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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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Lee, commits, Lochte

1 » Coincidence led to an impromptu speaking engagement from former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow , who found himself at the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport on Sunday when his private jet was forced to stop in order to refuel. Also on the runway were the nine-seed Wichita State Shockers, which had just boarded their team bus after a flight home. When Tebow learned of this being the case, one of his representatives asked head coach Gregg Marshall if he would allow Tebow to address the team, which he did. Tebow stepped off his jet, onto the team’s bus and delivered a short address to the players telling them to make the most of this time in their lives and that if they continue working hard, positive results will follow. You can check out a snippet of Tebow’s speech by clicking here.

2 » A large number of Florida fans likely also root for the Orlando Magic, which means they probably are not too fond of Dwight Howard. So Howard sending a veiled threat to a former Gators basketball player – power forward David Lee of the Golden State Warriors – is unlikely to rub more in a positive way.

Speaking with the media on Monday after a 109-103 loss, Howard vowed revenge against Lee and the Warriors for an unintentional shot he took in the mouth during the first half as Lee was going to the rim for a layup. Howard actually got called for a technical on the play. “He got away with a shot,” Howard said per ESPN. “I will remember this game. I will remember that shot. He said he wasn’t trying to do it. You can look at the play and see it for yourself. I will take care of it later.”

3 » The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway caught up with assistant basketball coach Matt McCall last week and asked him about Florida’s incoming five-star commitments – point guard Kasey Hill and power forward Chris Walker. McCall, who “spearheaded the efforts of recruiting both standouts” according to Brockway, is pleased that Hill can score but is not a “shoot-first point guard” and thought Walker put together a “second-to-none” performance in the recent state championship tournament.

4 » The reality show “What would Ryan Lochte Do?” is set to premiere on E! on Sunday, April 21 at 10 p.m. The network released an extended trailer (4:30) for the show this week, and you can check it out below. This show will either be absolutely awful or downright hysterical to make fun of each week. There is likely no in-between.

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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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SIX BITS: combine, Demps, Lee, Donovan, Lochte

1 » The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine is now in the books. Though not all of the 10 Florida Gators invited participated in the full event, a handful did and looked quite good while doing so. Below are links to OGGOA‘s combine wrap-ups. Click the appropriate link to see how your favorite former Florida player performed.

Safeties Matt Elam and Josh EvansTuesday | Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd; linebackers Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins and Lerentee McCrayMonday | Running back Mike GillisleeSunday | Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon, kicker Caleb Sturgis, tight end Jordan ReedSaturday

2 » New England Patriots running back and Olympic silver medalist sprinter Jeff Demps wants to return to the track but do so without giving up football. According to agent Daniel Rose of Gridiron Sports, who did not return a request for comment from OGGOA but did send a tweet about the subject on Tuesday, Demps truly hopes that New England gives him permission to pursue both of his passions. “Jeff Demps has no intentions of leaving football. He loves doing both football and track. Representing Team USA in track and field in the Olympics and playing NFL football are an honor and privilege and Jeff Demps loves both,” he wrote. NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport first reported the story and explained on NFL Network that “he plans to compete in an event in March and that calendar would run through August. They informed the Patriots of that this week. It’s possible the Patriots could work out a deal as Demps does want to play two sports. It’s a little too early to know a resolution on this but we do know he wants to play two sports.” Whether or not New England – or another NFL team – wants to give Demps that opportunity is an unknown at this point.

3 » While at NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston, TX a few weeks ago, Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee approached USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo about playing for Team USA in the upcoming 2014 FIBA World Cup and remaining on the team through the 2016 Rio Olympics. According to FOX Sports’ Chris Tomasson, Colangelo “said nothing is definite yet as far as Lee being among 20 to 24 players” invited to Las Vegas, NV for training camp from July 24-28. Chances are he will have that opportunity, however, as Lee trained with Team USA in preparation for the World Championships in 2010 and probably would have made the team if not for sustaining an injury that forced him to depart early.

Check out three more Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: combine, Demps, Lee, Donovan, Lochte

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Florida men’s swimming wins first SEC title since 1993; Gators capture eight championships

The No. 2 Florida Gators men’s swimming and diving program entered the 2013 Southeastern Conference Championships on Wednesday looking to get over the hump and take home the title for the first time in 20 years. After leading the pack for the final three days of the event, the Gators finally accomplished that feat on Saturday, taking home the 34th SEC Championship in team history and first since 1993.

