Fastbreak: No. 1 Florida edges Vanderbilt 57-54, clinches share of SEC regular-season title

Involved in yet another dogfight on Tuesday evening, the No. 1 Florida Gators (26-2, 15-0 SEC) once again prevailed by holding on for a 57-54 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (15-12, 7-8 SEC) on the road at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, TN.

Florida clinched at least a share of the 2014 SEC regular-season title, extended its school-record winning streak to 20 games and continued a number of other program-best marks including winning 15 SEC games in a single season. UF also improved to 13-2 this campaign in single-digit decisions (0-6 last year) and 10-2 in true road games.

OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with seven quick-hitters:

It was over when / perfect play: Redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith, with Florida up two and the shot clock winding down, drained a dagger three-pointer to put the Gators up five with 30.9 seconds to play. “When he starts to make some shots, it will open up some other things for his game,” said head coach Billy Donovan. “He had really good looks tonight. … We had to shoot the ball over the top. … Obviously that was a big shot up by two.”

Prominent player: Finney busted out of his slump with gusto, hitting 6-of-11 shots off the bench for a game-high 19 points. He also grabbed a game-high nine boards and filled in a lot of the holes left by senior F Casey Prather, who is still hobbled by ankle and knee injuries. Finney-Smith was 1-for-23 from downtown in his previous five games dating back to Feb. 1 but hit 3-of-6 triples on Tuesday evening. Prather went just 1-for-5 with two points but grabbed six boards, registered four steals and dished three assists.

Significant stretch: Trailing 11-9 early in the first half, Florida broke out with a 13-0 run – including back-to-back threes from sophomore guard Michael Frazier II – and took a 22-11 lead with 8:35 to go until halftime. A 6-0 response by Vanderbilt knocked the visitors back a peg, but UF closed the half with a last-second fadeaway jumper by senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin to lead by seven at the break. Frazier (nine points) went just 2-for-7 from three but grabbed six boards on the evening. Wilbekin (seven points) made only 3-of-10 baskets (1-for-6 from deep) but contributed five assists.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: No. 1 Florida edges Vanderbilt 57-54, clinches share of SEC regular-season title

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Florida Gators at Vanderbilt Gameday Preview

Location: Memorial Gym – Nashville, TN [Capacity: 14,316]
Time: 9:00 p.m. (ET)

Pre-game chat: OGGOA
TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
SiriusXM: 91
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(13) FLORIDA GATORS VANDERBILT COMMODORES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Stallings
Record: 22-7 (10-4) Record: 20-9 (9-5)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +3.5; O/U 139.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Vanderbilt leads the all-time series against Florida 63-60, but the Gators are 22-11 against the Commodores under Donovan and have won four-straight games including three in 2011. VU is also 8-7 against UF at home since Donovan.
» All five of Florida’s normal starters are averaging at least 9.9 points per game.
» The Gators have made 10+ three-pointers in 19 of 29 games this year, a season-high mark under Donovan.
» Florida has made a three in 680 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» Vanderbilt is the league’s most accurate team from beyond the arc, hitting 39.8 percent of their long-range attempts.
» The Commodores are hosting Senior Night on Tuesday and come into the game having won four of their last five contests with their sole loss coming to Kentucky.
» The Gators are 287-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points and 237-38 since 1998-99 when recording 15 or more assists in a game.
» Florida has won 20+ games for the 14th consecutive season after defeating Alabama. That mark is currently the longest active streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.
» The Gators are undefeated (17-0) this year when posting a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and just 5-7 when that margin is even or negative.
» Struggling from the line in nonconference action, Florida is shooting a league-best 76.0 percent from the charity stripe.
» The Gators, which have already secured a top-four seed and a first-round bye in the 2012 SEC Tournament, can clinch the No. 2 seed with a victory on Tuesday.

LAST TIME OUT

Defeating Vanderbilt all three times the teams squared off in 2011, Florida extended their winning streak to four games with a 73-65 victory at home on Feb. 4. The Gators never gave up the lead the final 11 minutes of the game, forcing 17 Commodores turnovers thanks in part to a defensive press that kept them off-balance all afternoon. Florida also shot 45.8 percent from beyond the arc, and the Gators’ four primary guards each scored in double digits with Kenny Boynton (18 points) leading the way.

