3/30: Florida and Michigan prepare for Elite Eight

The three-seed Florida Gators (29-7) advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2013 NCAA Tournament and will face the (4) Michigan Wolverines (29-7) on Sunday at 2:20 p.m. live on CBS from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. On Saturday, both coaches and their players met with the media to discuss the upcoming showdown.

AVOIDING A THIRD-STRAIGHT LOSS IN THE ELITE EIGHT

Florida’s accomplish of reaching three-straight Elite Eights certainly should not be overlooked, but the Gators also face the possibility of being the first team in NCAA history (since the tournament expanded to at least 64 teams) of falling in the round three years in a row. Asked Saturday if the experience of those losses will benefit Florida this time around, Donovan somewhat dismissed the notion.

“The opportunity, I think these guys are all excited about it and I’m excited for them to be back in this position again. It’s a different opponent than we’ve had the last two years. It’s a great opportunity. I’m not so sure what we take from those situations that could really help us get prepared for Michigan,” he said.

“This game stands on itself. It’s got its own separate identity as itself. It’s in the moment. It’s now. It’s here. It’s present. I think these guys have been in this situation. They’ve worked very, very hard to get here, but they also know when you get into this situation it’s a great, great challenge. And you cannot play 20 or 25 or 30 minutes, you’re going to have to play a whole complete game. I believe when you get to this point in the time in the season there’s eight teams left, these eight teams are playing very, very good basketball. And in these moments you’ve also got to play very well.”

Junior center Patric Young, a freshman during the Gators’ first Elite Eight loss in 2011, echoed his coach’s sentiments but said the heartbreak will only further motivate Florida.

Continue Reading » 3/30: Florida and Michigan prepare for Elite Eight

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3/29: Florida vs. FGCU post-game; Gators set to face Michigan in Elite Eight + videos

The three-seed Florida Gators (29-7) advanced to the Elite Eight for the third-straight year and seventh time in team history with a 62-50 take down of the 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (26-11) in 2013 NCAA Tournament action at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and a number of his players met with the media to discuss what transpired on Friday in the Sweet 16.

UPCOMING OPPONENT

The four-seed Michigan Wolverines (29-7) stunned one-seed Kansas in the first game from Arlington on Friday and advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1994. The Wolverines came from behind to force overtime and eventually took down their foes 87-85 behind 23 points from Trey Burke (all of which came in the second half and overtime). Florida holds a 1-1 record all-time against Michigan, pulling off a 79-63 win in a neutral site game on Dec. 27, 1998. (The teams met previously on March 19, 1988 – a game UF lost 108-85 at a neutral site – but the victory was vacated by the NCAA.)

Sunday’s showdown will commence at 2:20 p.m. (EDT) and air live on CBS. Marv Albert (play-by-play), Steve Kerr (color commentator) and Craig Sager (sideline reporter) will be on the call for the contest.

DIGGING IN AND OUT OF AN EARLY HOLE

Florida opened Friday’s game as cold as a team could be shooting-wise, hitting just four of its first 20 shots while watching FGCU explode out to an early 15-4 lead mostly due to a pair of wide-open three pointers. The Gators not only missed open jumpers but also saw layups roll around the rim without going into the net, an incredibly frustrating situation considering UF was executing its game plan in the early going.

“I felt like we really got a lot of good looks. Obviously the focus was to go down inside to [Erik] Murphy and Patric Young. Those guys had really good looks inside. I thought from the perimeter, I think Mike [Rosario] started off 0-for-5. He had pretty good looks. We couldn’t get anything to fall for us,” Donovan said.

There was no panic from Florida, however. Donovan called a timeout, the Gators composed themselves and got right back in the game in a nick of time.

“I don’t think we panicked at all as a team. We’ve been there before. The main thing with us was starting to get defensive stops. We put together a couple defensive stops. Offense, it wasn’t our best day, but it came along,” senior guard Kenny Boynton said.

Added junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin: “We had a game to win. We had everybody encouraging each other, keeping each other’s head in the right place. When you have that, you’re not going to get that frustrated.”

“We were too determined to win this game so we just fought through, stayed together and picked it up as a whole,” Young concurred. “We had to fight through human nature in the sense of feeling sorry for ourselves that we were down. We really had to fight through. It’s easy to lay down and give up, but we were able to fight as a whole through adversity and stay together.”

Read the rest of the Florida-FGCU post-game (including videos)…
Continue Reading » 3/29: Florida vs. FGCU post-game; Gators set to face Michigan in Elite Eight + videos

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FG-CU Later: Florida Gators roll into third-straight Elite Eight with 62-50 victory over Eagles

Despite struggling in the early going and trailing by 11 points late in the first half, the three-seed Florida Gators (29-7) triumphed in a game that was lasted until early Saturday morning and advanced to the Elite Eight for a school-record third-straight season with a 62-50 victory over the 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (26-11) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.

Florida has now been victorious in its last six appearances in the Sweet 16 and faces a short turnaround as it is set to take on the four-seed Michigan Wolverines in the finals of the South Region of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at 2:20 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.

