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 “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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FOUR BITS: gymnastics, baseball, softball, tennis

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics advanced to the 2012 NCAA Championships on Saturday by winning the NCAA Raleigh Regional title with a team score of 197.325. Florida took down Ohio State (196.225) to win the event and also surpassed N.C. State (195.975), Penn State (196.650), North Carolina (194.025) and Kent State (193.575); finishing second, OSU also earned an opportunity to compete for the title. Four Gators won five total event titles on Saturday with junior Ashanée Dickerson posting a season-best 39.65 to claim the all-around for herself. Dickerson shared the vault (9.95) and uneven bars (9.90) titles with sophomore Alaina Johnson and cheered on as junior Marissa King picked up the balance beam (9.925) title and freshman Kytra Hunter won the floor exercise (9.95). Johnson (second), King (fourth) and Hunter (sixth) all finished high in the overall standings, and Florida posted the highest team total in every individual event as well. The victory was UF’s 12th regional title overall and their eighth in the last nine years. The NCAA Championship will be decided from April 20-22.

2 » Likely to lose their top ranking on Monday, No. 1 Gators baseball (25-7, 7-5 SEC) has continued its slide by dropping a home series over the weekend to the No. 7 LSU Tigers (25-7, 8-4 SEC). Florida has now lost five of their last seven games including consecutive three-game series for the first time since 2008. The Gators scored six or more runs in all three games but struggled with their pitching and defense in both the opener and series finale. Florida fell 7-6 to LSU on Thursday as junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (4-1) gave up six earned runs on seven hits with a walk and just two strikeouts in four innings. The Gators rebounded with a 7-0 win Friday thanks to a great performance from sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (3-1, 6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K). Sunday’s game started on a positive note with UF leading 7-2 through three innings. However, Florida’s bullpen gave up six unanswered runs over the final six innings to drop the heartbreaker. Sophomore RHP Karsten Whitson started but only lasted an inning after hitting two batters, giving up two hits and allowing two runs (one earned). The Gators bullpen combined to allow six earned runs on 13 hits as the Tigers fought back for the victory. Already having won the series’ first two games, Florida will look to close out Florida State on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Tallahassee, FL.

3 » No. 6 UF softball (35-4, 15-2 SEC) had a much more successful weekend, sweeping the Ole Miss Rebels (16-21, 3-11 SEC) to extend their winning streak to six games. The Gators got it done on the mound and at the plate, outscoring the Rebels 28-4 in the three games. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (20-2) started the first two games and posted a pair of solid performances by allowing just one earned run on four hits with four walks and nine strikeouts in 11.0 innings (including a complete game effort on Friday). Freshman RHP Alyssa Bache (5-0) concluded the weekend for the Gators by giving up three earned runs on three hits but registering five strikeouts in five innings. Though Florida’s pitching was dominant, the plate work of freshman designated hitter Bailey Castro was even better. Castro combined to go 4/7 with three home runs, eight RBIs, five runs and three walks. She hit two bombs on Sunday including her first career grand slam while registering a career-high seven RBIs. UF will travel to face Central Florida on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Orlando, FL.

4 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (17-1, 10-0 SEC) continued their march to the postseason while clinching at least a share of the 2012 SEC Championship for the regular season with a pair of 7-0 sweeps over the weekend. Florida took down the No. 40 Arkansas Razorbacks (10-10, 2-7 SEC) on Friday and No. 39 LSU (11-10, 4-5 SEC) on Sunday with their players winning all 30 sets they competed in over the weekend. UF has now swept four consecutive opponents and 13 of 18 this season. The Gators will look to win the SEC regular season title outright on Saturday at South Carolina. No. 9 Florida men’s tennis (13-8, 6-4 SEC) was not as successful as their female counterparts, taking down Arkansas (14-10, 1-8 SEC) 7-0 on Friday before falling 4-2 to No. 27 LSU (13-9, 4-6 SEC) on Sunday. The Gators won 15 of 16 sets and were successful in a pair of tiebreakers in the former contest but were beat handily to close out the weekend. UF will host USC on Saturday at 1 p.m. to end the regular season.

