Florida softball wins six-straight to open season

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 3 Florida Gators opened up the 2014 season with a clean sweep of the USF Wilson-DeMarini Tournament in Tampa, FL, winning six games over four days including a thriller over a ranked opponent.

Florida (6-0) outscored its competitors 40-13 over the weekend as junior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger, who was named Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week on Monday, shined by tossing her first-career no-hitter in the event’s penultimate matchup.

Starting off the season with a win for the eighth time in head coach Tim Walton’s nine-year tenure, the Gators topped the South Florida Bulls in their opening game. Senior RHP Hanna Rogers pitched seven innings, allowing three runs while recording six strikeouts. UF literally weathered the storm – a 25 minute rain delay – with its bats coming alive in the fourth inning.

Sophomore first baseman Taylor Schwarz led the way offensively with a bases-clearing three-RBI single in the fourth inning, which was part of a seven-run fourth for Florida. The Gators, which won 10-3, also benefited from some free passes. “We had 11 walks and five hit-by-pitches – that’s 16 free bases,” said Walton. “We had really solid plate discipline.”

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11/12: Florida at Wisconsin post-game report

No. 10/11 Florida Gators basketball (1-1), still short-handed due to suspensions, fell Tuesday night on the road with the No. 19/20 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0) picking up a 59-53 victory at the Kohl Center in Madison, WI. After the loss, Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to provide some of his thoughts on the defeat.

HIGHLIGHTS

OPENING STATEMENT

“I think this environment really helped our team. … It was a great, great environment. I thought it was a tremendous experience for our basketball team being the second game of the year playing against an opponent like this. I thought we really made some strides from our last game to this game. We’ve gotten better.

“I thought we had a really, really hard time finishing some plays in particular around the basket. We missed a lot of layups and finishes at the rim that I think hurt us. We really did not take an enormous amount of three-point shots in the game, but the plays that we had around the basket, we probably didn’t make enough plays offensively. … We dug ourselves a hole. We battled, fought back. I thought overall for us there’s a lot we can take from this.”

MIXED PERFORMANCE FROM STANDOUTS

No single Florida player had an all-around great game, according to Donovan. Even sophomore guard Michael Frazier II, who scored a career-high 20 points off the bench via an impressive shooting performance (7-for-11 from the field, 5-for-7 from three), deserved his fair share of criticism.

“He shot the ball well again. He’s really a great shooter. He’s one of the best shooters I’ve coached,” Donovan said. “But he has got a long way to go defensively. I think he had 20 tonight. I’ll have to go back and see how many he gave up.”

Freshman point guard Kasey Hill looked to be in a great mindset early in the contest but seemed to deteriorate as the game went on. Hill fouled out of the game with 3:25 left and only made 2-of-11 shot attempts on the evening. Wisconsin made a concerted effort to take the ball out of others’ hands and give Hill room to shoot, especially from long range.

“For Kasey, the one thing I felt in the game was he really struggled shooting the basketball. And he took 11 shots; he probably could have taken 21 shots with the way they were playing him. I give him credit for his patience offensively. But I thought his lack of putting the ball in the basket really, really impacted him on the defensive end of the floor being a young guy,” Donovan explained. “He was visibly, to me, [looked] disappointed, upset, bothered, and I think that led to some of his foul trouble. He’s got to be able to move to the next play as a young kid.

“Obviously I’ve put him in a very difficult situation. The fact that he’s a freshman and we don’t have another point guard right now on our team and he’s got to absorb a lot of minutes. He’s kind of having to learn on the job, and I’m not so sure that’s the fairest thing to him. So there’s going to be some growing pains and some bumps and bruises on the way.”

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Wisconsin tops depleted Florida 59-53 in Madison

The No. 19/20 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0) pulled off an exciting home win Tuesday night, outscoring the No. 10/11 Florida Gators (1-1) in both halves to register a 59-53 victory at the Kohl Center in Madison, WI.

OnlyGators.com breaks down the Gators’ first loss of the 2013-14 season with The Fastbreak and a Rapid Recap.

THE FASTBREAK

It was over when: Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson hit a pull-up jumper with 9.8 seconds remaining to push the Badgers ahead of the Gators 58-53 and put a comeback out of reach for Florida.

Significant stretch: Leading by 12 early in the game, UF allowed UW chip away at its lead before erupting on a 13-0 run that gave the home team a five-point advantage. Wisconsin completely flipped the momentum and took a three-point lead into halftime.

Standout stat: 9-of-20 (.450), which is how well the Badgers shot from beyond the arc. Though the Gators played tight defense on the three-point line early in the game, Wisconsin simply took a step back and made a number of deep triples that helped keep it on top of Florida for the entire second half.

