FOUR BITS: women’s bball, baseball, lax, NBA

1 » No. 9-seed Florida Gators women’s basketball (20-13) saw their season come to an end Tuesday night at the hands of the No. 1-seed Baylor Bears (36-0) and star center Brittney Griner. Florida fell 76-57 to Baylor in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament as Griner posted 25 points (on 8-of-14 shooting), nine rebounds, four assists and six blocks. She was just one of five Bears’ starters to score in double figures on the evening. The Gators were led by three seniors including C Azania Stewart, who scored 14 points and grabbed four boards. Classmates and guards Deana Allen and Lanita Bartley also scored in the double digits, adding 13 and 10 points, respectively. In addition to being knocked out of the tournament and having their season come to an end at the hands of the top team in the country, Florida was hit hard emotionally by Tuesday’s loss. Five seniors – Stewart, Allen, Bartley and redshirts G Jordan Jones and forward Ndidi Madu – played their final games in a Gators uniform.

2 » No. 1 Florida baseball (20-1) extended their school-record winning streak to 18 games with a 5-3 win over the Samford Bulldogs (13-8) on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Freshman right-handed pitcher Johnny Magliozzi (2-0) got the start and picked up the victory while tossing a career-high six strikeouts and allowing just one earned run on three hits in 4.0 innings. After giving up a run in the first inning, Magliozzi got some support as the Gators rallied to tie the game. Florida hit around for two more runs in the bottom of the second and – after Samford got within a single run of tying the game in the top of the seventh – added another in the next frame to solidify their lead. Junior catcher Mike Zunino (2/4, 2 RBI) drove home senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (1/3, 2 R) twice in the contest. Freshmen first baseman Taylor Gushue (1/4) and third baseman Josh Tobias (2/3, R) each batted runners in as well. Junior RHP Austin Maddox (S 7) came in for the final frame, striking out one of three batters he faced and clinching the victory.

3 » No. 5 Gators lacrosse (9-2) routed a fellow top-ranked opponent on Tuesday, defeating the No. 10 Dartmouth Big Green (5-1) in a 20-4 blowout at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Florida scored a school-record 17 first-half goals and registered eight-straight goals to end the contest including only three in the second period. UF’s 20 goals against Dartmouth were the most the team has ever scored against a ranked opponent in school history. Junior attacker Kitty Cullen led the Gators with a career-high eight points including five goals and three assists (she also added a career-high three ground balls to her total). Juniors As Ashley Bruns and Gabi Wiegand each had four goals, and midfielder Brittany Dashiell added three more.

4 » In his first mockup for the 2012 NBA Draft, ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford has Gators freshman G Bradley Beal slotted as the No. 4 overall pick heading to Portland. Though Ford notes that Beal “hasn’t had a dominant freshman season,” he believes that “his scoring ability in the backcourt” is something that is undeniable to NBA scouts. Ford is bullish on Beal’s potential in the pros and has been for quite some time, noting often that he expects him to go anywhere from fourth to sixth in the upcoming draft should he decide to leave school early. He also has sophomore center Patric Young listed as No 22 overall to Memphis even though he recently noted that he plans to return to school for his junior season. An extra year in college for Young could very well vault him into the lottery in 2013 should he improve his offense and all-around consistency.

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SIX BITS: Wuerffel, Tebow, Pouncey, women

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel has been added to the ballot for induction as part of the 2012 class for the College Football Hall of Fame. Wuerffel is one of 76 players on the candidate list, which also includes eight former coaches. Should he be nominated for induction, he would be the seventh Florida player and 10th representative of the Gators (three coaches) to be placed in the hall of fame. The National Football Foundation will announce the 2012 class on May 15 and induct it at an awards dinner on Dec. 4, 2012.

2 » Speaking at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine last Friday, Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway had some positive comments to throw the way of Tim Tebow, who will enter the team’s training camp as the starting quarterback. “Hopefully, he can be the franchise guy for a long time, but those are things we don’t know at this time,” Elway said, according to NFL.com. “He made tremendous strides last year, and that’s without an offseason. He’s our starter going into training camp, and we have great expectations for him.” Denver will bring in two more quarterbacks to compete with Tebow but how they acquire them should give some insight into their thoughts on Tebow. If the Broncos draft a signal caller high or sign a high-profile free agent like Matt Flynn, it could be an indication they have not bought in, whereas should they sign a lower-tier free agent and draft a quarterback in the later rounds, it could speak to the opposite. Elway is confident in Tebow’s intangibles but plans to work with him on his footwork and ability to read coverages in the offseason.

3 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey missed another critical playoff game this year with a high-ankle sprain after reaggravating the injury he suffered one year ago that caused him to out of the 2010-11 Super Bowl. He had surgery on the injury after the season and is expected to make a full recovery going forward. “The reports we got and the last time we saw him, he was progressing just fine,” team general manager Kevin Colbert said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “High-ankle sprains, they’re a different injury and then when you re-injure it sometimes you’ve got to do some procedures to shore that joint up.” Pouncey is no longer wearing a cast on his foot/ankle but is in a boot for the time being. He and his brother were at the NFL Combine this past week to support running back Chris Rainey, their close friend and former teammate.