The Gators used a 16-2 half-ending run to turn an 11-point deficit into a four-point halftime lead and never trailed again. Redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario led the way with a game-high 15 points, team-high five rebounds and three steals and was supported by stellar play from some of UF’s reserves.

FGCU opened up the contest red hot, jumping ahead 15-4 after an 11-0 run as Florida started 2-for-10 from the field and 0-for-5 from downtown.

The Gators’ cold shooting and tight play continued deep into the first half as the Eagles maintained their double-digit lead. Through the first 12:47 of the game, Florida trailed 19-9 while going 4-for-20 from the floor, 0-for-5 from beyond the arc and just 1-for-4 from the free throw line.

Suddenly, the Gators found their shooting stroke and hit three-straight triples including two from freshman guard Michael Frazier II as part of a 16-2 half-ending run that gave them a 30-26 lead at the break. Energy and suffocating defense from junior forwards Casey Prather and Will Yeguete helped UF hold FGCU scoreless for nearly five full minutes and played a big part in its resurgence.

Continue Reading » FG-CU Later: Florida Gators roll into third-straight Elite Eight with 62-50 victory over Eagles

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Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.

12 » MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.

Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.

[Read: The Silver Lining - "Failure" is not a dirty word]

11 » FLORIDA SWEEPS FSU IN FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, BASEBALL

For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

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Florida’s Billy Donovan at 2012 SEC Media Day

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan joined the league’s other 13 coaches at 2012 SEC Media Day on Thursday in Birmingham, AL. Donovan participated in a number of interviews as he discussed his team heading into the upcoming 2012-13 season. Below are some choice notes and quotes from his appearances.

» On senior guard Kenny Boynton: “It’s hard to believe that he’s a senior. I remember recruiting him vividly. It just seems like yesterday. This is his last year. He’s come in and been a starter from day one. He’s made a great impact in our program. He’s helped us achieved a lot of success. And I’m going to enjoy coaching him because he’s a guy I’m going to miss coaching someday.”

» On his recruitment of Boynton, which included handing his family a Nerf gun and allowing them to shoot it at him: “I said, ‘Listen, I’m going to tell you exactly how you’re going to fit in, how I see you, what we feel about you. If I say anything that you think I’m totally lying through my teeth, you don’t have to sit there and call me a liar. If you feel embarrassed to do it, just shoot me with the Nerf gun.’ It was pretty funny. It was more of a joke or a sense-of-humor thing than anything else. Thank God I didn’t get shot.”

» Donovan was asked about the Gators taking the next step this season and earning their first trip to the Final Four since 2007 after flaming out in the Elite Eight in each of the last two NCAA Tournaments. While he does hope the team can advance that far in the tournament this year, he made it clear that it is not the objective at this point in time.

“Because the last two years we’ve been right there for a Final Four and have come up a little bit short, the normal tendency of anybody that’s returning would be to say, ‘OK, this is the year we’re going to try to break through and get to a Final Four.’ I think that is probably the worst kind of mentality we can have,” he said. “What we got to understand is that there is a process you have to go through as a basketball team and that process started two weeks ago. We got to go through this process of practice and games and get better and improve and deal with the ups and downs and the struggles and the challenges.

“Although last year was a successful year and you’re right there on the cusp of getting to a Final Four, we’ve got to be willing – as players and coaches – to start back all the way up because it’s a long journey up that mountain. We can’t just think we’re picking up on that mountain where last season ended. We’re starting all the way back down at the bottom of the mountain, and we got to be committed to making that journey back up the mountain again. You can play really, really well and still come up short. I thought in the two games we lost, we played pretty well. We just lost on some teams – Louisville and Butler – making more plays and better plays than we did. Overall as a game, I didn’t think that we performed poorly. I thought it was more of a credit to what those guys did.”

» A hot topic of conversation Thursday was the Kentucky Wildcats’ all-access program that has been airing on ESPNU the last few weeks. Donovan was asked about the show and gave an honest response that has since gotten the Kentucky faithful enraged after the team’s local media outlets spun the opening portion of the quote.

“I do think if you are using it as a recruiting tool, I don’t think that’s right,” said Donovan in general about all-access shows, according to The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. “If you are using it in a way to maybe help young players out there, to see what a college practice, college environment is like … I did an all-access show for coaches to buy so to speak, drills, practices those kind of things.

“Whatever your philosophy is, we’re always selling our programs in one way or other, whether it’s all-access, whether it’s DVDs, whether it’s media days, we’re always selling our programs. For me if was doing something like that, I would want it to be done in a way to represent how we do things at Florida.”

Note: While ESPN’s past all-access shows have featured many facets of the teams covered in the program, none has gone in-depth on recruiting. Kentucky’s all-access show has featured three players committing to the team with in-depth looks at each.

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Wizards select Gators guard Bradley Beal with No. 3 overall pick in first round of 2012 NBA Draft

Round 1 – No. 3
Bradley Beal, G
Washington Wizards


Height: 6’4 ¾” – Weight: 202 lbs.
Age: 19 – Class: Freshman

Florida Gators guard Bradley Beal did not have to wait long see his dream come true on Thursday evening as he was selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards.