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Senior point guard Erving Walker (#11)…who is the longest tenured player on the team having appeared in 136 consecutive games with 75-straight starts. A shoot-first player much of his career, Walker has been tasked with distributing the ball and managing the game this year. He is the SEC’s active leader in minutes (4,099) and ranks second in points (1,692), treys (275), assists (516), steals (150) and free throws made (417). Walker is No. 4 on the school’s all-time scoring list, No. 1 in assists, No. 7 in free throws, No. 2 in threes made, No. 1 in treys attempted (718) and No. 2 in minutes. He is also hitting a team-best 81.7 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe while averaging 12.5 points and an SEC-best 4.8 assists per game.
» Junior guard Kenny Boynton (#1)…who is a dynamic scorer and just the second starter returning from a year ago. Boynton is working on his consistency this season and is already shooting better than he has throughout his career (46.7 percent from the field and 44.1 percent from downtown). He is the best defender on the Gators and is often put on the opponent’s best backcourt playmaker. Boynton currently ranks sixth in the SEC among active players in points (1,504) and third in three-pointers (250). He had hit a trey in 34-straight games and is the SEC’s second-leading scorer averaging 17.6 points per game. Boynton is No. 6 on UF’s list for threes made.
» Freshman G Bradley Beal (#23)…who was the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year and is one of the most talented players to sign with the Gators since Donovan took over the team. He is averaging 14.7 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds while shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 77.8 percent from the line, playing a team-high 34.1 minutes per game.
» Sophomore center Patric Young (#4)…who joined the starting lineup this year after being the primary frontcourt reserve as a freshman. Young averaging 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in limited action in 2011. He has four double-doubles on the season and scored a career-high 25 points against Arizona. Young is posting averages of 10.3 points, 6.4 boards and 1.0 blocks per game while hobbled with ankle tendinitis.
» Junior forward Erik Murphy (#33)…who is trying to add a post game and solid rebounding to his efficient shooting stroke. Murphy is averaging 9.9 points and 4.1 rebounds with a team-high 1.1 blocks. He is one of three regular shooters on the team averaging better than 40 percent from three, hitting 42.9 percent of his attempts.
» Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (#3)…who scored more than 1,000 points in two seasons at Rutgers and averaged 16.7 points per game his sophomore year. He is the Gators’ sixth man and is seeing 15.4 minutes of court time each game, averaging 7.5 points while shooting 42.8 percent from the floor and 36.6 percent from beyond the arc.

VANDERBILT
» G John Jenkins (#23)…who is leading his team in scoring (20.0 points) and minutes (33.7 per game) while shooting an efficient 46.0 percent from three. He also hits a team-high 84.7 percent of his free throw attempts and is considered one of the most dangerous scorers in the SEC every time he is on the court.
» F Jeffrey Taylor (#44)…who is one of four seniors looking to make their final home game a special victory. Taylor is the Commodores’ second leading scorer at 17.3 points per game and is also averaging 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 52.3 percent from the field and a team-high 46.2 percent from downtown.
» C Festus Ezeli (#3)…who is another senior playing his last game in the Memorial Gym and hopes to dominate a thin Gators’ frontcourt. Ezeli averages 10.3 points, 5.4 boards and a team-high 2.2 blocks per game.
» F Lance Goulbourne (#5)…who is yet another senior Vanderbilt player that will give Florida fits in the frontcourt. Goulbourne averages a team-high 6.9 boards per game and can also hit threes at a 31.4 percent clip. He scores 8.9 points per game in 28.6 minutes each contest.

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3/7: Donovan on SEC Tournament and winning

No. 12/12 Florida Gators (24-6, 13-3 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability Monday.

CUTTING DOWN THE NETS

Florida did not get the opportunity to cut down the nets at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, TN seeing as it was Senior Day for the Vanderbilt Commodores, but the team each received a piece of one Monday while also being sized for their Southeastern Conference Championship rings.

SEC BRACKET A NON-ISSUE

Placed in the “bottom” portion of the 2011 SEC Tournament bracket, UF will receive a bye and face either Tennessee [E5] or Arkansas [W4] in quarterfinals action; should they advance, they will likely face either Mississippi State [W2] or Vanderbilt [E3]. Asked about the difficulty of his team’s bracket, Donovan shrugged off the match-ups noting that they simply do not matter. “At this time of year, it doesn’t make a difference. There’s a lot of familiarity amongst [the conference],” he said. “Every game right now adds somewhat of a new life, new challenge for everybody. The regular season is over with, so everybody is basically starting fresh going into Atlanta.”