4 » No. 4 Florida lacrosse (4-1) extended their winning streak to four games with consecutive victories over Siena (23-5 on Friday) and Detroit (22-3 on Sunday). Junior attacker Ashley Bruns scored a school-record eight goals against Siena, helping the Gators post their highest total in program history. One of the eight was Bruns’s 100th career goal, making her the second player in school history to reach that mark. Bruns scored four more on Sunday (12 for the weekend), leading the way for Florida in both contests and helping earn her the ALC Offensive Player of the Week award on Monday. Junior attackers Kitty Cullen (seven goals, three assists) and Gabi Wiegand (six goals, three assists) joined her in the scoring party.

5 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics (9-1, 5-1 SEC) tore through the league this year and took down the No. 3 Georgia Gym Dogs (5-3, 4-2 SEC) in exciting fashion at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Friday. Florida, which defeated Georgia 197.525-196.825, had two gymnasts win a total of five events. Freshman Kytra Hunter, named SEC Gymnast of the Week on Monday, took the vault (9.95), floor exercise (9.95) and all-around (39.675), while junior Marissa King won the uneven bars (9.925) and balance beam (9.95). UF swept UGA in the meet and is set to take on Nebraska and Utah over the next three weeks before participating in postseason action.

6 » After earning a season-highlight win on Senior Day in the O’Dome, Gators women’s basketball (18-11, 8-8 SEC) concluded the 2012 regular season by falling 75-59 at the No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vols (21-8, 12-4 SEC) due in part to 20 costly turnovers. Though Florida was unable to continue their magic against Tennessee, eight-seeded UF will hope to make a splash in the 2012 SEC Tournament, which begins for them against Auburn on Thursday at 1 p.m. The Gators also got some good news on Tuesday when it was announced that junior forward Jennifer George (first-team All-SEC) and senior guard Deana Allen (SEC Co-6th Woman of the Year) earned awards from the conference’s coaches.

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FOUR BITS: basketball, softball, gym, tennis, lax

1 » Participating in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament beginning on Thursday, Florida Gators women’s basketball did a great job beating the Arkansas Razorbacks 68-59 in the event’s opening round but ended up falling to the top-seeded No. 4 Tennessee Lady Vols 92-75 in quarterfinal action on Friday. Florida (18-14) saw five players reach double-digit point totals in the opening game with sophomore forward Jennifer George, junior guard Deana Allen and redshirt junior F Ndidi Madu scoring 12 a piece while freshman G Jaterra Bonds and redshirt junior G Jordan Jones each posted 11. Unfortunately for the Gators, the Lady Vols routed them for the third time this season, beating them by 17 Friday after wins of 43 and 22 earlier in the year. Allen (13), Madu (13), Bonds (12), Jones (10) all scored double-digit points while junior G Lanita Bartley led the team with 14.

2 » Achieving a much better outcome over the weekend was No. 2/3 Florida softball (19-0), which swept the 2011 Lipton Invitational at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL with five victories in three days. UF beat Valparaiso 13-4 and Syracuse 2-0 on Friday before throttling the North Dakota State 18-0 and Pacific 10-2 on Saturday. The Gators closed the tournament with a 9-0 victory over NDSU, combining to outscore them 27-0 in a two-game span. Florida senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (11-0) won three of the five games, only giving up one earned run and four hits in 14.2 innings while striking out 20. Finishing the sweep was freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (8-0), who spelled Brombacher and won both of her games while allowing two earned runs and seven hits while striking out 14 in 13 innings of work.

Senior second baseman Aja Paculba, sophomore outfielder Brittany Schutte and senior first baseman Megan Bush all had spectacular weekends. Paculba (9-17) hit a pair of homers while knocking in five RBI and scoring eight runs. Schutte (5-15) hit two home runs in the opening game and another each in the final two games to total four over the weekend along with 14 RBI, eight runs and six walks. Bush (8-16) was equally impressive with two homers, eight RBI, five runs and three walks. Not to be outdone, freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan hit a grand slam in the third game of the weekend, and sophomore catcher Kelsey Horton hit dingers in back-to-back games.

3 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics (12-1, 5-1 SEC) helped set a NCAA attendance record on Friday, defeating the No. 5 Utah Utes (7-2) 197.00-196.75 in front of 15,558 fans at the Huntsman Center. Florida won the match overall by capturing the vault, bars and beam team events even though they lost the floor by .075. Event winners included sophomore Ashanée Dickerson on the beam (9.875) and vault (9.90), where she tied freshman Alaina Johnson and sophomore Marissa King. Johnson and freshman Mackenzie Caquatto tied to win the bars (9.925), too. With the regular season now complete, UF will defend their SEC title at the 2011 SEC Championships beginning March 19.