Beal only played at Florida for one season but quickly became the Gators most important player. He played a team-high 34.2 minutes per game and averaged 14.8 points (second-most on the team) while registering team-highs of 6.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals. He only got better in the postseason, leading Florida to the Elite Eight by shooting 60.5 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from downtown in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

The 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school, Beal received plenty of awards from the Southeastern Conference throughout his freshman campaign. He won SEC Freshman of the Week six times and was named to the All-SEC first team and SEC All-Freshman Team by the league’s coaches.

Beal will sign a four-year contract with Washington worth approximately $17.7 million, the final two years of which are team options. He would be a restricted free agent in the 2015-16 season should the Wizards sign him to a $6.2 million qualifying offer.

The Washington franchise (dating back to 1961) had never selected a player out of Florida before drafting Beal on Thursday. He will be the first Gators star to play for the Wizards since G Mike Miller (2009-10).

Beal, the 11th first-round pick out of Florida all-time, matches forward/center Al Horford as the second-highest drafted player in school history. Neal Walk was selected by Phoenix with the No. 2 overall pick in 1969.

Point guard Erving Walker, was not selected in the two-round draft.

OGGOA Related: Beal confident following workout with Wizards

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2 BITS: Florida women advance, Jackson resigns

1 » Action continued in the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Friday with Florida Gators women’s tennis fielding two singles competitors and one doubles pairing.

No. 1 Allie Will (junior) def. No. 37 Abigail Tere-Apisah (Georgia State) – 6-1, 6-4
No. 2 Beatrice Capra (Duke) def. No. 9 Lauren Embree (junior) – 6-1, 6-3

No. 22 Lauren Embree/Joanna Mather(senior) def. No. 5 Annie Goransson/Anett Schutting (California) – 3-6, 6-3, 6-3

Will and Embree/Mather advanced and will compete in the Elite Eight rounds of their respective individual championships on Saturday. The Florida women have won four singles and four doubles NCAA Individual Championships with the last ones coming in 1996 (Jill Craybas) and 2001 (Whitney Lalho/Lehnoff), respectively. The Gators remain the only program in the history of women’s collegiate tennis to sweep the team, singles and doubles titles in the same season, accomplishing that feat in 1996.

2 » The news was not as positive Friday (depending on your perspective) for the Gators men’s tennis team as, after 11 seasons running the program, head coach Andy Jackson announced his resignation. “I want to thank Jeremy Foley and the administration for the opportunity to lead this program for the last 11 years,” Jackson said in a school release. “I’m truly grateful for my time here and I hope to have the opportunity to coach again.” Jackson had success while at Florida, winning four Southeastern Conference Championships including two in the regular season (2003, 2005) and two in tournament play (2005, 2011). He also picked up the SEC Coach of the Year award in 2002 and 2005 and coached three SEC Players of the Year. However, the Gators did not find much success at the national level under Jackson, only advancing to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament once (2005). “Moving forward, our vision is that the University of Florida men’s tennis program can consistently be among the contenders for the SEC and national championships, and we’ll work deliberately to find a candidate who matches this vision,” Foley said.

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Florida women’s tennis advances to third-straight NCAA Final Four with 4-0 sweep of Miami

No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis defeated the No. 11 Miami Hurricanes 4-0 in the Elite Eight round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday to advance to the Final Four for the third-straight season and 22nd time in program history.

Florida (25-1) extended their winning streak to 20 matches as they beat Miami (21-5) in the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row, moving on to the Final Four following each victory. The Gators have not allowed any of their opponents to register a single point in this year’s event, improving to 18-0 after previously sweeping South Carolina State (4-0), No. 31 Washington State (6-0) and No. 16 Michigan (4-0).

The No. 22 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather lost their doubles match 8-4, but Florida’s other pairings – No. 1 junior Allie Will/sophomore Sofie Oyen (8-3) and sophomore Alex Cercone/junior Caroline Hitimana (8-6) – pulled off victories to clinch the doubles point for the Gators.

It took Cercone/Hitimana 1:46 to cap the point for UF as the duo needed 18 points to win the second-to-last game of their match and take a 7-6 lead.

Once the doubles point was out of the way, Florida cruised in singles competition.

No. 79 Cercone (6-2, 6-2), sophomore Olivia Janowicz (6-3, 6-2) and No. 21 Mather (6-2, 6-4) each won their matches in straight sets to send the Gators to a 4-0 victory. No. 1 Will (6-3, 4-2), No. 9 Embree (7-6[2], 1-3) and No. 61 Oyen (6-3, 5-3) were all leading but did not finish their respective matches.

Florida moves on to face No. 3 Duke, riding an 18-match winning streak of their own, in Final Four action on Monday at 1 p.m. The winner will take on either No. 1 UCLA or No. 5 USC for the national title on Tuesday at 1 p.m.

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