Gainesville, FL to play the Gators in an exhibition game, the younger Donovan originally chose to attend that university in order to further his passion for politics. A change of career path – he is now interested in a coaching or administrative role in a basketball organization – led him right back to where he grew up. “I never wanted it to be like I was telling him what to do career-wise,” Donovan told UF’s GatorZone.com. “I think he needs to figure that out on his own. My job, my wife’s job, is to be supportive and help put him in the best situation for him to pursue what he wants to pursue.” There is probably no better spot for the younger Donovan to learn how to coach or run a basketball team than under the wing of a future hall of fame coach.

2 » New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes received some bad news on Friday when he learned that the NFL decided to fine him $21,000 for an illegal blindside block he threw in a game on Sept. 30. Spikes, who leveled Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler during an interception return for his team, told the team’s website earlier in the week that he did not believe that he did anything wrong. “A lot of guys, they know the new rules. I don’t think I’ve done anything illegal,” he said. “I’ve tried to keep it legal, but I just want to kind of try to make a point – when I hit a guy, I want him [to say], ‘Oh, that was Spikes that hit me. I know that already.”

3 » No. 11 Florida volleyball (13-2, 7-0 SEC) has been on a roll as of late, wrapping up their ninth- and 10th-straight regular season wins over the weekend while hosting a pair of Southeastern Conference opponents in Gainesville. UF registered a 3-0 sweep (25-23, 25-18, 25-15) the Arkansas Razorbacks (13-4, 4-2 SEC) on Friday before coming from two sets down to win 3-2 (22-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-8) against the Kentucky Wildcats (10-7, 4-3 SEC) on Sunday. Freshman outside hitter Ziva Recek of Slovenia was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for her efforts over the weekend. She registered a total of 32 kills and 14 digs combined over the two matches. Impressive in her own right was junior middle back Chloe Mann, who notched a combined 22 kills and 30.0 points on the weekend.

4 » No. 12 Gators soccer (10-3-1, 7-1 SEC) is on a roll of their own, shaking off early season disappointment to rebound with a seven-match winning streak including two big road victories over the last weekend. Florida won 2-0 over the LSU Tigers (5-5-4, 1-4-2 SEC) on Friday before, like volleyball, coming back from a deficit to take down the No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies (12-2-1, 6-1-1 SEC) 2-1 on Sunday. Four different players scored goals for the Gators over the weekend with senior midfielder/forward Erika Tymrak and sophomore MF Havana Solaun finding the back of the net on Friday and senior defender Jo Dragotta and junior F Adriana Leon scoring on Sunday. Tymrak, who garnered SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors on Monday, also notched an assist on Leon’s game-winning goal.

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FOUR BITS: Hernandez, Muschamp, soccer, volley

1 » Only two weeks into the 2012 NFL regular season and a second former Florida Gators offensive starter has gone down with a serious injury. New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who had six receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, got rolled up on during his team’s game on Sunday and seriously injured his ankle. Though the exact injury has not been announced publicly, it is believed that Hernandez suffered a high-ankle sprain as tests after the game revealed that he did not break any bones. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported Sunday that the Patriots are expecting Hernandez to be out up to six weeks, a timeframe consistent with a high-ankle sprain (as was the fact that he left the stadium on crutches with his foot/ankle in a protective boot). Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last week and will miss the rest of the season.