4 » No. 1 Gators women’s tennis (13-1, 2-0 SEC) and No. 11 Florida men’s tennis (9-3, 2-0 SEC) each came away from their respective SEC opening weekends with a pair of decisive victories. The women swept the LSU Tigers (2-6, 0-1 SEC) 6-0 and No. 16 Arkansas 7-0 on the road, while the men stayed home and beat the Tigers (3-6, 0-1 SEC) 6-1 and Razorbacks (3-7, 0-2 SEC) 7-0. No. 7 sophomore Allie Will and No. 26 sophomore Lauren Embree won both of their singles matches over the weekend for the women, while No. 6 senior Alexandre Lacroix and No. 28 sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. mirrored their performances on the men’s side.

Extra BIT » Continuing their steady rise in the sport, No. 14 Florida lacrosse (4-1) defeated the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (2-2) 15-10 after fighting back from a 5-5 tie on Saturday afternoon at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Standout sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen once again led the way for the Gators with foul goals, while sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns added three of her own.
 

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TWO BITS: Taylor may retire, women fall to UK

1 » After a 13-year NFL career including 10 seasons as a feature running back, former Florida Gators star Fred Taylor’s professional career may very well be over. Carrying the ball only 43 times this season for the New England Patriots, Taylor has rushed for 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns and caught 290 passes for 2,384 yards and eight more scores in his lengthy career. Injury plagued for most of his career, Taylor missed 36 games during his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars (he only played two games during the 2001 season) and has only started one game in two years with New England. Inactive for the Patriots’ sole playoff game this season, Taylor is getting an inkling that it may be time to hang up the cleats. Here is what he had to say after the game.

“I think at this point I’ve got a million things floating through my brain. It’s kind of hard to comprehend. None of it’s really clear. It’s kind of hard to play the game you love so much with the limitations [I had] last year, with the ankle, and not being able to do the things I know I can do. This year with the toes. It’s real tough and frustrating.

“I just have to take some time to be realistic. I kind of know what my body’s telling me, and what my family has been telling me, but I also know that this is what I’ve been programmed to do the majority of my life.

“I’ll probably just take some time, get the training this offseason. The camaraderie – being around the guys, it’s kind of hard to separate from that. I don’t want to be too fast in figuring [it out].”

2 » While the men were doing their best to win a close game on the road, the Florida women’s basketball team (12-8, 2-4 SEC) was at home dropping a similarly nail-biting contest to the Kentucky Wildcats (14-4, 3-2 SEC) 59-58 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Up double digits with just over five minutes left, the Gators allowed the Wildcats to take off on an 11-0 run and eventually take the lead, 55-54, with 1:13 remaining. Florida junior guard Deana Allen drained a dagger three-pointer to put her team ahead by one with 23.3 seconds left on the clock, but two free throws by Kentucky’s Victoria Dunlap (coupled with a missed buzzer beater by UF) allowed UK to claim the victory.

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FOUR BITS: softball wins, Shaw, recruits, Knight

1 » Facing the No. 19/16 Florida State Seminoles in a doubleheader Wednesday, No. 3/4 Florida Gators softball swept their rivals with consecutive 8-4 and 9-2 victories on the road at JoeAnne Graf Field in Tallahassee, FL. Florida (32-4, 12-2 SEC)’s winners were starters junior Stephanie Brombacher (21-4) and freshman Ensley Gammel (10-0), who tallied a combined 13.3 innings and eight strikeouts against FSU (36-10, 8-4 SEC). Freshman shortstop Brittany Walker went 4-7 on the day with two RBI, as junior second baseman Aja Paculba extended her hitting streak to 16 games – tying the longest in school history.

2 » “It was great to have all of that work,” Gators freshman cornerback Josh Shaw said of his playing time in the 2010 Orange & Blue Debut last weekend. “Some of it was good, some bad, but I feel like I’m getting better each time out.” Shaw, according to The Gainesville Sun is adjusting to his competitors’ speed and athleticism but is confident he will be able to follow in the footsteps of some of the team’s best cornerbacks.

3 » Florida men’s basketball may have lost out on two recruits Wednesday, but the women’s basketball and softball teams each brought in a new name. JuCo transfer guard Deana Allen (Houma, LA) has decided to join the Gators after averaging 19.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game at Pensacola Junior College. She is the fifth new recruit for the women’s team. Joining softball is utility player Chelsea Howell (Plantation, FL), the fourth player of her new team’s 2010-11 class.

4 » Interesting blog post today from Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald on new Kentucky Wildcats five-star guard commitment Brandon Knight, who had been leaning away from the Gators for quite some time. Some of the potential reasons he chose Kentucky aside from coaching and the school? “Exposure, creating the Brandon Knight brand, getting ready for the NBA, making money” and not playing with Kenny Boynton, Goodman writes.

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