TWO BITS: Florida soccer advances to Elite Eight; Gators volleyball captures 21st SEC title

1 » No. 10 Florida Gators soccer on Sunday advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2014 NCAA Tournament after taking down the No. 16 Texas Tech Red Raiders 3-2 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators may have fallen short of winning their league crown, but Florida is making a significant effort in NCAA play, moving on to the quarterfinals for the fifth time in program history and first since 2003. UF got on the board first with senior midfielder Havana Solaun striking the ball from 20 yards out; it deflected off the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand, and then the post, before finding the back of the net and putting the Gators up 1-0 at 14′. Florida went ahead 2-0 at 21′ after scoring on a glancing header by sophomore forward Savannah Jordan, which came off a free kick from senior MF Annie Speese. Texas Tech fought back with consecutive goals at 37′ and 64′ to tie thing sup, but Speese notched the game-winning goal at 81′ to send UF forward in the postseason.

The Gators will travel out west to continue their trek toward the NCAA title as Florida will next take on the Stanford Cardinal on Friday at 10 p.m. in Palo Alto, California.

2 » It was an eventful week for No. 6 Gators volleyball, which captured the outright 2014 Southeastern Conference Championship on Friday with a 3-1 win against the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi. The SEC regular-season title is Florida’s second in the last three years and 21st in the last 24 seasons (1991-2008, 2010, 2012), all of which have come under head coach Mary Wise. On Sunday, the Gators won their 18th-straight match of the season, taking down the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Florida has its longest winning streak since 2010 and will play its final games of the regular season on Wednesday vs. South Carolina and Saturday at Texas.

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Gators 2015 football schedule released; Florida to host Ole Miss for first time since 2008

The Southeastern Conference on Tuesday announced the league’s 2015 football schedule, which for the third-straight year features a 6-1-1 format of six inter-division games, one permanent cross-division rival and one rotating cross-division opponent.

In addition to playing the rest of the SEC East, the Florida Gators will go head-to-head with permanent cross-division rival LSU for the 45th consecutive season (dating back to 1971) and host Ole Miss, marking the first meeting between the programs since the Rebels took down the Gators in 2008.

Ole Miss defeated Florida 31-30 that year. It was the Gators’ only loss of the season and the catalyst to Tim Tebow’s “The Promise” speech; Florida won 10-straight games and closed the season with both the SEC and national titles.

The Rebels will not get a return date with the Gators until 2020, the first time Florida will play a game in Oxford, Mississippi, in 13 years dating back to 2007.

UF will play four of its first five – and three of its last four – games at home. Florida will also play seven-straight games to open the season before its lone open week. The NCAA only allows double bye weeks on years in which Aug. 30 or Aug. 31 falls on a Saturday.

Sept. 5 – vs. New Mexico State
Sept. 12 – vs. East Carolina
Sept. 19 – at Kentucky
Sept. 26 – vs. Tennessee
Oct. 3 – vs. Ole Miss
Oct. 10 – at Missouri
Oct. 17 – at LSU
Oct. 24 – BYE WEEK
Oct. 31 – vs. Georgia (Jacksonville, FL)
Nov. 7 – vs. Vanderbilt
Nov. 14 – at South Carolina
Nov. 21 – vs. Florida Atlantic
Nov. 28 – vs. Florida State

Florida will not open its SEC slate against Tennessee for just the third time in the past 14 seasons^. The Gators and Volunteers are scheduled to go head-to-head as the second league game on Sept. 26, continuing the end of a trend of playing each other on the third Saturday in September that dated back 22 years to 1992*.

^ Florida opened its league slate in Week 2 against Texas A&M in 2012 and against Kentucky in Week 3 in 2013.
* UF-UT was scheduled for the third week of the 2001 season but delayed due to the Sept. 11 attacks.

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Fastbreak: No. 2 Florida tops Ole Miss 75-71, starts program-best 25-2 while eyeing No. 1 spot

Playing strong defense and shutting out their opponent’s best player in the second half, the No. 2 Florida Gators (25-2, 14-0 SEC) have officially started the 2013-14 season with the best record in program history by defeating the Ole Miss Rebels (16-11, 7-7 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at the Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford, MS.

