Takeaways: Florida baseball rebounds from FSU

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer

No. 6 Florida Gators baseball (32-10, 12-6 SEC) started their recent five-game stretch with a tough road loss but recovered to claim four straight wins and remain one of the top 10 teams in the nation.

The Florida State Seminoles walked off in the 12th inning last week with a 4-3 victory to tilt the season series in the Seminoles’ favor 2-1. Florida bounced back with a 6-3 win Friday night over the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkville, Mississippi, and went on to earn a 2-1 win and 10-5 victory to sweep the weekend series. UF then returned home Tuesday and managed to defeat the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 2-1 despite being held to only four hits.

Here are five takeaways from Florida’s resilient week:

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Florida vs. Mississippi State: Frazier ill, Horford out, Donovan wants Gators to improve culture

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: Fox Sports Networks (James Bates, Daymeon Fishback)
Streaming Video: ESPN3.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 92/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Rick Ray
Record: 8-6 (1-0 SEC) Record: 7-7 (0-1 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: -17.5 | O/U 115

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McElwain laughs at Mullen’s ‘lateral move’ slight

Jim McElwain, new head football coach of the Florida Gators, likes to laugh. This much was obvious when he held his introductory press conference.

He got another chance to do just that on Tuesday when asked by 740 The Game radio host Mike Bianchi what he thought of a recent comment by Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, who panned the decision of defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to leave MSU for UF.

Said Mullen: “I don’t like anybody leaving for what I would view as lateral moves, to be perfectly honest.”

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Florida officially hires Mississippi State’s Geoff Collins as defensive coordinator

Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain has made his first major hire since taking over the program two weeks ago, plucking Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins for the same role on his staff.

The move was reported early Tuesday and officially announced later in the day.

“I got to know Geoff personally during my time at Alabama and have stayed in touch with him since and his defenses have been successful everywhere he has been,” McElwain said in a statement released by Florida. “It was important to maintain some of the same philosophies and concepts that have made the defenses around here successful with this hire and our players will continue to progress under his direction.

“Coach [D.J.] Durkin will continue to coach the team through the bowl game. I have the utmost respect for his professionalism and have full confidence in his abilities to lead and coach the team.”

According to ESPN.com‘s Joe Schad, Collins signed a three-year deal with the Gators.

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Florida-Mississippi State preview: Donovan praises Gators short-rest success

Location: Humphrey Coliseum – Starkville, MS [Capacity: 15,383]
Date/Time: Thursday at 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN2 (Rece Davis, Bob Knight)
SiriusXM: 85 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Rick Ray
Record: 17-2 (6-0 SEC) Record: 13-6 (3-3 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -13.5 | O/U: 131.5


» Florida leads Mississippi State 60-49 in the all-time series with a 13-8 record under Donovan. However, the Bulldogs hold a 34-21 edge in Starkville with Donovan going 5-4 in nine road contests against MSU.
» UF has won three-straight games against Mississippi State, outscoring MSU by an average of 30 points in two meetings during the 2012-13 season.
» Florida is on an 11-game winning streak and has won 16 of its last 17 games.
» The Gators are 69-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» Florida is 8-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. UF is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» The Gators defeated top-15 teams in consecutive games for the fourth time in program history and first time ever in non-conference regular season play.
» Florida is 2-2 against ranked opponents this season with both losses coming in true road games and the victories occurring in a home contest and neutral-site game.
» The Gators are 4-2 in true road games this season.
» This is the second-straight Thursday-Saturday turnaround for Florida. UF’s senior class is now 11-1 overall in its last six Thursday-Saturday situations and has swept five-straight instances when playing two games in that three-day period.

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SIX BITS: top 25, tennis, Muschamp, PIT, Tebow

1 » Despite ending their 2013 NCAA Tournament run in the Elite Eight for the third-straight year, Florida Gators basketball was placed at No. 9 in the final USA Today Coaches’ Top 25 poll of the 2012-13 season. Florida was not the only Elite Eight team to fall outside the top eight of the poll, however, as Marquette checked in at No. 11 in the final rankings. Indiana (Sweet 16 loss to Syracuse) and Kansas (Sweet 16 loss to Michigan) took the two other spots in the top eight. The Gators also checked in at No. 9 and No. 10 in 2011-12 and 2010-11, respectively, after losing in the Elite Eight. Florida will likely enter the 2013-14 campaign ranked in the preseason top-10.

2 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (17-2, 10-1 SEC) ran through its competition over the weekend, extending their winning streaks to 10 consecutive team matches and 30-straight individual matches. Florida swept the Ole Miss Rebels (10-10, 4-6 SEC) and Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-12, 1-10 SEC) in a pair of home showdowns over the weekend at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The Gators won all 11 matches and had the opportunity to celebrate Senior Day against the Bulldogs on Sunday. Seniors No. 1 Lauren Embree and No. 125 Caroline Hitimana were each unable to finish their singles matches due to Florida registering a quick 4-0 victory but both won their doubles contests. The No. 20 duo of Embree and junior Sofie Oyen picked up an 8-2 win, while Hitimana and junior Alex Cercone won 8-0.

