12/10: Florida vs. Kansas post-game report

The No. 19 Florida Gators (7-2) held on for hard-fought 67-61 victory over the No. 13 Kansas Jayhawks (6-3) on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL in the final game of the Big 12-SEC Challenge despite facing heavy resistance from the visitors in the second half. Head coach Billy Donovan met with the media following the game to discuss Florida’s most notable victory of the young season.

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is now 2-1 against Kansas under Donovan, though the Jayhawks still lead 3-2 in the all-time series against the Gators.
» UF improved to 5-4 against top 25-ranked opponents dating back to last season with all five wins coming inside the O’Dome.
» Florida has now won 22-straight non-conference games in the House of Horrors and 21 consecutive home games overall, the second-longest streak in school history.
» The Gators are now 61-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» Florida is already 3-2 in single-digit decisions this season after going 0-6 in contests decided by fewer than 10 points in 2012-13. Six of UF’s eight losses last year were by six points or less, a constant black mark on the campaign.
» Tuesday night’s game was sold out with a listed attendance of 12,423.
» Despite the Gators’ thrilling victory, the SEC had already lost the Big 12-SEC Challenge before the game even started. The Big 12 held a 6-2 advantage heading into Tuesday’s contest and now leads 6-3. Oklahoma and Texas A&M will play the final game of the challenge on Saturday, Dec. 21.
» According to The Gainesville Sun, UF and KU may have a return showdown next season in Lawrence, KS.
» About two dozen scouts were in attendance at the game.

DYNAMIC DUO

The Gators played their best half of the season in the first 20 minutes of Tuesday’s game, and it just so happened to be the first time that both of their point guards – senior Scottie Wilbekin and freshman Kasey Hill were able to play in the same rotation and on the court simultaneously.

Wilbekin posted a career-high 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting in 36 minutes but what he did elsewhere was even more impressive. He played lock down defense at times, much of it in the frontcourt (more on that below) while dishing six dimes and picking up four steals. It was quite a turnaround from his lackluster performance in the second half at UConn, a game in which he shot 6-of-14 and committed three costly turnovers.

“He always plays really hard. He gives me great effort all the time,” explained Donovan. “I didn’t think he played very well at UConn. He really, really struggled, had some turnovers late when we had a seven or eight-point lead, made some poor decisions, missed some shots. I thought he struggled in that game. I think having a week off and maybe missing a couple days and having three days to get ready for this game, I think he was eager to play well and knew that maybe the UConn game was a game that we had every opportunity to win and maybe it slipped away there a little bit from us at the end. I think, for him, he was pretty focused on wanting to come back and play better [Tuesday].”

Continue Reading » 12/10: Florida vs. Kansas post-game report

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Fastbreak: Florida holds on to top Kansas 67-61

The No. 19 Florida Gators (7-2) scored their most prominent win of the young season on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, holding on for a hard-fought 67-61 victory over the No. 13 Kansas Jayhawks (6-3) in the final game of the 2013 Big-12 SEC Challenge.

OnlyGators.com breaks down the Gators’ seventh win with The Fastbreak.

It was over when: Kansas committed its 24th turnover of the game with 45.3 seconds remaining, giving Florida the ball back with a six-point lead. Senior forward Casey Prather got fouled on the ensuing offensive possession, headed to the line and hit two free throws to put UF up eight with 37.1 seconds left. Though KU cut its deficit to four points, Prather hit 10-of-12 free throws in the second half to propel his team to victory. He scored 12 points and grabbed a team-high eight boards.

Prominent player: Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was a firecracker for the Gators all night, playing superb basketball in the first half and seemingly finding a way to put the ball in the basket every time the Jayhawks threatened in the latter 20 minutes. He handled the rock like a dream and played terrific defense, too, finishing with a team-highs of six assists, four steals and, oh yeah, 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

Standout stat: Florida dominated all phases of the game in the first half, leading by 18 at one point and taking a 15-point advantage into the break. The Gators accomplished this by outrebounding their opponents 11-4 on the offensive glass. Florida also forced Kansas to commit 16 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, matching a season-high the visitors had registered in an entire game. KU fought back in the second half by “only” coughing it up eight times and grabbing four more offensive rebounds than UF.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak after the, well, break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: Florida holds on to top Kansas 67-61

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Gameday: No. 19 Florida Gators vs. No. 13 Kansas

Event: Big 12/SEC Challenge
Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale, Shannon Spake)
SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(19) FLORIDA GATORS (13) KANSAS JAYHAWKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Bill Self
Record: 6-2 Record: 6-2
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big 12
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -3 | O/U 138

