Florida tops North Florida 77-69 in season opener; Gators “light-years away,” Donovan says

No. 8/10 Florida Gators basketball (1-0) struggled in both halves but completed complete a 77-69 season-opening victory over the North Florida Ospreys (0-1) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, on Friday afternoon.

Head coach Billy Donovan was highly critical of his team’s performance and discussed his concerns at length following the game.

“My concern right now is on the defensive end of the floor. That’s really a major concern I have right now,” he said. “No disrespect to North Florida. … We’re going to play against higher level people come Tuesday. We got a long, long, long way to go – long way to go – because what’s going on now, it’s not sinking in to these guys. It’s not.”

CATAPULTING CASEY

Senior forward Casey Prather played his best game in a Florida uniform on Friday, doubling his career-high with 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting. His previous career-high of 14 points came against Virginia in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Prather attacked the hoop, made a couple mid-range buckets and even hit his first five foul shots, scoring 17 points in the first half alone. He finished 8-of-11 from the charity stripe, also picking up eight rebounds and filling out his stat line with three blocks (also a career-high), an assist and a steal.

He did have a bad sequence late in the second half, however, and finished with three turnovers. After grabbing a defensive rebound, Prather coughed the ball up with an errant pass. He blocked the ensuing shot but fouled UNF’s best three-point shooter, Beau Beech, on a made trey (it resulted in a four-point play that cut UF’s lead to 12). Back on the other end, he missed consecutive layups and got blocked on the second try.

H-ILL

Displaying a solid command of the offense – albeit with a few understandable mistakes – freshman point guard Kasey Hill looked every bit the floor general for the Gators. He only finished with four dimes on the afternoon, but Hill was great in transition, ran Florida’s up-tempo offense with ease and was dynamic taking the ball to the hoop.

A spin move at the top of the key with 8:25 left in the game resulted in a lay-in for Hill and was just two of his 15 points, which was good enough for third-most on the Gators. Hill went 5-for-9 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the free throw line, making three of four gimmies in the final 27 seconds of the game.

Nevertheless, Donovan was not completely satisfied with what he saw.

“Kasey obviously offensively played very, very well,” he said. “I was disappointed in him today, and I told him that on the bench. The reason I was disappointed in him today is because he’s a great kid, he’s an unbelievable kid to coach. He has got a sponge in terms of trying to learn. But the one thing, if there’s one thing that really stood out that got under my skin by our team and by him, was this look of – I don’t know if the right word is ‘entitlement,’ I don’t know if the right word is ‘everything’s supposed to go my way and when it doesn’t I get deflated’ – our resiliency, our fight, our grit [disappeared].

“I say North Florida had a lot of grit tonight. … We did not even show remotely close to the grit that North Florida showed. So maybe our guys can learn something from them.”

Continue Reading » Florida tops North Florida 77-69 in season opener; Gators “light-years away,” Donovan says

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Florida-North Florida preview; Gators wrap-up

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 3:00 p.m. EST

(8) FLORIDA GATORS NORTH FLORIDA OSPREYS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Matthew Driscoll
Record: 0-0 Record: 0-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Sun
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

TV: Sun Sports (Larry Vettel, Mark Wise) [Channel Finder]
SiriusXM: 93/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com [Blackout Map] | Mobile Video: None
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Odds: OFF

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is 3-0 all-time against North Florida.
» The Gators are 17-0 under Donovan in season openers and have won 22-straight dating back to 1991.
» UF is hoping to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2006-07. Florida has been eliminated in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament in three-straight seasons (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13.
» The Gators have won 16-straight games in the O’Dome dating back to Feb. 21, 2012. UF went undefeated at home (15-0) during the 2012-13 season).
» Donovan (415) enters the season 33 wins behind Dale Brown (448) for second-most in SEC history. He is currently the longest-tenured head coach in the league.
» Kasey Hill will become the first Florida freshman to start at point guard since Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas in 2007.
» The Gators looking to win at least 20 games in a season for the 16th-straight year.