On Monday, head coach Roland Thornqvist praised Embree at his press conference, making note of her incredible career and tremendous work ethic. “You want to know why Lauren Embree is the best college player to ever play the game?” he asked rhetorically. “It was Monday morning at 8:30, and after a weekend full of matches and practices, she runs to the courts, hits serves for 30 minutes, then I show up and we go at it [on the court] for an hour and 15 minutes. By 10:00, she’s done with two workouts already while the rest of tennis America is still sleeping. That’s why we’re good and that’s why she’s good. She sets the tone, the bar is high, and I think everybody feeds off of it. We’ve just been blessed to have that for four years. Frankly, it’s just amazing.” The Gators women’s tennis program is hoping to win its third-straight national title.

Read four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
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Florida back to trouncing SEC foes with 83-58 win

Rebounding from an embarrassing loss at Arkansas on Tuesday, No. 2/2 Florida Gators basketball (19-3, 9-1 SEC) beat down the Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-15, 2-8 SEC) for the second time this season with an 83-58 victory at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Saturday.

Redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario led the way for the Gators with a game-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting (2-of-4 from downtown). Shooting equally as well was junior forward Erik Murphy, who posted 17 points while going 7-for-10 from the field and 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Florida, playing its first game without junior F Will Yeguete (knee), also switched up its starting lineup with freshman G Michael Frazier II taking the place of junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who was benched as a punishment by head coach Billy Donovan.

After starting the game 0-for-5 from downtown, UF quickly got hot from long range and netted four-straight triples. Rosario hit the first trey and Frazier followed by draining three in a row to spot the Gators an early 18-10 lead.

Florida used Frazier’s hot shooting to kick start an 11-0 run and soon followed that up with a 13-2 scoring stretch to double-up Mississippi State 36-18 with 4:27 left in the opening half. UF held on to a 16-point advantage over MSU at the break.

The Gators pulled away at the start of the second half as a 10-0 run extended their lead to 52-26. Florida maintained a comfortable lead from that point forward, and Donovan was able to clear his bench with less than four minutes left in the contest.

Frazier (11 points), junior G/F Casey Prather (12) and senior guard Kenny Boynton (10) joined Rosario and Murphy as five Gators scored in double figures.

Florida shot 52.5 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from downtown while winning the rebounding battle 37-34 and registering 21 assists on 31 made baskets. The Gators also scored 32 points in the paint despite not having a size advantage.

Florida will have little time to rest as Kentucky rolls into Gainesville on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. showdown on ESPN. The Wildcats will be looking to overtake the Gators for first-place in the Southeastern Conference standings.

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Florida-Mississippi State, replacing Yeguete

Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Rick Ray
Record: 18-3 (8-1 SEC) Record: 7-14 (2-7 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 5:00 p.m. EST

TV: Sun Sports/Fox Sports Network (Dave Neal, Larry Conley) [Channel Finder]
SiriusXM: 93/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com [Blackout Map] | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper app

Odds: Florida -26.5 | O/U 128


For the second-straight year, one of Florida’s most important players is having his season cut due to injury. Junior forward Will Yeguete, who broke his foot toward the end of the 2012 regular season and never returned, had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Friday and is out for at least the rest of the regular season.

Yegeute’s loss hits the Gators hard, but Donovan is more focused on how to attempt to replace some of his production rather than worry about all of the negatives. Junior forward Casey Prather and freshman guard Michael Frazier will undoubtedly see more time on the court, but freshman G/F DeVon Walker – who has already spent time working in the post during practice due to the team’s thin frontcourt – will also be in the mix to fill in off the bench. The problem? Donovan is not necessarily sure that he’s prepared to contribute on an every-game basis.

“I don’t know if he’s ready. We don’t have a whole lot of choices right now,” he said Thursday. “I would say this about DeVon Walker, which I like, is he’s highly competitive. He’s a tough kid. I think he’ll step in there and give us everything he has. That’s a comforting [thing]. I think at this point of time in the season, you need someone to come in that has energy, has toughness.

“Is he going to be in the right spot all the time? Probably not. Is he going to make some mistakes? Absolutely. Has he absorbed enough minutes to have any level of experience to probably handle that? Probably not. But I think for him, I do have confidence in his competitiveness and his willingness to do whatever is necessary to help our team. I feel good about that, but he obviously has a long way to go to continue to improve and get better. We’ll see what he does when he gets out there.”

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