Perfect play: With 8:04 left in the first half, UF freshman point guard Kasey Hill grabbed a rebound off a missed shot, drove cross-court and found senior forward Casey Prather with a no-look pass for an easy lay-in.

Prominent player: Gators sophomore G Michael Frazier II continued his stellar early-season shooting, going 7-of-11 from the field and 5-of-7 from downtown for a career-high 20 points off the bench. Frazier made his threes in two stretches, making three-in-a-row at one point in the first half and doubling up midway through the second half to get Florida back in the game.

Important incident: Within a matter minutes, Prather and senior F Will Yeguete went down with injuries. Prather appeared to bang his knee against a defender’s and was called for travelling, while Yeguete fell hard to the ground after grabbing a steal off a press and hurt his wrist. Both players left the court but eventually returned.

What it means: Though things looked bleak for the Gators at one point, UF played well overall. Head coach Billy Donovan’s team went into one of the toughest places to play in the nation – without three important players – and hung around with a top 25-ranked opponent. To play that well on the road against a quality team while undermanned speaks to Donovan’s coaching and the effort given by the players.

Next up: Florida will host Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The Gators may get some of their suspended players back for the game.

Check out the Florida-Wisconsin Rapid Recap…after the break!
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Gameday: No. 11 Florida vs. No. 20 Wisconsin

Location: Kohl Center – Madison, WI [Capacity: 17,230]
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN2 (Bob Wischusen, Dan Dakich)
SiriusXM: 85 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(10/11) FLORIDA GATORS (19/20) WISCONSIN BADGERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Bo Ryan
Record: 1-0 Record: 1-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big Ten
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +6 | O/U 137

PRE-GAME READING MATERIAL

» Story: Casey Prather primed to emerge in senior season
» Notebook: Updates on Florida’s injuries and suspensions

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida leads Wisconsin 2-1 in the all-time series between the two programs.
» The Gators are replacing their three leading scorers from 2012-13.
» UF is looking to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2006-07 after having its season end in the Elite Eight in each of the last three years.
» Florida was 4-2 against top 25-ranked opponents last season with both losses coming away from its home court.
» The Gators are 55-7 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding opponent under 71 points in a game.
» Florida was 0-6 last season in single-digit decisions.
» Donovan is looking for his 16th consecutive 20-win season. The Gators have him ranked sixth all-time in that category behind only Dean Smith, Lute Olson, Mike Krzyzewski, Tubby Smith and Jim Boeheim.
» Donovan is currently the longest-tenured head basketball coach in the SEC.
» Ryan’s Badgers team is 181-18 at home over the last 12 seasons, boasting a 90-7 record against non-conference opponents to boot.

Read the rest of the Florida-Wisconsin gameday preview…after the break!
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11/11: Donovan updates Florida’s injuries and suspensions, talks preparing for Wisconsin

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Monday, one day before the team hit the road for its second game of the 2013-14 season against the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison, WI, on Tuesday at 9 p.m.

INJURY UPDATES

Senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) and junior transfer guard Eli Carter (leg) remain hobbled by injuries but will still be suiting up for the Gators on Tuesday. While Yeguete looked shaky but capable in Florida’s season opener, Carter was barely able to get anything going until hitting a three-pointer late in the game.

“Will, in my opinion, is progressing at a better rate than Eli is,” Donovan explained. “Eli is the one guy that we probably have gotten to a bit of a standstill with him physically. Where he’s probably made some good growth and then he’s kind of leveled off right now. The biggest problem for him, which I’m noticing is a major problem, and it kind of puts us in harm’s way from a defensive standpoint, is he’s having a very, very difficult time starting and stopping. When he’s stopped and he’s got to explode, it take shim a while to get going. We’re hopeful that he can somehow continue to work through this and he can make some good, positive strides and get better.

“Will’s situation is much, much more strength issue. His whole strength is not back yet. … He seemed off-balance to me a lot [in the opener]. … He’s got to get his strength back. Those two guys, their injuries are healed. They’re just lacking strength right now. That’s the biggest issue with those two guys.”

Those two are not the only limited players, however, as sophomore G Michael Frazier II is still working his way back after a bout of mononucleosis. Frazier admitted Monday that he is not yet 100 percent, and Donovan explained that the player has been limited in practice but will likely start against Wisconsin.

“There is a little bit of a concern about him relapsing, and they’re being careful,” he said. “He’s fully cleared to play and healthy right now, but I think what they worry about is … too much could put him into a situation where we set him back.”

ANOTHER SUSPENSION UPDATE

Though injuries will not keep anyone out of action, three other Gators – senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, redshirt junior center Damontre Harris and redshirt sophomore G/F Dorian Finney-Smith – will miss the game due to suspension. Donovan did not provide much of an update on the three.