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Buzzer beatings: Florida and Kansas each got handed tough losses in their last games as the Gators and Jayhawks both fell on buzzer beaters in a six-day span. UConn topped UF 65-64 on Monday, while Colorado beat KU 75-72.
» The Jayhawks are 3-1 in their all-time series against the Gators, but Florida is 1-1 against Kansas under Donovan.
» UF is 4-4 against top-25 ranked opponents dating back to last season with all four losses coming away from its home court.
» Florida has won 21-straight non-conference games in the O’Dome and 20 consecutive home games overall, the second-longest streak in school history.
» One-third of the Gators’ 2013-14 schedule thus far has been against top 25-ranked opponents. The Jayhawks are the third such team UF has faced this season.
» Florida is 60-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF’s defense has started off allowing just 60.0 points per game through eight contests, making it the stingiest in the SEC; no opponent has scored more than 69.
» The Gators have already used five different starting lineups through eight games. Only two players – seniors forward Casey Prather and center Patric Young – have started every contest thus far.
» Donovan is looking for his 16th consecutive 20-win season. Florida has him ranked sixth all-time in that category behind only Dean Smith, Lute Olson, Mike Krzyzewski, Tubby Smith and Jim Boeheim.
» Kansas assistant coach Norm Roberts was on Donovan’s staff during the 2011-12 season that resulted in the team advancing to the Elite Eight.

Read the rest of the Florida-Kansas gameday preview…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gameday: No. 19 Florida Gators vs. No. 13 Kansas

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12/9: Donovan on PGs, Walker, Harris, Kansas

No. 19 Florida Gators (6-2) head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Monday, one day before his team hosts the No. 13 Kansas Jayhawks (6-2) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL as part of the Big 12-SEC Challenge. Florida and Kansas will square off on Tuesday at 7 p.m. live on ESPN.

POINT GUARDS WILL PLAY

As was reported by OnlyGators.com last week and confirmed by the Gators on Saturday, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin (ankle) has been cleared to play against the Jayhawks. Donovan said on Monday that the player has been “fine” and practicing the last few days without incident. Even though Wilbekin was initially “diagnosed” with a high-ankle sprain, Donovan admitted that the player could have practiced the next day but was held out as a precaution.

Freshman point guard Kasey Hill, who OnlyGators.com also reported would probably see some action as a reserve in his first game back from a high-ankle sprain, has also been cleared by play. Donovan went a bit more in-depth about Hill’s status.

“It’s really hard for me to say how much he will play, will not play. [Sunday] was the first day he’s done some things as it relates to contact. There is some tentativeness there. He’s not in great pain. I think he’s still probably recovering,” he said. “This is the first time he’ll be out there. We’ve been doing individual workouts and those kinds of things with him. For what his role would be in [Tuesday's] game would be too hard to say, but I would say he’ll be available to be put into the game. …

“There’s really no limitations on Kasey’s playing time from the doctors … but because he’s been out and he’s been out of practice so long – that’s been nearly three weeks right now – I just don’t know what I’m going to get for him. We’ll give him an opportunity. He’ll have another day of practice under his belt. Hopefully he’ll get back to feeling a little bit more comfortable. He feels pretty good right now, and as long as that continues, we’ll use him as we need him.”

COMING SOON: CHRIS WALKER

As OnlyGators.com, citing two sources, reported on Dec. 4, five-star incoming freshman forward Chris Walker has completed his academic requirements and is scheduled to join the Florida basketball program for the first time on Saturday. A third source confirmed Monday that Walker has been told to report to the team Saturday.

Donovan confirmed OnlyGators.com‘s report that Walker’s academic coursework is complete and he is simply awaiting clearance from both by the University of Florida and the NCAA Clearinghouse.

“He’s got to go through an admissions process like any other student here for the second semester,” he said. “Now it’s kind of our of our hands and we’re just waiting to hear back of what the ruling will be in terms of him being a qualifier, being able to start school.”

OnlyGators.com learned last week that Donovan has already been told Walker will be academically cleared and able to practice, hence Saturday being set as his reporting date. Donovan admitted as much, correctly noting that Walker cannot join the team until final exams end for the fall 2013 semester. The last exams will be distributed on Friday.

Continue Reading » 12/9: Donovan on PGs, Walker, Harris, Kansas

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SIX BITS: gymnastics, Floyd, Kansas, Parsons

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics did not conclude its incredible weekend on Saturday after it won the 2013 NCAA Championship, the first NCAA title in program history. Instead, Florida was right back at it on Sunday as its gymnasts competed in individual events with the hopes of bringing additional championships back to Gainesville, FL. Freshman Bridget Sloan, who captured the 2013 NCAA Championship in the all-around on Friday, doubled up with a title in the balance beam (9.900) on Sunday. She actually would have won three individual championships had it not been for junior teammate Alaina Johnson, who edged Sloan 9.9125 to 9.900 in the uneven parallel bars to win a title of her own.