THE COUNTDOWN

Part I (Nos. 42-12) | Part II (Nos. 10-0)

ALL-SEC

Seniors center Patric Young and point guard Scottie Wilbekin were named by league coaches to the 2013 Preseason All-SEC Team on Friday. Young received a first-team nod, while Wilbekin was chosen for the second team. Both players were selected to the second team by the media earlier this offseason.

Continue Reading » Florida-North Florida preview; Gators wrap-up

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16 Gator Bites for Wednesday, March 20

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Though President Barack Obama‘s official 2013 NCAA Tournament bracket will be released on Wednesday at 9 a.m. on ESPN, the network released his Final Four late Tuesday night. President Obama chose the Florida Gators to win the South Region and also has Louisville, Indiana and Ohio State advancing to the Final Four.

» Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah had a hellacious experience during his team’s game on Monday evening. With 5.7 seconds left in overtime and Chicago trailing Denver by a single point, Noah got in perfect position underneath the basket and tipped in what otherwise would have been a missed shot. Though Noah scored the apparent game-winner and the referees did not call interference on the play, they checked the replay and eventually reversed their decision. The problem? Referees are only allowed to use replay to review on-court calls of interference, not to check on non-calls. Take a look at the video below to see what transpired on Monday.

Read 14 more interesting bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » 16 Gator Bites for Wednesday, March 20

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FOUR BITS: volleyball title, Needles, soccer, cheer

1 » A young Florida Gators volleyball team struggled early this season in non-conference competition but has been on a roll since, winning 17-of-18 Southeastern Conference games and clinching the 2012 SEC Championship on Sunday. Florida (23-4, 17-1 SEC) defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks (17-14, 5-14 SEC) in a 3-0 sweep (25-19, 25-14, 25-19) to pick up the team’s 31th SEC title, its first since 2010. The Gators have now won 20 of the 22 SEC regular season titles awarded since 1991; UF also captured 11 SEC Tournament titles in that same time frame, though the event was discontinued following the 2005 season. All 31 league championships have comes under the stewardship of head coach Mary Wise, who took over the program in 1991 and will certainly be up for more Coach of the Year awards.

2 » Florida women’s basketball (3-1) dominated the North Florida Ospreys (0-4) to the tune of a 30-point win (74-44) on Monday, but the story of the game was the performance of redshirt freshman guard Carlie Needles, who set a program record with nine three-pointers in a single game. Needles scored a career-high 27 points in the contest while going 9-of-17 from beyond the arc. She did not take a single two-pointer or foul shot in her 31 minutes of court time. Her nine treys also tied the mark for second in SEC history for threes made by a women’s basketball player in a single game. She is just the fifth player in league history to make nine or more triples in a game. The old UF record (eight) was held by Bridget Pettis and set just over 20 years ago (Jan. 20, 1983).

3 » Coming off of winning two SEC titles – the regular season and tournament crowns – Gators soccer (19-5-1) put together an impressive run in the 2012 NCAA Tournament before falling to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (16-5-2) in the Sweet 16 on Sunday. Florida took down Florida Gulf Coast 2-0 in opening round action last week and defeated UCF on Friday before falling 2-0 to Notre Dame on Sunday. The Fighting Irish got on the board at 20’ and again at 71’; each team had four shots on goal. The match was the last in the careers of five seniors that have made a major impact on the program. Redshirt forward/midfielder McKenzie Barney, MF Jo Dragotta, MF Holly King, MF/F Erika Tymrak and redshirt defender Kathryn Williamson were all able to say goodbye to fans at home as the first three tournament games were played at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

4 » Learning last Friday that the team would no longer be allowed to perform tumbling or stunts at games, events or practices, members of Florida cheerleading were up in arms and expressed their frustration via social media. Supporters of the squad have now created SaveFloridaCheerleading.com in an effort to explain their position and give the administration reason to reverse their decision.

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Florida baseball tops UNF 4-3 in 11 innings

Losing to the North Florida Ospreys on April 3 was a noticeable blemish on the Florida Gators’ portfolio this season so there was no doubt that one of the top teams in the country was looking for revenge Tuesday night in Gainesville, FL. It may have taken 11 innings but No. 5 Florida (36-13) got just that by taking down North Florida (28-21) 4-3 at McKethan Stadium to split the season series 1-1.

