Weekend Wrap: Gators swimming wins SEC title, Florida baseball bests Miami, softball undefeated

Winning a league title, earning an important series victory, maintaining a long winning streak and remaining undefeated, Florida Gators athletic programs accomplished plenty over the last weekend. Let’s take a look at all of it in the Weekend Wrap.

Thrice is nice

Florida men’s swimming captured a third-straight Southeastern Conference Championship over the weekend, using three individual event titles won in Auburn, Alabama, to catapult the program to its 36th SEC Championship.

UF (1,314.5) edged Georgia (1,134.5) and Auburn (1,084.0) for the crown with freshman Caeleb Dressel (100-yard butterfly); sophomore Mitch D’Arrigo (500-yard freestyle); and the foursome of senior Dan Wallace, junior Pawel Werner, redshirt sophomore Nicholas Alexiou and D’Arrigo (800-yard freestyle relay) bringing home individual SEC titles. The relay team set a league and school record with a time of 6:12.85.

The Gators’ women finished third but also picked up four individual titles via junior Natalie Hinds (100-yard freestyle), freshman Amelia Maughan (200-yard freestyle), redshirt freshman Theresa Michalak (200-yard individual medley) and junior Jessica Thielmann (1,650-yard freestyle). Hinds set a program mark with a time of 47.26 seconds.

In total, Florida over the weekend added automatic qualifications for 25 events in the forthcoming 2015 NCAA Championships.

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NCAA chooses not to penalize Florida Gators for impermissible recruiting contact violation

The Florida Gators were not penalized by the NCAA on Friday for an incident that occurred on Jan. 23, 2014, when former wide receivers coach Joker Phillips violated a recruiting rule with a “bump.”

A “bump” in college recruiting is when a coach converses with a high school recruit outside of the allowable time periods at a “chance encounter,” whether the interaction was intended by the coach or not. The NCAA and Phillips agreed that he and a recruiting prospect “engaged in a conversation which exceeded a casual greeting” on the athlete’s high school campus that included recruiting conversation and the athlete “entering his social media contact information into the assistant football coach’s phone.”

The NCAA concluded that an unnamed Florida assistant (Phillips) “visited a prospect off-campus before NCAA rules allow for recruiting contact” that gave the Gators a recruiting advantage and “exceed[ed] the boundaries of permissible recruiting and are a serious issue for the membership.”

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NCAA schedules infractions call about decision on Florida Gators, likely Joker Phillips-related

The NCAA will hold a press call on Friday afternoon to discuss an NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions’ decision regarding the Florida Gators football program.

Though the organization would not comment on the nature of the decision other than to note that it will be released one hour prior to the call at 1 p.m., Florida sent out the following statement:

“We have not received the report yet, but we will receive it later today. However, this is a final resolution to a matter that we dealt with last June regarding one of our former assistant football coaches.”

Then-wide receivers coach Joker Phillips resigned on June 11, 2014, after just one year on the job, citing “personal reasons” factoring into his decision to step down.

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2015 Florida softball primer: Can the Gators repeat after the program’s first championship?

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 1 Florida Gators softball is poised to defend its crown following a 2014 campaign that saw the team go 55-12 with that last victory resulting in the program’s first National Championship. The Gators have already come out of the gate strong, sweeping the USF Softball Classic and routing Jacksonville on Wednesday, amassing a 6-0 record while outscoring opponents 62-7

Florida was the preseason favorite to with the Southeastern Conference title, having received 11 of 13 first-place votes from the league’s coaches, after failing to win either the regular season or tournament championship a year ago.

Head coach Tim Walton, who is now 498-114 (.813) six games into his 10th season, is confident in his roster. “We’ve got a good group, as deep a group as we’ve had,” he said. Walton no doubt hopes to roll this confidence into a return trip to Oklahoma City and ultimately a second national title in as many seasons.

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FOUR BITS: Harris, NFL, Horford, Tobias

1 » The second-degree misdemeanor charge of operating a motor vehicle without a license has been dropped against Florida Gators freshman quarterback Treon Harris after the player acquired his driver’s license. “He got his license and they dismissed the case [Wednesday],” Harris’s attorney, Huntley Johnson, told The Gainesville Sun‘s Robbie Andreu. “He took the test and got it re-upped. He did what I expected him to do.” The incident drew extra scrutiny as the police report noted the officer on the scene found marijuana in the vehicle but did not charge any of the three people in the car with possession because it was not on their bodies and the vehicle was not registered to any of them. Freshmen defensive backs Jalen Tabor and J.C. Jackson were in the car with Harris at the time. New Gators head coach Jim McElwain said last month that he is looking “forward to getting into [Harris’s] life and being a big part of his life.”

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Finney-Smith emerging at right time for Florida

The reigning SEC Sixth Man of the Year, redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been a model of consistency for the Florida Gators over the last month.

Consider this: Finney-Smith is averaging team-highs of 16.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game since Dec. 8, all while hitting 56.0 percent of his field goals and 43.2 percent of his threes during that eight-game stretch.

Through the first half of Florida’s season, Finney-Smith is more accurate than sharp-shooting junior guard Michael Frazier II and simply more effective than anyone else on the Gators’ roster despite the fact that he missed two games and was severely limited in five others after suffering two hairline fractures in his non-shooting hand. He said after Saturday’s game that he feels close to 100 percent healthy.

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Florida gymnastics’ title hopes take hit as Bridget Sloan (ankle) sidelined six weeks

Florida Gators gymnastics suffered a major blow in its hopes to three-peat as national champion as junior Bridget Sloan, arguably the flag bearer for Florida’s gymnastics program, will be sidelined for six weeks with a severe ankle sprain, head coach Rhonda Faehn announced on Tuesday.

Sloan, a two-time All-SEC First Team selection, the winner of the 2013 Honda Sports Award and a 16-time All-American, has helped lead the Gators to back-to-back NCAA National Championships. She has also captured three individual NCAA Championships, winning the all-around and balance beam competitions in 2013 and picking up the uneven bars title in 2014.

Florida rolled to a dominant 196.925-193.700 win over Ball State in each program’s season-opener on Sunday in Muncie, Indiana, but did not leave the meet without suffering some losses.

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The Silver Lining: ‘Inconsistent’ Florida Gators struggling to find themselves as SEC play begins

The schedule has been difficult, but Florida Gators (7-6) basketball is off to its worst start since the 1996-97 season, head coach Billy Donovan’s first at the helm of the program and a campaign in which Florida started with the same record through 13 games and finished the season 13-17.

While it is quite unlikely that the Gators end 2014-15 with a sub-.500 record, Florida is not trending upward like many expected now that its roster is at full strength.

“I don’t really look at the record as much as much as how we’re playing,” Donovan said Monday.

Well, UF is not playing well either. And he is quite aware.

The Gators do not have a signature non-conference win despite a 13-game slate filled with tough opponents. Florida is 210th nationally in scoring, 177th in rebounding, 131st in assists and one of the worst in the country in both getting to the charity stripe and making free throws once there.

Simply put, there is not much going right for the Gators, which went from undeserved preseason No. 7 to a team that is no longer even garnering votes in the top 25 polls. No ranked opponent has more than three losses; UF has double that many with five of six coming in single-digit defeats.

Florida is floundering in every facet of the game except defense, and Donovan knows exactly why.

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