2 » Florida’s national championship-winning gymnastics team will be honored at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center during a special celebration on Monday at 7 p.m. Gates open at 6 p.m. and access to the event is free. The celebration will be the first held inside the O’Dome for a Gators championship-winning program since basketball won its second of back-to-back titles in 2007. GatorVision.tv will have a live stream of the event for fans outside of Gainesville. OGGOA will tweet a link at 7 p.m.

The Florida school website on Monday posted a terrific feature on head coach Rhonda Faehn, who has been nothing short of spectacular since joining the program in 2002. Though the national title had been elusive for Faehn, she knew that the Gators could be one of the top programs in the country when she took the job. “It was a gold mine just waiting for success,” she told senior writer Scott Carter about Florida. “I felt there was so much potential. Who wouldn’t want to go there? It was undiscovered almost and people needed to see how amazing it was. That’s what I felt for years when I was coaching at other places, that Florida was just incredible.” Added athletic director Jeremy Foley about Fahen: “She built our program. When we hired her, the goal was we wanted to be like Alabama, we wanted to be like Georgia, we wanted to be like Utah, we didn’t understand why we couldn’t be like them. We wanted to be a factor. Look at what she has done. I feel great for her, her staff, and obviously these kids.”

Check out four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: gymnastics, Floyd, Kansas, Parsons

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Wambach, Martin, Lochte

1 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin on Saturday noted via his Twitter account that he would be having “minor surgery.” Most assumed the surgery Harvin mentioned was for his injured ankle, which sidelined him for the remainder of the season. However, Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN radio reported Sunday that Harvin actually went in for an emergency appendectomy. He is expected to be back to normal health in 2-3 weeks and will spend the entire offseason rehabbing his ankle and trying to get back on the field in the summer.

2 » The U.S. Women’s National Team concluded its 2012 campaign and its Fan Tribute tour across the United States with a 4-1 win over China in Boca Raton, FL on Saturday night. Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach scored twice in the friendly, increasing her international goal total to 152 and pulling within six of Mia Hamm, who holds the record with 158 career international goals. Florida head soccer coach Becky Burleigh was in attendance at the match, cheering on Wambach and former Gators defender Heather Mitts, who plans to retire. USA outscored China 10-1 in the three-game friendly series and concluded the 2012 campaign with a 28-1-3 record. Wambach ended 2012 with 27 goals (second-most in her career) and was the only member of the USWNT to start and play in all 32 games.

3 » Former Florida defensive end Chris Martin, who transferred in from USC but only spent his redshirt season at UF before forcibly transferring again to another school, spent the 2011 season playing for City College of San Francisco, the fourth institution he has attended since the beginning of his college career. The former five-star recruit, now a JUCO transfer, committed to the Kansas Jayhawks and head coach Charlie Weis on Saturday, according to JayhawkSlant.com ($). Martin is familiar with Weis from his days with the Gators and also has a relationship with strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple, a former Florida assistant who Weis hired when he left following the 2011 season.

4 » Former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte, who set a pair of world record times at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships this past week, also concluded the event with six gold medals and eight total medals, setting a record at a short-course championship event. Lochte took gold and set world records in the 100 Meter and 200 Meter Individual Medley and finished first as part of four-man American teams in the 4×100 Meter Freestyle, 4×200 Meter Freestyle and 4×100 Meter Medley Relays. He also captured silver in the 200 Meter Backstroke and bronze in the 100 Meter Butterfly. Lochte was fully or partially responsible for eight of the 27 medals won by the United States at the event. Fellow former Gators swimmer Conor Dwyer joined Lochte with a gold in the 4x200M Freestyle Relay and picked up an individual bronze in the 200M Freestyle. Jemma Lowe, swimming for Great Britain, won a pair of bronze medals in the 100 Meter and 200 Meter Butterfly. Lochte was the only swimmer to set a world record at the event.

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Assistant Norm Roberts leaves Florida for Kansas

For the second time in the last four months a prominent Florida Gators assistant coach has left the school to take a job with the Kansas Jayhawks. Just like offensive coordinator Charlie Weis moved on from the football team at the end of their regular season in December to become head coach at Kansas, assistant Norm Roberts has left the Florida basketball team following their successful postseason to accept the top assistant job under KU head coach Bill Self, according to InsidetheGators.com.

One of three new assistants to join head coach Billy Donovan‘s staff for the 2011-12 season, Roberts will leave the Gators after spending just one year with the team. Like the others, his reasons for moving on from Florida are well-intentioned.