Florida topped Ole Miss 75-71, extending a program-best winning streak with its 19th-straight victory while surpassing the 2006-07 squad that started its season with a 24-2 (11-0 SEC) record. UF also improved to 12-2 this season in single-digit decisions (0-6 last year) and 9-2 in true road games. breaks it all down with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: UF lost the half-high eight-point lead it achieved late in the second half, but senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin got it right back for his team with a runner off the glass with two minutes to play.

Prominent player: Wilbekin took a few too many threes on the afternoon, settling for long shots when the offense stalled, but nevertheless led the Gators with a team-high 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting (4-for-10 from deep). He also had seven assists though did commit five turnovers on the afternoon.

Significant stretch: Trailing by one with 8:42 to play, Florida took off on a 10-2 run that gave it a seven-point lead at 66-59 with 4:08 remaining. Senior center Patric Young led the way during the stretch with four points (two on free throws), improving to 24-for-32 from the line over his last seven games (.750). [Here’s why.] Young posted 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting with five rebounds.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: No. 2 Florida tops Ole Miss 75-71, starts program-best 25-2 while eyeing No. 1 spot

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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!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: top 25, tennis, Muschamp, PIT, Tebow

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FOUR BITS: swimming, WNIT, softball, lacrosse

1 » The Florida Gators swimming program won its second national title of the season on Friday when the men’s 800 Meter Freestyle Relay team took down the competition at the 2013 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Indianapolis, IN. Freshman Pawel Werner, redshirt junior Sebastien Rousseau, junior Marcin Cieslak and sophomore Dan Wallace swam the race in a school-record time of 6:13.27 to bring home the title for the second time in the last three seasons. A week earlier on March 22, junior Elizabeth Beisel captured the NCAA title in the 400 Meter Individual Medley in 4:00.49. It was her second individual national title (first in the event) as she previously won the 200 Meter Backstroke in 2012. The Gators men’s and women’s swimming programs each finished in sixth place overall.

2 » Florida women’s basketball certainly did not have a successful regular season, but head coach Amanda Butler’s squad has been playing with renewed intensity in the 2013 Women’s NIT and advanced to the Final Four of the event over the weekend with an 85-80 victory over the James Madison Dukes (25-11) in Harrisonburg, VA. The Gators (22-14), which trailed by one with 1:06 to play, jumped ahead on a jumper by freshman guard January Miller with 53 seconds remaining and never lost the lead again. Junior G Jaterra Bonds hit four free throws down the stretch to extend Florida’s lead and help the team move on in the tournament. Freshman forward Sidney Moss led the way for UF with a game-high 27 points, and Bonds added 20 of her own including the game-clinching free throws.

Florida is in the semifinals of a postseason tournament for just the second time in program history (first since 2000) and are two victories away from their first-ever title. The Gators will next take on Drexel on April 3 at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia, PA.

3 » No. 3 Florida softball (35-3, 10-2 SEC) concluded the month of March on Sunday by picking up a road series win over the Ole Miss Rebels (19-21, 1-11 SEC) in Oxford, MS and extending their winning streak to nine games. Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (20-2) threw a pair of complete games on Friday and Sunday morning, giving up six hits and one earned run while striking out 11. Rogers also earned her second save of the season in the second half of Sunday’s double-header, pitching three innings in relief of sophomore RHP Alyssa Bache (6-0). The Gators’ hitting was well-rounded throughout the weekend with junior third baseman Stephanie Tofft, senior right fielder Kelsey Horton, sophomore left fielder Brianna Little, freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz and sophomore second baseman Jessica Damico reach registering at least one multi-RBI outing.

4 » No. 2 Florida lacrosse (13-1, 1-1 ALC) is undefeated no longer as it suffered a tough upset loss at the hands of the No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions (7-3, 2-0 ALC) while on the road in State College, PA. The Gators fell 16-11 on Saturday as the Nittany Lions battled back from a three-goal first-half deficit to outscore the visitors 10-2 in the second half and pull off the victory. Florida will close out the regular season in April and next takes on Johns Hopkins on April 6 at noon in Gainesville, FL.

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Florida collapses in second half, drops SEC Tournament finale to Ole Miss 66-63

Sunday was not the first time the No. 11/13 Florida Gators dropped a single-digit decision this season. In fact, Florida (26-7) fell to 0-6 on the 2012-13 campaign in games decided by fewer than 10 points after it fell 66-63 in the 2013 SEC Tournament Championship to the Ole Miss Rebels (26-8).