Florida (1408.0) beat the Auburn Tigers (1196.0) for the title, snapping a 16-year winning streak and reclaiming the pool after finishing second to Auburn for 11-straight years. The No. 11 Gators women (1190.5) were not as lucky, finishing third behind the Georgia Bulldogs (1420.0) and host Texas A&M Aggies (1296.0).

The men’s and women’s teams combined for eight individual SEC Championships (five and three, respectively). Florida also won four individual awards and earned 21 NCAA “A” time automatic qualifying marks.

2013 SEC Awards (4)
» SEC Men’s Swimming Coach of the Year – Gregg Troy
» SEC Commissioner’s Trophy (High Point Winner, women) – Elizabeth Beisel
» SEC Female Freshman Swimmer of the Year – Natalie Hinds
» SEC Female Freshman Diver of the Year – Cassie Weil

2013 SEC Individual Titles (8)
» Men’s 100-yard butterfly – Marcin Cieslak (46.02s) [back-to-back]
» Men’s 200-yard butterfly – Marcin Cieslak (1:42.17)
» Men’s 200-yard breaststroke – Matt Elliott (1:54.13)
» Men’s 200-yard freestyle – Pawel Werner (1:33.82)
» Men’s 800-yard freestyle relay – Pawel Werner, Sebastien Rousseau, Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez, Marcin Cieslak (6:14.76)
» Women’s 100-yard butterfly – Natalie Hinds (51.70s)
» Women’s 200-yard backstroke – Elizabeth Beisel (1:50.40) [third-straight]
» Women’s 400-yard individual medley – Elizabeth Beisel (3:59.53) [third-straight]

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FOUR BITS: SEC titles, Harvin, Tebow, Zunino

1 » Florida Gators swimmers brought home four league titles on Thursday during the third night of the 2013 SEC Swimming & Diving Championships, which are being held for the first time in College Station, TX. Junior Elizabeth Beisel started off the title wins by capturing the SEC Championship in the women’s 400-meter individual medley for the third-straight year. She broke the four-minute mark at 3:59.53, which is also a personal record and the best time in the nation this season. Also winning a title for the women’s team was freshman Natalie Hinds, who swam the 100-meter butterfly in 51.70 (also the top time in the country this season) to win her first SEC Championship. Junior Marcin Cieslak matched Beisel with his third-straight SEC title in a single event by winning the men’s 100-meter butterfly in 46.02, a season-best mark. Duplicating Hinds’s accomplishment for the men was freshman Pawel Werner, who swam the men’s 200-meter freestyle in 1:33.82 to win the SEC Championship.

At the close of action on Thursday, Florida (748.0 points) led 16-time defending champion Auburn (630.5) by 117.5 points. The Gators men’s team has won the most SEC team championships in league history (33) but has not brought home the top spot since 1993. On the women’s side, Florida (676.0) trails Georgia (790.0) by 114 points. UF’s women’s team has also won the most SEC team titles in league history (17) but has not come in first since 2009; UGA is looking to win its fourth-straight championship. Two days of competition remain with the event concluding Saturday night.

2 » Tracked down by a St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter at his home in Fleming Island, FL, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin refused comment about his situation with the team. “I’ve got nothing to say about any of that,” he said. At the 2013 NFL Combine on Thursday, Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman reiterated that he has no plans to get rid of Harvin and expects him to be in training camp on time. “We have no intent to trade Percy Harvin,” he said. “Anything related to his contract … will all be kept internally.” This story continues to be interesting.

3 » The New York Jets contingent spoke with the media on Thursday and of course one of the highlights of their media availabilities was everyone tip-toeing around the subject of quarterback Tim Tebow. Head coach Rex Ryan noted that Tebow is “under contract to be a New York Jet, so we’ll see how things go in the offseason. But Tim is under contract.” New general manager John Idzik, who inherited Tebow on his roster, praised the player’s work ethic but did not speak in specifics about whether or not he would be with the team to compete going forward. “My view on Tim Tebow is he is a highly competitive athlete. Everywhere he’s been, he’s been a highly competitive athlete,” he said. “And what we do, we’re going to provide as much competition as we can on a daily basis, at every position, quarterback included, and we’ll see how that rolls out. I would think Tim would be game for that. He’s a competitor.”

4 » New Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, has been competing with his future teammates in Peoria, AZ over the last few days and is looking every bit the player the Mariners hoped. Larry Stone of The Seattle Times caught up with Zunino this week and wrote that the player is quickly winning over other players and manager Eric Wedge. “He’s a complete player, very comfortable in his own skin for a young man,” Wedge said. “You can tell already he has a great respect for the game. You can tell already he’s a student of the game. I’m very impressed with the way he handles himself catching bullpens, just handling a pitching staff early on. Fundamentally, he’s been very impressive both from the offensive and defensive side.” To his credit, Zunino says he is in no rush to get to the majors. But if he continues to play the way he has over his last two college seasons, he will be there soon enough. “I’m going to do the best I can, put my work in every day, and try to be the best player I can be, and the best teammate I can be,” he said. “Eventually, wherever the chips may fall, that’s when I’ll make that next jump.”

