In this week’s edition of Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com takes a look at the Florida Gators (5-4) as they prepare to play their second-to-last game under head coach Will Muschamp against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (9-2) on Senior Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday. The game will kick off at noon and air live on the SEC Network.
Lost among the firing of a head coach and subsequent start of a search for a new one are two simple facts: the Gators are one victory away from bowl game eligibility, and Muschamp will not be the only one who spending his last Saturday on Florida Field.
One thing Will Muschamp made very clear at his press conference on Monday was that it would be business as usual for the Florida Gators this week as they prepare to host the Eastern Kentucky Colonels on Saturday.
The message has obviously been delivered to his coordinators, as both Kurt Roper (offensive) and D.J. Durkin (defensive) explained this week that they are focused on the game and the game alone.
With the final four games of the regular season approaching, the No. 8 Florida Gators baseball (34-18, 19-8 SEC) is struggling to win at home, dropping three of its last four games to the Mercer Bears (one) and Vanderbilt Commodores (two of three) despite setting a near half-century-old school record last week.
The Gators apparently left all their offensive firepower in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
After scoring 13 runs in last weekend’s series finale, UF managed to only register five runs over its next four games.
A troubling trend of midweek losses due to lack of offense continued this week for the Gators with Mercer beginning the week by defeating Florida 4-2 on Tuesday. UF has lost three-straight non-conference games at home.
However, Florida’s final league home series started on a high note.
History was made on Saturday as the No. 1 Florida Gators (29-2, 18-0 SEC) became the first team ever to go 18-0 in Southeastern Conference play, routing the No. 25 Kentucky Wildcats (22-9, 12-6 SEC) on Senior Day at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Florida topped Kentucky 84-65, leading by as many as 22 points in the first half and winning by 19 despite allowing a 15-0 run in the latter period.
The 19-point victory was UF’s largest margin in its all-time series against UK. The Gators are now undefeated at home (32-0) over the last two seasons, have won 23-straight games and 17-in-a-row at home over league opponents.
OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with eight quick-hitters:
It was over when: Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin drained a monster three-pointer seemingly from Ocala, FL with less than three minutes to play, vaulting Florida ahead of Kentucky by 17 and icing the contest for the Gators. He was UF’s third-leading scorer on the afternoon, posting 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting (2-of-2 from downtown) with four assists and three boards.
Prominent player: Senior center Patric Young went scoreless for the first 14 minutes of the second half, but his 14 first-half points and 18 total points were both highs for the Gators on Saturday. The 18 points were also a season-high for Young, who hit 8-of-13 shots and finished with a team-high seven boards.
Significant stretch: With UF dominating UK, the Wildcats finally responded by scoring on eight-straight possessions early in the second half. Kentucky went on a 15-0 run to cut their deficit to six points as Florida went scoreless for 5:36, making Saturday’s contest a game when it looked to be a blowout.
1 » Gainesville Television Network‘s Julie Quittner sat down with Florida Gators center Patric Young for an extensive interview that aired in two parts on Thursday and Friday. In the conversation, Young discusses why he stayed for his senior season (“It really wasn’t a tough decision for me. I felt like I had so much more to learn from Coach [Billy] Donovan.), how he is working to improve his free throw shooting, what the team’s expectations are for the 2013-14 season and his thoughts on the suspension of senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin. He also does an impersonation of Donovan.
The 13 true seniors (and one redshirt junior) that make up 45 percent of the roster for No. 3 Florida Gators lacrosse ensured their legacies were cemented by rallying together and annihilating the defending national champion No. 4 Northwestern Wildcats 22-4 on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL to capture the program’s third-straight American Lacrosse Conference regular season title.
Florida’s seniors scored 15 of the team’s 22 goals on the afternoon but were led by sophomore Shannon Gilroy, who found the back of the net a team-high five times.
The Gators (16-1, 5-1 ALC) handed the Wildcats (13-2, 4-1 ALC) the most lopsided loss in their program’s history. Florida’s 22 goals were also the most that have ever been allowed by Northwestern in a single game.
“Without a question, it was our best effort,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said after the match. “It was just an amazing effort by everybody out there.”
Saturday’s victory marked UF’s third-straight against its ALC rivals and fourth in the last five meetings dating back to the 2011 season. The Gators also concluded the regular season a perfect 9-0 at home.
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.