The Gators, which were looking to sweep the SEC titles for the first time since 2006-07, led by 12 at halftime but were outscored 40-25 by the Rebels in the second half, a dominant performance by the underdogs.

Forward Murphy Holloway led Ole Miss with a fantastic performance as he scored a game-high 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting to go along with eight rebounds. Nearly equaling his impact was Rebels guard Marshall Henderson, who scored 21 points on 3-of-8 shooting from downtown and played a big part in his team’s second-half comeback from an emotional standpoint.

Unlike its semifinal game, Florida started Sunday’s final with a hot hand, hitting four of its first five shots and running its lead up to 18-6 midway through the first half on the back of four three-pointers including three from freshman G Michael Frazier II.

A 5-0 run for Ole Miss cut its deficit in half temporarily. Gators senior G Kenny Boynton responded with 11 points – including three triples – over a five-minute stretch to push UF’s lead to 14 points with less than two minutes to play in the first half.

Florida led by 12 at the break after hitting 7-of-14 three-pointers and 5-of-6 free throws.

Continue Reading » Florida collapses in second half, drops SEC Tournament finale to Ole Miss 66-63

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SEC Tournament – Gameday: Florida vs. Ole Miss

Location: Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, TN [Capacity: 18,160]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

TV: ABC/ABCHD (Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes, Shannon Spake)
SiriusXM: 126/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: None | Mobile Video: None
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper app

Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Andy Kennedy
Record: 26-6 (14-4 SEC) Record: 25-8 (12-6 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -10.5 | O/U 135


» Florida is looking to win its fourth SEC Tournament, first since completing a three-peat in the event from 2005-07. The Gators are 38-44 all-time in the SEC Tournament (23-13 under Donovan) in 47 total appearances.
» UF enters the SEC Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed for the fourth time in school history. The team has never failed to reach the finals when listed as the top seed.
» The Gators are 7-4 all-time in SEC Tournament games held played in Nashville, TN.
» Florida leads the all-time series against Ole Miss 61-42, boasting a 14-6 mark since Donovan took over the program including five-straight victories (11 of the last 12).
» UF is 51-6 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding opponents under 71 points in a game (25-5 in 2012-13).
» The Gators have four starters that average in double figures while the Rebels have just two players that score in double digits on average.
» UF is 4-1 against top-25 opponents this season after going 3-5 against ranked adversaries last season with all five losses coming to top-three teams.
» Florida is 0-5 this season in single-digit decisions.
» The Gators are first nationally in scoring margin (+18.8), third in scoring defense (53.2), third in field goal defense (.373), ninth in field goal percentage (.485), 11th in three-point defense (.291), 19th in assist-turnover ratio (1.36) and 24th in turnover margin (3.1). Florida is also seventh nationally in fouling, committing 14.2 per game.
» The Rebels are ranked ninth nationally in turnover margin (4.3), 17th in blocks (5.4) and 22nd in scoring margin (+11.1).

Read the rest of the Florida-Ole Miss gameday preview…after the break!
Continue Reading » SEC Tournament – Gameday: Florida vs. Ole Miss

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No. 4 Florida silences No. 16 Ole Miss 78-64

Facing one of its toughest tests of the season, No. 4 Florida Gators basketball (18-2, 8-0 SEC) did not even blink as it shut down the No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels (17-4, 6-2 SEC) to remain undefeated in Southeastern Conference play with a wire-to-wire 78-64 victory on Saturday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida, which gave up 60 or more points to a league opponent for the first time this season, used a combination of suffocating defense and efficient offense to blow past Ole Miss and win its 10th-straight game. The winning streak matches one the Gators’ registered during the 2008-09 season and is the longest since UF won 17-straight during the 2006-07 campaign.

Senior forward Erik Murphy had one of the most efficient games of his Florida career, leading the way with a team-high 19 points by draining 5-of-6 attempts from downtown. He also registered six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal.

Three of the Gators’ four starters scored in double figures with junior center Patric Young compiling a double-double of 13 points and a game-high 12 boards.

Read the rest of the Florida-Ole Miss game story.
Continue Reading » No. 4 Florida silences No. 16 Ole Miss 78-64

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