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FOUR BITS: Harris, Beisel, Zunino, Parsons, Hill

1 » Florida Gators junior center Damontre Harris was arrested early Wednesday morning after he failed to appear at an arraignment scheduled for Aug. 16, 2012. Harris, who was cited by a member of the University Police Department on July 16 for driving without a valid in-state license, was supposed to take care of the necessary paperwork and pay the fines associated with his infraction but never did as instructed. He was served a delinquency notice after failing to pay his original fine within 30 days and assessed an additional $32 in fines between Aug. 21 and Sept. 28.

2 » Florida announced Wednesday that junior swimmer Elizabeth Beisel (swimming) and former catcher Mike Zunino (baseball) have been named winners of the 2012 Ben Hill Griffin Award. The honor, given to the top male and female student-athletes each season, “is based primarily on athletic achievement” with “academic achievement and extra-curricular involvement” also a consideration, according to UF. Zunino, who received the award for the second-straight year, won every major collegiate baseball award at the conclusion of the 2012 season. Beisel, the 2012 SEC Female Swimmer of the Year, also earned an individual national title in the 200-meter backstroke.

3 » NBA Hall of Fame C Hakeem Olajuwon taped an Egraph message to current Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons recently. Listen to it here.

4 » Stemming from the NCAA’s investigation of the Miami Hurricanes and his time as wide receivers coach with the team, former Gators assistant Aubrey Hill has been hit with an ethical-conduct charge (NCAA Rule 10.1). According to the Associated Press, which obtained information regarding the notice of allegations sent to Miami, Hill and at least one other assistant “provided meals, transportation and lodging to either recruits, current players, or both in either 2008 or 2009. Both were interviewed by the NCAA during the course of its probe and allegedly denied providing those extra benefits, statements the NCAA said were contradicted in each case by what players told them separately.” Though forthcoming punishments have not yet been levied against Hill, it can be expected that he will be out of coaching for the foreseeable future. He resigned from his post with Florida before the beginning of the 2012 season.

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14 Gator Bites for Tuesday, February 19

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.

» Rather than doubling down on disappointment while stuck playing in the state North Carolina, No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (4-1) came from behind on Monday to pick up a huge victory over the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (9-1) in Chapel Hill, NC. UNC, which took over for UF as the No. 1 team in the country last week, held a 2-0 advantage over its visitors after winning the doubles point and a singles match to start the contest. The Gators answered by rallying with four consecutive singles match victories to pick up the 4-2 win. First, junior Olivia Janowicz took down No. 79 Tessa Lyons 6-2, 6-1. Freshman Brianna Morgan then picked up a 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 122 Lauren McHale, leaving the match in the hands of Florida’s two best players. No. 4 senior Lauren Embree came through in the clutch once again with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 victory against No. 7 Gina Suarez-Malaguti, and No. 9 junior Sofie Oyen fought hard on court two to defeat No. 30 Zoe De Bruycker 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. UF’s loss on Sunday at No. 4 Duke was its first in over a year’s time. By taking down the Tar Heels on Monday, the Gators avoided falling in consecutive matches for the first time in three years.

» Former Florida guard Matt Walsh, who signed a deal with Spirou Charleroi of Belgium in August 2012, told OGGOA on Monday that his contract has been purchased by Brose Baskets of Bamberg, Germany. The three-time defending German champions play in the Euroleague and are hoping Walsh helps push them to a fourth-straight title.

» Despite multiple reports pointing to the contrary, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman on Friday said he has “no intent” of trading wide receiver Percy Harvin, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Harvin raised concerns about Minnesota’s offense (and how he was not utilized much) prior to the 2012 season and reportedly got into an explosive verbal argument with head coach Leslie Frazier during the season. While it does look like he and the Vikings will split ways, multiple players have come out in his defense and expressed their desire to see him return to the team. The latest to do so is quarterback Christian Ponder, who said he “obviously” wants Harvin to return because “he’s a tremendous player” and “a heck of a part of this offense and this team in general.” Ponder told KFAN in Minneapolis, MN that he and Harvin have a good relationship and “spent some extra time together” working on their on-field chemistry during the last offseason.

Read 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » 14 Gator Bites for Tuesday, February 19

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