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SIX BITS: Rainey, Noah, softball, lax, tennis, NBA

1 »’s Gil Brandt took a look back at the Florida GatorsPro Day on March 13 and came away with some very interesting information. He clocked Rainey in at 4.41 and 4.35 seconds in his 40-yard dashes and said that he also impressed while working out at wide receiver. Brandt (among others) believes Rainey is a sure-fire third-round pick in the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft. He also noted that WR Denote Thompson “ran blistering 4.31 and 4.32 40s” and also worked out as a defensive back and “looked good, even though he has no experience playing there.”

2 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was ejected from Saturday’s game after throwing a ball near a referee but was contrite and apologetic on Sunday when asked about the situation. “I don’t know what’s going to happen about that,” Noah said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I just want to apologize to the ref. I just feel bad for what happened. I just want to apologize to the ref for coming at him like that. It was wrong of me. I was just frustrated. I just hope he reads this and accepts my apology.” The NBA decided not to suspend Noah for his actions, which were not overly aggressive.

3 » No. 4 Florida softball (29-1, 10-1 SEC) swept the Arkansas Razorbacks (18-12, 2-9 SEC) in three-straight games over the weekend, earning three impressive victories on Friday (6-0), Saturday (3-2) and Sunday (5-0). Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (16-1, S3) led the way for the Gators on the mound, registering two wins and a save in the three contests. She combined to pitch 15.0 innings and allowed just six hits and six walks while registering 15 strikeouts. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie was dynamite at the plate, going 8/11 with two homers, four RBIs, six runs and a walk. She was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday.

4 » No. 5 Gators lacrosse (10-2, 1-0 ALC) continued their winning ways with a 10-8 victory over the No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-2, 0-1 ALC) to open conference play on Saturday. Florida’s veteran junior class combined for just three goals on the afternoon as a pair of freshman midfielders led the way by putting most of the numbers up on the scoreboard. Nora Barry and Shannon Gilroy combined to score six goals on 10 shots, propelling the Gators over the Buckeyes.

5 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis (13-1, 6-0 SEC) and No. 11 Gators men’s tennis (10-7, 3-3 SEC) each registered weekend victories over the No. 19/unranked Ole Miss Rebels. The women won 6-1 at home in Gainesville, FL behind victories from all but one of their ranked players, while the men earned a 5-2 win on the road in Oxford, MS in nearly identical fashion.

6 » ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford updated his latest top 100 prior to the 2012 NBA Draft. Ford currently has three Florida players listed on his rankings: freshman guard Bradley Beal (No. 3), sophomore center Patric Young (No. 25) and junior G Kenny Boynton (No. 93). Young has already said that he intends to stay in school for his junior season, but Beal and Boynton have both been mum about their respective futures. Beal would be a “lock” in the top five and potentially as high as No. 3 overall, according to Ford, while Boynton is unlikely to be selected in the draft and would likely play overseas if he left.

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Florida women win SEC Indoor track & field title

No. 6 Florida Gators women’s track and field captured their seventh conference indoor title and second since 2010 on Sunday, winning the 2012 Southeastern Conference Indoor Championship in Lexington, KY with 132 total team points.

Florida took down the No. 2 LSU Tigers (109) and No. 4 Arkansas Razorbacks (99) in the women’s competition for the school’s first league title of the 2011-12 season. The No. 1 Razorbacks (151) got a measure of revenge on the men’s side by topping the No. 2 Gators (137) and No. 24 Georgia Bulldogs for the other SEC Indoor title.

Despite Florida winning the women’s championship, only one Gators student-athlete won an individual title on that side of the competition. Sophomore distance runner Florence Ngetich captured the 5,000-meter title in 16:12.64.

The men, on the other hand, lost the overall championship but won three individual titles. Sophomore hurdler Eddie Lovett defended his 60-meter hurdles title with a time of 7.78 seconds, junior jumper Omar Craddock won Florida’s fourth-straight SEC Indoor triple jump championship with a distance of 16.44m/53-11.25, and senior thrower Kemal Mesic won the shot put title (19.89m/65-3.25) for the third SEC Indoor meet in a row.

One significant disappointment on the men’s side came as junior sprinter Jeff Demps failed to win the 60-meter dash for the third consecutive season, finishing his attempt in 6.64 seconds, 0.01 seconds behind the victor.

Florida has two more meets next month before competing in the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships from March 9-10.