MO’ MONEY FOR BILLY D

The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway points out that Donovan will be awarded a $50,000 bonus for winning the conference championship, a $37,500 bonus for earning a berth in the 2011 NCAA Tournament and could have more money coming to him in the very near future. Outstanding bonuses he can achieve this season include $37,500 for reaching the Sweet 16, $25,000 on top of that for getting to the Final Four and an additional $150,000 if the Gators win the whole shebang. Should Florida finish in the Associated Press’s Top 10, he would grab $50,000 more.

KEEPING THE FOCUS ON WHAT’s IMPORTANT

Florida has already earned a berth to the NCAA Tournament, something the team has been unable to feel comfortable about over the prior three seasons. With that in mind, Donovan is confident his team will not overlook the upcoming SEC Tournament even though there is a bigger one in their future.

“You go in with an understanding that you can’t get to Saturday without taking care of Friday. We’re going to approach it the same way we always have done. These guys have done a pretty good job of competitively taking on what’s in front of them, and the SEC Tournament is in front of us right now,” he said.

“Winning has been important to these guys. When you win at a high level, it opens up a tremendous amount of doors for opportunity. We have been able to get better because there has been a focus on what we had to do to win and get better.”

DON’T FALL IN LOVE JUST YET…

Though Donovan is sure the team is focused and ready to prepare properly for the challenges in front of them, he continues to provide the same cautionary statement he has all season: “Don’t fall in love.”

“What I mean by that is: I love coaching these guys, they’re great. But the ebbs and flows of big win, tough loss, play great…we still have not conquered that, and that’s still a challenge,” Donovan said. “We’re not quite where we need to be, so I’m not willing to get over to that side. I do love them. I love coaching them. They need to understand that when you win like these guys have won, it becomes more difficult – it does not become easier. In a lot of ways, they’re in uncharted territory.”

Asked when he fell in love with the 2006 and 2007 national title teams, Donovan thought it through before responding. “I was a little bit leery, even the first year. I fell in love with their work ethic, unselfishness and unity as a team,” he said. “I didn’t feel that was ever going to be an issue because I saw how connected they all were. I was concerned about the lack of experience and going through what they were going through.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 3/7: Donovan on SEC Tournament and winning

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Gators win 2011 SEC title outright as No. 14 Florida takes down No. 20 Vanderbilt 86-76

No. 14 Florida Gators basketball (24-6, 13-3 SEC) put the wheels in motion Tuesday by clinching a share of the 2011 Southeastern Conference regular season title and went on to win it outright Saturday by defeating the No. 20 Vanderbilt Commodores (21-9, 9-7 SEC) 86-76 at the Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, TN.

All five of Florida’s starters scored in double figures and their intensity on the offensive glass (out-rebounding Vanderbilt 11-3) provided them ample opportunities at second-chance points. Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 17 points, and senior forward Alex Tyus contributed a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

UF struggled early, allowing VU center Festus Ezeli to score nine points in five minutes. He and F Jeffrey Taylor, who added 10 points, scored 19 of the team’s first 21 points as the Commodores led by five early.

Vanderbilt soon went up 25-18, but Florida answered back with an explosive 16-2 run including two three-pointers by senior F Chandler Parsons and five points from both Boynton and redshirt senior C Vernon Macklin to take a 34-27 lead.

The Gators ended the first half with a contested missed trey by junior point guard Erving Walker that was rebounded by Tyus and passed back to Walker for a layup to complete a 20-5 run and give them a 38-30 lead at the break.

With Florida up 11, Vanderbilt used an 8-0 run of their own to reduce their deficit to 48-46 with 13:20 left. VU was soon down only one, but UF quickly responded with an 11-1 run capped by another three from Boynton to gain a 65-54 advantage.

Macklin and freshman C Patric Young each saw themselves in foul trouble after Macklin also committed his fourth with 6:45 left. Even without the size, the Gators did not relent. Boynton hit two more triples (including his fifth four-point play of the year) to put Florida up a game-high 14 points, 73-59, with 6:30 remaining.

The Commodores put one last run together to cut the Gators’ lead to 77-72 with 3:05 to go, but eight free throws from Walker iced the game and clinched the title for Florida.

Boynton scored his 17 points on 4-of-9 shooting from downtown. Tyus was an efficient 5-for-9 from the field and grabbed an impressive seven offensive boards. Walker contributed 16 points (10 from the free throw line) and six assists, while Parsons and Macklin added 13 apiece.

Vanderbilt G John Jenkins scored a game-high 22 points off 9-of-15 shooting. Ezeli added 16 with four blocks, and Taylor was 7-for-11 from the field with 15 points.