After wasting a number of opportunities to plate a run in the latter innings of the contest, junior catcher Mike Zunino (3/5, 2 RBI, SB, BB) came through in the clutch with a walk-off RBI double down the left field line in the bottom of the 11th to score redshirt freshman pinch hitter Connor Mitchell (1-2, R).

Freshman right-handed pitcher Johnny Magliozzi got the mid-week start for the Gators but struggled with his command early on, giving up a pair of earned runs on five hits with one walk and no strikeouts in 2.2 innings. Florida was able to match the runs by rallying in the bottoms of the second and third to tie the game 2-2.

The Gators took the lead in the fifth as junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (2/4, HR, RBI, R, 2 BB) began the frame with a solo homer. UF maintained their one-run advantage for the duration of sophomore RHP Keenan Kish’s appearance (4.0 IP, 4 H, 3 K).

Sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford (0.1 IP, 2 H, ER, K) took over in the top of the eighth but did not fare well, allowing two hits and the game-tying run while only registering a single out. Florida had multiple opportunities to retake the lead in regulation but left the bases loaded in the eighth and a man on second in the ninth.

UNF threatened in the top of the 10th until junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez struck out consecutive batters with the bases loaded to get UF out of the inning. The Ospreys tried again in the 11th but were equally unsuccessful as freshman RHP Ryan Harris (2-0, 1.0 IP, H, K) got the final three outs of the contest.

The Gators now move on to their final home games of the regular season as they host Mississippi State in a three-game weekend series. Florida will also celebrate Senior Day for five upper classmen; a number of UF’s juniors will also be playing their last regular season game at McKethan Stadium over the weekend.

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North Florida takes down No. 1 Florida 10-5

Falling to 4-4 over their last eight games, all of which were played on the road, No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (24-5) put together what head coach Kevin O’Sullivan described as the team’s worst performance of the season in a 10-5 loss to the North Florida Ospreys (18-13) on Tuesday night in Jacksonville, FL.

Florida sophomore right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson took the mound for the first time since Feb. 26 and flashed his brilliance by retiring North Florida’s first three batters on eight pitches including a pair of strikeouts.

However, Whitson was pulled after his one inning of work and his replacement, freshman left-hander Bobby Poyner (1-1), imploded by giving up four runs (three earned) on four hits without recording a single out in the second inning.

The Gators brought out six other relievers over the duration of the contest with the first four giving up six more runs (four earned). UF’s defense was equally as poor as the pitching with the team committing three untimely errors. The Ospreys plated at least one run in six-straight innings, and UNF did a good job making sure their opponents never got too close on the scoreboard.

Florida actually held a 1-0 lead on North Florida through 1.5 innings, using consecutive singles from senior centerfielder Daniel Pigott (3/4, RBI, 2 R, BB) and freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (3/5, R) to help them get on the board in the opening frame. UF never reestablished an advantage for the remainder of the evening.

Entering their extended road trip on a school-record 18-game winning streak, the Gators have dropped four of the eight games they have played away from home since March 22. UF lost to ranked opponents in South Carolina and Ole Miss (twice) before dropping their first game of the season to an unranked opponent on Tuesday.

Despite their three previous losses, Florida maintained their season-long No. 1 ranking in three of the four new top 25 polls released on Monday. The Gators will return to Gainesville, FL for a three-game homestand against LSU to cap off the week.

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11/17: Florida vs. North Florida post-game

The No. 7/8 Florida Gators returned home after being defeated by Ohio State and upended the North Florida Ospreys 91-55 Thursday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some Florida players discussed the contest they just played.

CHARITY STRIPE NOT BEING VERY CHARITABLE

The Gators have shot well as a team through the first three games of the 2011-12 season, but the squad has noticeably continued to struggle from the free throw line. Florida is shooting 56.9 percent from the charity stripe this year, which is about 20 percent lower than the level the team should be at, according to Donovan.