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Walker, No. 12 Gators outclass Razorbacks 98-68

The Arkansas Razorbacks were undefeated at home heading into Saturday game, a showdown with the No. 12/14 Florida Gators at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, AR. Florida (21-6, 9-3 SEC) put an end to that 17-game winning streak by demolishing Arkansas (17-10, 5-7 SEC) 98-68 and put a major dent in their NCAA Tournament chances behind a career-best performance from senior point guard Erving Walker,

Walker led the Gators on Saturday with a career-high 31 points on 9-of-12 shooting (5-for-6 from downtown, 8-for-8 from the line) and game-high five assists.

UF utilized exceptional shooting and efficient offensive rhythm by the entire team to silence a raucous crowd that had previously helped the Razorbacks defeat a pair of top-20 opponents this season.

Florida held an early 8-7 advantage before exploding on a 19-4 run (and 25-6 scoring stretch) that included three-pointers on four-straight possessions and vaulted them ahead of Arkansas 33-13 with 8:47 to play in the first half.

Walker started the game 4-of-4 from beyond the arc and led the Gators to a hot 9-of-14 start from downtown. His fourth trey doubled up the Razorbacks, and UF continued their first half onslaught to jump ahead by 26 points at the break.

Florida began the second half by taking a 28-point lead on a three by freshman G Bradley Beal with 17 minutes to play. At one point, the Gators had hit nine-straight treys and 20 consecutive field goals over a 16:05 stretch spanning the half. Florida started 11-for-16 from beyond the arc and 21-of-31 from the floor with 12 assists.

The Gators found themselves ahead 30 points in the second half and took a game-high 32-point lead on Walker’s final trey of the game with 1:36 remaining.

Florida as a team shot 58.3 percent (28-of-48) from the field, 56.5 percent (13-of-23) from beyond the arc and 85.3 percent (29-of-34) from the charity stripe. The Gators had 14 assists on 28 baskets and outrebounded the Razorbacks 39-21.

Joining Walker with an impressive performance was junior G Kenny Boynton, who scored 25 points, hitting 10-of-11 free throws and grabbing five rebounds while dishing three dimes. Beal posted 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting with nine boards and three assists, and junior forward Erik Murphy chipped in 13 points while going 3-of-5 from downtown with four boards.

Returning from a concussion that forced him to miss Florida’s game on Tuesday, sophomore F Will Yeguete recorded a game-high 12 rebounds.

Since starting the season 0-4 on the road, the Gators have gone 4-1 away from home over their last five games. Florida will return to Gainesville, FL to host Auburn on Tuesday. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.

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Yeguete may return to action Saturday for Gators

Suffering his second concussion of the 2011-12 season at home against Tennessee last Saturday, Florida Gators sophomore forward Will Yeguete looked to miss a significant period of time with head coach Billy Donovan even mentioning that he could be out of action for multiple weeks due to the severity of his head injury.

Yeguete, who sat out Florida’s game on Tuesday (a 61-52 win on the road at Alabama) and watched the contest from his dorm room in Gainesville, FL, believes he could very well be back as soon as Saturday’s game at the Arkansas Razorbacks if he continues progressing in a positive direction.

“It was kind of a helpless feeling not to be there [Tuesday] but relaxing and resting was what was best for me,” he said on Thursday. “I’m doing much better now, and I’m hoping I can play. We will see.”

Donovan said Monday that Yeguete had only passed two of the concussion tests he needed to satisfy in order to resume practicing with the team. According to Florida, he passed and met his pre-established baselines for “a third on Monday and the other two Wednesday,” clearing him to resume a workout schedule with the team.

The Gators note that it will be determined on Friday whether or not Yeguete will travel with the team to face Arkansas on Saturday. If he does board the plane, barring an unforeseen setback, it is likely that he will see action over the weekend.

Donovan did not take Yeguete’s second concussion lightly. He was extremely concerned when he saw him unconscious on the court after Yeguete hit his head against the basket station and was pessimistic about his return when his second-year defensive star failed three of the five concussion tests initially, calling him “way off” from playing.

“There’s protocol that the trainer and the medical staff have to go through as it relates to conclusions,” Donovan said Monday. “The concussion issues right now because of football have been addressed at certainly a very heightened level. There is this protocol we have to go through regardless of how Will is feeling.”

Now it appears as if Florida may be able to count on one of their most important players returning against a team looking to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

Yeguete is not the only reserve who has missed the last two games. Gators redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario (hip pointer) missed his fourth and fifth contests of the season and is unlikely to face the Razorbacks even though he “did participate in an individual instruction workout after practice” on Thursday, according to UF.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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