The Gators’ 13-3 conference record ties the 2007 team for the best in school history. With the victory, Florida won only its third outright SEC title in school history (1989, 2007) and reached 24 wins for just the fourth time ever.

UF, the No. 1 overall seed in the 2011 SEC Tournament, will face either Georgia, Ole Miss or Tennessee in quarterfinals (second round) action on March 11. The game will air live on your local SEC Network affiliate at 7:30 p.m.

POST-GAME THOUGHTS

Tyus on the win: “It means everything. It was huge. I’m really excited right now. All the guys are really excited. Just all the hard work, how far we’ve come since our freshman and sophomore years. Now we’re getting to the top of the mountain and just want to keep going.”

Parsons on all starters scoring in double figures: “That’s just everybody playing unselfish. We don’t have any guys on our team that try to go out and get theirs. Whoever’s open gets the ball and everyone really contributed tonight. Our bench was terrific in the first half. We played extremely hard tonight. It shows a lot about our team that we won it all for ourselves.”

Parsons on the celebration: “We’re going to celebrate tonight. Definitely gonna celebrate tonight. I’m not going to tell you what or what we’re going to do. There’s definitely going to be some celebrating going on in Gainesville tonight.

Photo Credit: Wade Payne/Associated Press

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No. 14 Florida at No. 20 Vanderbilt Gameday

Location: Memorial Gymnasium – Nashville, TN [Capacity: 14,316]
Time: 6:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 14 FLORIDA GATORS No. 20 VANDERBILT
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Stallings
Record: 23-6 (12-3 SEC) Record: 21-8 (9-6 SEC)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Vanderbilt -4; O/U 137.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Vanderbilt leads the all-time series against Florida 63-57 and won both meetings last season. However, the Gators are 16-5 in their last 21 games against the Commodores including an overtime victory earlier this year. UF is also 19-11 against them under Donovan including 6-8 in Nashville.
» The Gators are 7-2 against the SEC East this season.
» Florida has won 15 of their last 18 games (and seven of their last eight) with 13 victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» UF, which has already won at least a share of the SEC regular season title and a No. 1 seed in the 2011 SEC Tournament, can win sole possession of the former with either a road victory (or Alabama home loss) on Saturday.
» If the Gators win Saturday, it will be the fourth team in school history to win 24+ regular season games. They would win the third outright SEC title in school history (1989, 2007).
» Florida is 20-1 (9-0 SEC) when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» The Gators, struggling all season from the line, are hitting 71.5 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe over the last seven games.
» Florida is 10-2 when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10+ shots from the field. He has moved into the top 20 in school history in scoring (1,364 points) and is one of only three active players in Division I college basketball with over 1,300 points, 750 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals.
» Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, with 197 three-pointers, is sixth all-time at UF. He is one trey away from moving into the top five.
» UF has reached 20+ wins for the 13th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the SEC. The Gators have also reached 10 wins in league play for the ninth time in the last 13 years and first time since 2007 (13-3).
» Vanderbilt leads Florida in points per game 76.7-71.0 (27th-116th) nationally, while the Gators hold an advantage over the Commodores in assists 14.0-13.6 (99th-129th). The teams are nearly identical in rebounding (37.7 apiece) and field goal percentage (.459-.458 [UF]). Florida holds opponents to five fewer points per game than Vanderbilt 61.8-66.8, grabs more turnovers 13.1-12.5 and coughs up fewer 12.4-13.7. The Gators rank 11th in RPI (.6352) and seventh in strength of schedule nationally compared to the Commodores being 24th (.6172) and 15th, respectively.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and Vanderbilt will square off for the second time this season; the Gators defeated the Commodores 65-61 in overtime in Gainesville, FL on Feb. 1. Even though the Gators failed to score a single field goal in the last 6:19 of regulation and the first 2:12 of overtime, Florida was up three with 15 seconds left when Parsons hit a pair of free throws to ice the game.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Parsons…who is averaging double-digit points (11.4) while leading the Gators with 7.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (798), No. 3 in points (1,364) and assists (306) and No. 4 steals (123). At one point he notched three-straight double-doubles and now has seven this year.
» Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.4 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.415) and three-point percentage (.377). Walker also leads Florida in turnovers (72) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.8 percent from the floor this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.5 points and 6.0 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but is struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is only hitting 37.2 percent from the field and 31.9 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 13.6 points per game and makes a team-high 81.3 percent of his free throws. He is also shooting 86.2 percent from the line (50-of-58) in SEC play.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat two weeks ago against Vanderbilt.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging over 17 minutes per game. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.27:1), while Young averages 3.1 points and 3.4 boards.
» Vanderbilt G John Jenkins…who plays a team-high 34.6 minutes and is his team’s leading scorer (19.4 points per game). Jenkins also shoots 89.2 percent from the charity stripe, hits 41.0 percent of his three-pointers and leads the SEC in scoring average.
» Commodores F Jeffrey Taylor…who is his team’s second-leading scorer (14.5) and third-leading rebounder (5.5) while playing the second-most minutes (31.0).
» Vanderbilt G Brad Tinsley…who leads the SEC in assists with 4.5 per game. He also contributes 10.8 points and 3.9 rebounds for the Commodores.