“It irritates me because we’ve got a good shooting team. I see it more as a mechanical problem right now. I don’t think our guys are using their legs like they need to,” he said. “A lot of our free throws are short. They got to dip into their legs a little bit more. We’re in the mid-50s for the year and that should not be the case. We’ve spent some time shooting them, but we’ve got to do a better job. There has to be more focus and discipline there.”

Donovan said he tries to create pressure situations in practice but no matter how well the Gators shoot in the gym, he knows it does not always translate equally to the court.

“They start missing them and then they’re all thinking about it right now. We’ve got to get enough reps in right now where they get more comfortable there,” he said.

YOUNG NEEDS TO GET INVOLVED

Unlike two days prior, Florida really concentrated on moving the ball and making the extra pass against North Florida. Part of that concentration was supposed to be ensuring that sophomore center Patric Young got more touches around the basket.

“We felt like in the Ohio State game, in the first half, Pat didn’t get touches. In the second half we felt like when he got the ball good things happened. Overall we just wanted to work on moving the ball and team chemistry,” junior guard Kenny Boynton said.

As it turned out, Young scored a season-low seven points and took just seven shots. Donovan was obviously displeased with his big man getting so few looks.

“We got to find ways, when we’re spaced out like that and the defense has to come out, we got a pretty big, physical guy isolated in the post one-on-one. We got to find ways to incorporate him more into what we’re doing,” he said.

BOYNTON NO LONGER RELYING ON THE THREE

A scoring machine coming out of high school, Boynton spent most of his first two years with Florida standing beyond the arc hoping to get the ball so he could jack up three-pointers. Donovan has been trying to get Boynton to work on his penetration for a while now and may have finally seen it come full circle on Thursday.

”I’m really pleased with him. He’s really made some great steps, and I’ve seen improvement every year since he’s been here,” Donovan said of Boynton. “He came in as a prolific scorer and that’s what he knew. Last year he had a better understanding of shot selection and extra passing. Right now he’s really done a nice job of assist-to-turnover ratio, driving it and not just relying on a three, getting in the lane, mid-range jumpers. He’s starting to add some different things to his game.

“He’s just got to understand that there’s going to be a night where he doesn’t shoot typically well, but his game has evolved as such that he can still have a great impact on it because he’s just not relying so much on the three. That’s been the biggest thing – he’s driven, pulled up, made extra passes and done a lot of different things. And clearly he’s one of our better perimeter defenders.”

Boynton agreed with Donovan’s assessment after the game Thursday. Just 2-of-8 from downtown, Boynton began taking it to the hole and finished 7-of-14 from the field for a game-high 20 points.

“I felt like I was relying on my outside shot a lot. It was falling [in the first two games], but I definitely want to work on everything,” he said. “It was the reverse tonight. My outside shot wasn’t falling, so I started going to the hole.”

PLAYER EVALUATIONS

Senior point guard Erving Walker (and his recent struggles): “The thing that bothered me with Walker at Ohio State and a little bit [against North Florida] is I think you can get into a little bit of senioritis where you’re a senior and you kind of want everything to go well and you want it to be a real good year. You’ve paid your dues and you’ve worked hard and then when it’s not going well there’s almost this, ‘Why me.’ Erving Walker, his whole entire life, has been a fighter. I don’t think that because he’s a senior he can stop fighting. I really challenged him in the second half in the locker room, and I thought in the second half he competed and went back to having that fight in him. We need him to have that fight because it impacts the rest of our team.”

Freshman G Brad Beal (and his basketball IQ): “NBA players are not only the most talented and gifted, they’re the smartest. Sometimes that gets lost when you see some of these guys play and they’ve played so many games. The basketball intellect is really high. The ones up at that level, the really good ones have it. Brad’s got that. He understands it; he gets it. I’m actually trying to extract more out of him verbally because I think he can lead. He knows he’s a competitor. He can shift it into a different gear. But he also doesn’t want to step on anybody’s toes or come across as selfish. That’s a good thing, too; it’s a good quality for him to have.