Roberts and Self have a relationship that dates back to 1995 when Self first hired him as an assistant at Oral Roberts. The two spent a total of nine seasons together with Self as the head coach and Roberts as his assistant at Oral Roberts (1995-97), Tulsa (1997-2000), Illinois (2000-03) and Kansas (2003-04) before Roberts left to take over the St. John’s program as head coach from 2004-10.

His last year at St. John’s came just as his son Niko Roberts was deciding where to play basketball at the collegiate level. He will be entering his junior year as a walk-on with the Jayhawks next season and will now have his father as an assistant coach.

A spot opened up on the Kansas bench for Roberts as former KU No. 1 overall pick Danny Manning, an assistant with the Jayhawks since 2006-07, was officially announced as Tulsa’s new head coach on Wednesday.

“I’m thrilled,” Self told the Lawrence Journal-World on Monday. “We were together for nine years. My family helped raise his kids. His family has helped raise mine. We’re close. Certainly we hate to see Danny go, but Norm coming back will be a big bonus to our program.”

Donovan now must hire his fifth new prominent staff member in the last two seasons. He replaced three assistant coaches and a strength and conditioning coach last year and will now have to find a suitable candidate to fill Roberts’s shoes going forward.

Florida has since confirmed Roberts’s departure from the program.

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Verducci out, Davis in as Florida OL coach

When former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis left the Florida Gators to take the head coaching job with the Kansas Jayhawks, it was assumed that offensive line coach Frank Verducci, who worked with Weis at Notre Dame, would soon follow.

Verducci instead stayed put in Gainesville, FL for the time being has now moved on “to pursue other interests,” according to a Florida release, as the Gators announced Monday that the Utah UtesTim Davis will take over for him in 2012.

The Gainesville Sun reports that Verducci was fired after pursuing jobs in the NFL (including one with the Kansas City Chiefs). A source close to the team tells OGGOA that head coach Will Muschamp was not properly informed about the job search.

A veteran coach with more than two decades in the business, Davis has worked on the offensive line with Walla Walla (1988), Idaho State (1989), Utah (1990-96, 2011), USC (2002-04), the Miami Dolphins (2005-06) and Minnesota (2009-10).

He was also a volunteer, student assistant and graduate assistant at Utah, Wisconsin and Arizona for seven years (1981-87) and served double duty as offensive coordinator at Walla Walla and tight ends coach at Utah (1994-96).

Following his time as assistant offensive line coach under Nick Saban at Miami, Davis spent a year as Saban’s director of player personnel with Alabama (2008). He added the role of running game coordinator when he took the Minnesota job in 2009.

Davis and Muschamp are connected through Saban, both having served on the Dolphins’ coaching staff during the 2005 season. Muschamp spent just one year in the NFL before returning to college the following season.

“He was a guy that brought energy and passion to the job every day,” Muschamp said of Davis’s attitude while with Miami. “He is going to bring toughness. I thought he did a great job with our offensive line [with the Dolphins]. Everywhere he has been and he’s coached they have been able to run the football and create the play-actions of it, be able to spread the field, understand the protections and do what you’ve got to do to be able to keep the quarterback upright.

“You look at some of the guys he has worked for and you talk about Barry Alvarez, you talk about Nick Saban, you talk about Pete Carroll. You talk about those guys and what they have accomplished. He knows what it takes to be successful.”

Davis actually pursued the offensive line coach job with Florida when Muschamp took over in 2011, but Weis’s relationship with Verducci obviously took precedent.

“It wasn’t available then,” Davis said. “I told [Muschamp], ‘Well, I’m going to be persistent. I’m going to keep trying.’ I always wanted to work and coach in the SEC, especially with guys I know and have coached with.”

Though Davis has been a part of three BCS bowl teams and two national championships as a member of USC’s coaching staff, he has never coached alongside new Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

He did, however, work on staffs with current Florida running backs coach Brian White and tight ends coach Derek Lewis. Davis spent his four-year tenure at Wisconsin with White, three years of which White also served as offensive coordinator. Lewis, an assistant with Minnesota from 2007-10, worked with Davis for two years.

“It was easy [to make the move] because of Will and Dan and Brian and D-Lew,” he said. “You don’t make a decision like this – leaving your home state and everybody you know – without having somebody you know. That’s one of the things in coaching you can’t do. You have to be able to connect yourself with the guys you work with.

“The SEC is the premiere conference in the country, and you get a chance to work with guys you’ve worked with who are very successful, very motivated, they want to be the best. You’re working in a great environment and a great program like Florida. It’s everything that you dream about.”

Photo Credit: Mike Terry, Deseret News

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