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3/3: Donovan on Parsons, Vanderbilt, SEC

No. 14/14 Florida Gators (23-6, 12-3 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability Thursday.

KEEPING THEIR MINDS RIGHT

Capturing a portion of the 2011 Southeastern Conference regular season title is quite an accomplishment but having it all to yourself is even more special. Donovan did not distinguish between the two scenarios, noting that he was just happy the team has achieved a SEC Championship in general.

“If you win a SEC Championship, you win a SEC Championship. Anytime you’re a part of a SEC Championship, it is meaningful,” he said. “Obviously we have an opportunity and a chance to win it outright on Saturday, but we got to play against a really good team that has been exceptional at home and had a great year.”

With Alabama and Georgia squaring off before Florida takes on No. 20/21 Vanderbilt, Donovan is aware that he has to do something to make sure the Gators are focused on winning their game no matter the earlier outcome.

“I talked to our guys about this. We cannot allow ourselves to emotionally get caught up spectating in that game. That’s the human element and human nature that I’ve always talked about. They’ve got to distance themselves from that,” he said. “We’re going to know something before we go into Vanderbilt, and they’re probably going to hear things. But you can emotionally get sucked into that. We need to be focused on what we got to do in this game. We should not even worry or concern ourselves with stuff that’s going on outside of the guys that are inside that locker room. That’s something that I’ve got to address with those guys and I’ve got to talk to them about. That game should have no bearing on how we go out and play; to me, that’s easier said than done.”

Though Donovan indicated he has yet to discuss the topic with his team, senior forward Chandler Parsons seemed to have an idea what his coach’s instructions would be.

“I’m sure obviously we’re going to know who won going into the game, but I don’t think with as good of a team as we are…we’re still going to want to win the game even if Georgia happens to win, he said. “We’re still going to come out with the same mentality that we want to win the game. The same mentality we come out with for every game. It doesn’t matter what other teams do; it just matters what we do.”

FLORIDA’s FIRST SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR?

Donovan refused to prop himself up Tuesday night after his team’s big win for SEC Coach of the Year, but he had no problem heaping praise on Parsons in the hopes that he captures SEC Player of the Year honors.

“Chandler has had a terrific year. In my opinion, he should really, really strongly be considered for that,” Donovan said. “He is really multi-dimensional. He does a lot for our team. He rebounds, he passes it, he’s shot the ball better, he take sit to the basket. You can put the ball in his hands to make plays. There’s no question as far as versatility is concerned, he’s definitely the most versatile small forward in the league with all the things he can do.”

Asked who he thinks should win the award, Parsons refused to say himself, nervously stammering and trying to find the right words. Eventually he was able to answer the question in a politically correct manner.

“That’s really a tough question. I put myself in a good situation where I can be talked about, but I don’t know if I’m going to win or not. It really doesn’t matter to me. I just worry about my team right now,” he said. “It’s really flattering and stuff that people are talking about me winning it, but seriously I’m more worried about us winning Saturday, us going to the SEC Tournament and then the NCAA Tournament.”

Read what else Donovan and Parsons had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 3/3: Donovan on Parsons, Vanderbilt, SEC

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Florida baseball holds on to defeat UCF 7-6

Off to a strong start in 2010, No. 5/7 Florida Gators baseball (4-0) held on for a 7-6 win over the Central Florida Knights (3-1) Wednesday night at McKethan Stadium. Up 7-0 at the end of the sixth inning, Florida relievers allowed UCF consecutive three-run innings in the seventh and eighth before closing it out in the top of the ninth.

Read the rest along with women’s basketball and men’s tennis news…
Continue Reading » Florida baseball holds on to defeat UCF 7-6

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