“[Al] Horford had it. [Udonis] Haslem had it. Corey Brewer had it. Mike Miller had it. There’s certain guys that learn as the game evolves. Erving Walker had it as a freshman. There’s certain guys that come into a game as a freshman, and it doesn’t look like they’re a freshman. They can play inside the flow of the game because they understand little things or can think ahead. Certain guys got to go thorough experiences to go through it to figure out what not to do. Do they all have it? No. Is it rare? It’s probably somewhat rare, but the really good players eventually get that.”

Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (and his lack of defense): “He has proven that he can score. Again he comes out and gets 15 points in 20 minutes. The thing he’s losing sight of sometimes [is] that he needs to get better at is that he’s not defending like he needs to defend. He was in the wrong spots in the press. It’s all a little bit different for him and moving faster. He’s probably coming from a situation at Rutgers where everything was built around him and getting him shots. Now he’s incorporating himself where there’s a lot of different pieces. ‘How do I now get involved?’ The biggest thing he needs to do is be much more of a consistent defender. He’s capable, he just needs to be committed to it.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan said sophomore forward Will Yeguete saw the doctor Thursday after beginning to experience some post-concussion symptoms. He was set to take tests on Friday and will hopefully be back Saturday if everything checks out OK. “In the Ohio State game, he felt comfortable to go back in there and he went back in there. The next day he was complaining of some headaches and didn’t feel great. It was probably some concussion-like symptoms,” Donovan said.

» Rosario on the team’s quick turnaround: “It was tough. We went out there and lost to a good team. A lot of praise to those guys; those guys did a great job out there at Ohio State. We told ourselves we had to come back, do a one day turnover and be ready to go.”

» Beal on some of his miscues: “I’m a freshman so I still have a long way to go. I’m going to make mistakes but at the same time I know that I can learn from them and just try to improve them down the road.”

» Beal on his turnovers: “It’s just being careless, thinking too much instead of just playing basketball.”

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Gators ground Ospreys in 91-55 blowout

The game may not have started at the pace that No. 7/8 Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan may have preferred, but his team pulled away early in the second half and cruised to an easy victory in a Global Sports Shootout game.

Florida (2-1) routed the North Florida Ospreys (1-2) 91-55 Thursday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL behind a 20-point performance on 7-of-14 shooting by junior guard Kenny Boynton.

Five Gators scored in double figures, including freshman G Brad Beal, who registered his first career double-double with 12 points (5-for-10) and 10 rebounds.

UF began and ended the first half moving a bit on the slow side. In between, the Gators used a pair of 8-0 runs as well as a 10-2 run to take a 28-11 lead. Florida stretched their advantage out to 20 before missing their final four shots of the half and heading to the back locker room up 39-22.

The Gators opened the second half with an impressive and game-changing 21-6 run that included a pair of threes by senior point guard Erving Walker, another from junior forward Erik Murphy, a dunk by Boynton and a crowd-pleasing alley-oop from Walker to sophomore center Patric Young.

Florida continued to put the pressure on from there, jumping ahead 37 points with about nine minutes to play and hanging on for the impressive victory.

Outrebounding their opponent in all three games so far this season, the Gators had a 36-31 advantage Thursday night. Florida turned the ball over 10 times (compared to 16 at Ohio State) but registered 11 steals and dished 18 assists.

UF shot 49.2 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from downtown but only hit 16-of-29 attempts (55.2 percent) from the charity stripe. The Gators were an unimpressive 5-for-13 from the line at the end of the first half but went 11-for-16 to end the game.

North Florida G Parker Smith scored a team-high 17 points and hit all seven of his tries from the charity stripe. As a team, the Ospreys made 13-of-16 shots from the line.

Walker scored 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting (3-for-7 from beyond the arc) with six boards, four dimes and a team-high three turnovers. Boynton added four rebounds and five assists to his 20 points and also hit all four of his free throws.

Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario chimed in with 15 points while hitting 4-of-6 attempts from three, Murphy was 5-for-8 for 13 points and four boards, and Young finished with just seven points and four rebounds.

Florida will play its fourth and final GSS game in a neutral-site game against Wright State on Monday in Tampa, FL. The contest will air live at 8 p.m. on FOX Sports Florida (check your local listings).

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