2 » A fan video posted on YouTube after the now-No. 14 Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers happened to catch head coach Will Muschamp celebrating. Check him and all of his Gator Chomps out below (you can skip to 0:30 if you wish):

3 » Since OGGOA’s last update on the team, Florida women’s soccer has remained somewhat average, now boasting a 4-3-1 (1-1-0 SEC) record just two games into league play. The Gators defeated New Mexico 3-2 at home on Sept. 9 to close out their non-conference schedule and split a pair of weekend road matches. Florida fell 2-1 to the Kentucky Wildcats (6-1-0, 1-0-0 SEC) on Friday, taking an early 1-0 advantage with a goal from redshirt senior forward McKenzie Barney at 13’ but allowing UK to score two unanswered goals (one in each half) on their way to victory. The Gators did just the opposite on Sunday, coming back from an early 1-0 deficit to force overtime and win just 10 minutes into the period. Florida took a 2-1 overtime victory over the Auburn Tigers (4-5-0, 0-2-0 SEC) thanks to strikes from senior midfielder Holly King (73’) and junior F Adriana Leon (100’). UF will now look to rely on some home cooking as the Gators host four-straight matches over the next two weekends.

4 » OGGOA was equally negligent in covering volleyball last week though No. 13 Florida (8-2, 2-0 SEC) has rattled off five-straight wins over the last two weekends. The Gators won the self-hosted Active Ankle Challenge in dominant fashion with big victories over the Jacksonville Dolphins (3-0: 25-18, 25-11, 25-11), Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (3-1: 25-15, 25-14, 23-25, 25-12) and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-1: 22-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-22). On the Georgia Tech roster is former UF head coach Urban Meyer’s daughter Nicki Meyer, who registered 11 digs for GT.

Florida began league play this past weekend with a pair of road victories. The Gators earned a hard-fought 3-2 victory (23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 15-13) over the Arkansas Razorbacks (9-3, 0-1 SEC) on Friday before putting together a dominant 3-0 sweep (25-21, 25-14, 25-18) of the No. 24 Kentucky Wildcats (6-5, 0-1 SEC) on Sunday. Junior middle back Chloe Mann led the way with a combined 25 kills on the weekend, but senior right side Tangerine Wiggs was equally impressive with a combined 23 kills of her own. Florida will host Missouri on Friday in their only action this week.

Extra BITS » Two OGGOA readers sent in pictures this week. The first, by baker Reuben Romney, is a cake he sold to a Florida State fan with orange and blue cake on the inside (they laughed). The second, by Ray, is a graphic representation of the nickname Hot Light Hammond, in reference to redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.‘s play making and love for Krispy Kreme donuts.

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Gator Bites for Monday, April 30

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Florida Gators baseball (33-12, 12-9 SEC) continued to falter over the weekend, dropping two of three games to the Arkansas Razorbacks (31-13, 11-10 SEC). Florida has now lost 10 of their last 20 games (including one each to North Florida and South Florida) while also struggling to put forth consistent performances at the plate and on the mound. For instance, the Gators scored just five runs in 27 innings over the weekend. Florida picked up a 3-2 victory on Friday before falling 5-1 on Saturday and 3-1 in 10 innings on Sunday. The Gators were supposed to get a reprieve with a nine-game homestand but instead went just 5-4 over that span of games. Florida will have three full days off before travelling to Kentucky for a three-game series on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. UF fell to No. 5 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Top 25 and No. 7 in the Baseball America rankings on Monday.

» Gators softball (43-8, 20-5 SEC), also ranked No. 2 heading into the weekend, dropped their final home series of the regular season to the Kentucky Wildcats (26-27, 12-13 SEC) over the weekend. Florida fell 2-0 in the series opener (their second-straight shutout and fourth of the season) before picking up a 5-0 win on Senior Day Saturday and dropping the rubber match 5-1 on Sunday. Freshman right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger picked up a win on Saturday and a loss on Sunday to bring her to 13-4 on the season while sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (25-4) added a loss Friday despite pitching quite well over the weekend. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2/4, HR, 2 RBI, R) began her Senior Day with a big-time solo homer in her first at bat on Saturday, giving her another nice memory for her career. UF will conclude the regular season with a three-game road series at Alabama over the weekend.

» Florida five-star 2013 point guard commit Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL) threw down a strong dunk over the weekend and followed it up with a Gator Chomp while staring straight into the camera. Think he’s ready for the big time?

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, April 30

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