1 » Florida Gators point guard Erving Walker was honored on Senior Day before Sunday’s game. Because the game aired on CBS and the broadcast began following the ceremony, most fans did not get to see Walker enter the court with his mother to a loud ovation from his fans. The entire clip, including the video highlight package of some of Walker’s best plays in orange and blue, can be viewed below courtesy of GatorVision.tv:
2 » No. 3 Florida softball improved to 19-1 on the season and extended their winning streak to nine games after winning six contests from Thursday-Sunday by a combined score of 53-1. UF defeated Eastern Michigan 2-1 in extra innings on Thursday before beginning the Lipton Invitational, which the team hosted in Gainesville, FL. The Gators again beat EMU on Friday (16-0) and followed that up with a thrashing of Gardner-Webb (9-0) in the evening. Florida beat GWU a second time on Saturday (14-0), adding a win against Tennessee State (8-0) later that afternoon and a victory over Campbell (4-0) on Sunday. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (10-0) earned two wins striking out 19 batters and giving up one earned run in 17.0 innings (she also made one relief appearance). Freshmen RHPs Alyssa Bache (3-0) and Lauren Haeger (6-1) each added two victories with neither giving up a single run and the latter mowing down 15 batters in 10.0 innings. The Gators’ offense was impressive all weekend long, but two players in particular stood out for their powerful performances. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie went 12/20 with four home runs, 10 RBIs, 11 runs and three stolen bases over the six games, and junior catcher Kelsey Horton matched her with four dingers of her own alog with 14 RBIs, six runs and three walks. UF will play five road games this week including two against Mississippi State and three at Tennessee.
3 » It is looking more and more like Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson will be wearing different colors in 2012. With no reports of negotiations for an extension occurring between Nelson and Cincinnati brass, the local media expects that he will hit the market as an unrestricted free agent next week. Should that occur, it is believed that the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans will make a run at him. The Dolphins in particular look like a promising landing spot for Nelson considering former Bengals defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle, who helped resurrect Nelson’s career in Cincinnati, was hired as Miami’s new defensive coordinator after the season.
4 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (10-1) earned a nail-biting victory on the road Sunday against the No. 6 Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2). The Gators defeated the Cornhuskers 196.95-196.825, earning two individual event victories while only winning one of the four overall events. junior Ashanée Dickerson and sophomore Alaina Johnson each won the vault with a score of 9.90, while junior Marissa King took home the balance beam victory with a 9.925 mark. Florida’s sizable win in the beam (49.325-48.950) was enough to push them past Nebraska in the overall score. UF will take on No. 7 Utah in their regular season finale on Senior Night on Friday, March 16 at 7 p.m.
5 » No. 4 Gators lacrosse (4-2) dropped their second game to a top-10 ranked opponent this season, falling 12-11 in double overtime to the No. 9 Syracuse Orange (2-2) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Behind 6-4 at the half, Florida rallied over the final three minutes of the second period, scoring three-straight goals to knot the contest at 10 as the whistle sounded. SU got on the board first in overtime, but UF matched their visitors again to force a sudden death second overtime period. The Orange did not take long to make their move, scoring at 5:05 to end the game. Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell led the Gators with three goals (including the tying score in the first overtime), an assist, six draw controls and five ground balls (a season high for the team), while junior attacker Kitty Cullen had an off game with only one goal in 10 shots. Despite scoring fewer goals than their opponent, Florida had more shots than Syracuse (39-26) and committed fewer turnovers (9-20). UF is scheduled to face Georgetown on the road Wednesday before returning home to host Temple on Saturday.
6 » Both involved in close matches, No. 15 Gators women’s tennis and No. 10 Florida men’s tennis wound up with different outcomes when taking on the No. 5/6 Georgia Bulldogs’ women’s and men’s squads over the weekend. Florida’s women improved to 8-1 by taking down Georgia 4-3 on the road. The Gators won two of three matches to earn the doubles point with victories from the No. 13 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen and the No. 31 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather. No. 1 Will fell in singles action to No. 11 Chelsey Gillickson, but No. 18 Mather, No. 23 Embree and No. 39 Oyen were all victorious to earn the overall win.
Florida’s men rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to tie things up with Georgia 3-3 but simply could not complete the comeback victory. The Bulldogs won the doubles point by taking down two of the three ranked duos for the Gators. The No. 8 pairing of junior Billy Federhofer and senior Nassim Slilam won their match, but the No. 18 duo of junior Tripper Carleton and sophomore Spencer Newman and the No. 43 team of sophomore Andrew Butz and junior Bob van Overbeek both fell 8-4. Singles wins by Carleton, Slilam and sophomore Michael Alford tied the match, but No. 51 van Overbeek fell to No. 3 Wil Spencer 6-7(4), 6-0, 7-5 in a final that lasted 2:28.
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