2 BITS: SEC/Big 12 Challenge, Miller, Hernandez

1 » The Southeastern Conference and Big 12 announced Thursday that the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which began last season, will undergo a significant format change. Instead of being 10 games played over three days in the fall, it will now be 10 games played in one day early in the spring. That date has been set for next season with all 10 games tipping off on Saturday, January 30, 2016, though match-ups have not yet been determined at this time. “Moving the Big 12/SEC Challenge later int he season will raise the profile of this event and give our coaches, student-athletes and fans the attention that it deserves,” said Mike Slive, the SEC’s commissioner. The 10 games will all be played on ESPN networks with the four SEC teams not given match-ups going head-to-head against each other on the SEC Network that day.

The Florida Gators wound up playing a home-and-home series against Kansas in the first two iterations of the event, hosting the Jayhawks last season and travelling to Lawrence, Kansas, this fall. Florida is expected to host an SEC/Big 12 Challenge game in 2015-16, though renovations to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center would have proved that difficult if the game was played during its previously-scheduled window. Whether the event was moved to help accommodate UF remains to be seen, but the scheduling adjustment was not just made for next season but for the duration of the event’s existence.

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Florida AD Jeremy Foley answers questions, expects to spend $1 million on cost of attendance

In a question-and-answer session held on the program’s official website, as well as another on its Twitter account, Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley discussed a number of topics including how the recently-passed cost of attendance legislation will affect his program next season.

“The cost of attendance that passed is obviously an opportunity for us to do something that we’ve all talked about for our student-athletes for a number of years now. In essence, it increases the value of their scholarship. There’s going to be a financial impact for us, a little over a million dollars,” he explained via the school’s website.

“But it’s money well spent and certainly I think the new autonomy structure has allowed that to happen. It excites us that we had the flexibility to do something like that, and I’m sure there will be more changes in the future.”

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The Fastbreak: LSU embarrasses Florida 79-61

Embarrassed at home by a team against which it held a six-game winning streak, the Florida Gators (10-8, 3-2 SEC) fell 79-61 to the LSU Tigers (14-4, 3-2 SEC) on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Florida’s failures to execute defensively, coupled with its penchant for fouls and inability to sustain consistent offense, allowed LSU to lead most of the contest and earn a dominant victory against a team that has dominated it for much of this decade. The lost tied a 2010 game against Ohio State for UF’s worst defeat at home since 1998.

“I’m not surprised at all by any of this. I saw this back coming out of last season with the group of guys that were coming back,” head coach Billy Donovan said after the game. “The veteran guys that were coming back, there was a lack of discipline in them. They struggle in that area. I’m not surprised by any of what’s going on. That’s been the challenge. I’ve tried a lot of different things with them. They’re going to have to, as much as I hate to say it, they’re going to have to go through it to figure it out.”

OnlyGators.com breaks down Tuesday’s action with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: Ending a five-minute stretch without a made field goal, the Gators pieced together an explosive 7-0 run with two layups and a three from junior guard Michael Frazier II to cut their deficit to 10 with 5:54 to play. The Tigers, however, answered back by scoring five-straight to push their lead back to 15 and held off the hosts from there, cruising to a road victory.

Significant stretch: Already leading by five, LSU used a 14-2 run aided by back-to-back threes and a pair of free throws to take a 66-49 lead on Florida midway through the second half. The Tigers had already taken eight free throws in the latter 20 minutes before entering the bonus at the 10-minute mark and used that advantage to hold onto its massive lead for the duration of the contest.

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. LSU Tigers; second-year F Chris Walker still not ready for prime time

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

TV: ESPN (Braed Nessler, Sean Franham, Shannon Spake)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 84 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS LSU TIGERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Johnny Jones
Record: 10-7 (3-1 SEC) Record: 13-4 (2-2 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -10

STILL NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME

Forward Chris Walker, despite joining the Gators during the mid-way point of his first season and being suspended for the first two games of the 2014-15 campaign, has played in 33 games at Florida. He may have been listed as a sophomore before this season began, but his first full year of actually being a college basketball has just passed.

And the results, at least to this point, indicate that Walker is far from the phenom many expected the day he committed to the Gators. In fact, he more closely resembles former UF center Patric Young, a freakish athlete who has a long way to go to be a capable college starter, let alone an NBA player.

“I just know I need to improve,” Walker said Monday. “I just need to come in every day and be focused and just work hard.”

Averaging just 16.3 minutes per game this season, Walker is doing little right. He only hits 48.6 percent of his field goals – despite being positioned around the basket – and is a team-worst 37.0 percent from the free throw line (he’s only drawn 27 fouls and made 10 gimmies in 245 minutes of court action). Walker is rebounding at a high rate with an average of 4.2 per game, and his ability to block shots has helped the Gators’ defense, though his inability to be reliable on pick-and-rolls and other sets has been a hindrance.

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Auburn Tigers

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

TV: ESPN2 (Joe Tessitore, Sean Farnham)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS AUBURN TIGERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Bruce Pearl
Record: 9-6 (2-0 SEC) Record: 9-6 (1-1 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: -15 | O/U 128

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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

FLORIDA GATORS MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
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

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

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Florida Gators vs. UConn Huskies preview: UF not seeking Final Four revenge, G Eli Carter in limbo

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 2:00 p.m. EST

TV: CBS ()
Streaming Video: CBSSports.com | Mobile Video: CBS Sports app

SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS UCONN HUSKIES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Ollie
Record: 7-5 Record: 6-5
Conference: Southeastern Conference: American

Odds: OFF

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Florida athletics receives largest-ever $12.5 million donation for student facility

The University of Florida’s University Athletic Association on Friday announced receipt of $12.5 million from an anonymous donor, which is being billed as the largest-ever donation to the program.

The $12.5 million will go towards a massive $25 million renovation to the Office of Student Life, which the Florida Gators believe will be a huge benefit to current athletes and a massive recruiting tool for future Gators.

The renovation will improve academic programs for all 480 Florida athletes across 21 varsity sports. Renovations will begin in March for what will be named the Otis Hawkins Center for Academic and Personal Excellence.

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