“Those guys are not playing [Tuesday] and they still got stuff that they’ve got to do. We’ll address those guys as each game comes forward,” he said. “After this game, I could probably see where there are things those guys are needing to get done. I don’t want to come out here and project the future, say something that I got to take back.

“I think what I’ve always tried to do is just be honest with the next thing that is in front of us. All I can tell you is right now, going into this game, those three guys are not playing and when they will be back is still up in the air.”

Chances are that both Harris and Finney-Smith will be reinstated before Florida’s next game. It is expected that Wilbekin’s suspension will last a maximum of six games, meaning he is still likely 1-2 weeks away from seeing action in a game.

Frazier said the three suspended players are still practicing but serving as the scout team in order to help UF prepare for upcoming opponents. Senior F Casey Prather called that unit “maybe the best scout team in the country” on Tuesday.

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11/14: Florida vs. Wisconsin post-game report

No. 10/10 Florida Gators basketball (2-0) dominated the No. 20/22 Wisconsin Badgers (1-1) behind a strong performance by senior forward Erik Murphy at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Wednesday. Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media and shared some of his thoughts after the game.

POST-GAME LOCKER ROOM CELEBRATION

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is now 2-1 all-time against Wisconsin. UF will play UW in the second game of a home-and-home series in Madison, WI next season.
» The Gators are 27-1 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding opponents under 71 points in a game.
» Florida is 1-0 vs. top-25 opponents this season after being 3-5 against those teams one year ago. Wisconsin was the first of seven top-25 opponents on the schedule.
» The Badgers are known as a great road team over the last 12 years but are now just 2-6 in that span in non-conference road games vs. top-25 teams.
» The Gators had just nine assists on 26 made baskets and turned the ball over an astounding 20 times while forcing just 10 from their opponent.
» Florida shot 75 percent from the floor and 60 percent from downtown in the first half.
» The Gators won the rebounding margin 40-21.

PLAYER NOTES

» Murphy matched a career-high with 24 points and did so on perfect 10-of-10 shooting. He was also 2-for-2 both from downtown and the charity stripe and completed his great line with a steal, a block and just one turnover.
» Redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario hit five of his first seven shots and was second for Florida in scoring with 15 points. He added four boards and four assists but also coughed up four turnovers though his defense was much-improved.
» Rosario and senior G Kenny Boynton barely left the court, playing 37 and 39 minutes, respectively. Boynton had a tough shooting night scoring just 10 points on 1-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc but added six rebounds and three dimes.
» Freshman G Michael Frazier was the only bench player to see more than five minutes of action and made the most of it, scoring eight points on 3-of-3 shooting (2-for-2 from three) for eight points to go along with five boards.

INJURY / ABSENCE UPDATES

Junior G/F Casey Prather (concussions) had an MRI on Wednesday and learned that it came back negative, indicating that there are no further problems. As soon as his concussion symptoms are gone, he will be eased back into practice.

Suspended junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin has yet to learn when his time away from the court will end. Donovan said he will “probably have an answer” to that question on Thursday afternoon.

Read the rest of what Donovan had to say…after the break!
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Erik Murphy’s perfect shooting night leads No. 10 Florida over No. 22 Wisconsin

Inspired play and a career-high 24 points on a perfect shooting performance from senior forward Erik Murphy led the No. 10/10 Florida Gators (2-0) to a 74-56 victory over the No. 20/22 Wisconsin Badgers (1-1) on Wednesday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Murphy, who fell ill early in the week, missed practice on Monday and barely practiced Tuesday but woke up Wednesday feeling fine. He played much better than fine hours later, shooting a perfect 10-for-10 from the field, 2-for-2 from downtown and 2-for-2 from the charity stripe, adding eight rebounds, a steal and a block with only one turnover.

After going just 3-5 against top-25 opponents last season, the Gators opened their 2012-13 campaign with a big victory in the O’Dome against the first of seven top-25 teams they are set to face this season.

Florida and Wisconsin began the game hot and cold, respectively, with the UF taking an early 9-0 run and increasing their advantage to 21-9 on five-straight points by redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario. It did not take long for the Gators to give up that 12-point lead, however, as Florida turned the ball over eight times in the first 10:15 – including a stretch of four-straight possessions with a turnover – and allowed UW to put together a 10-0 run and cut its deficit down to two.

The Gators found their way back to a double-digit advantage and took 13-point lead with 3:01 left in the half thanks to the 13th four-point play of senior G Kenny Boynton’s career. Murphy led the way, grabbing three rebounds and scoring 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting (2-for-2 from downtown) to give UF a 43-31 lead at the break despite the team’s 12 turnovers.


Read the rest of the Florida-Wisconsin game story…after the break!
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Gameday: (10) Florida Gators vs. (22) Wisconsin

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT

TV: ESPN2/ESPN2HD (Mark Jones, Jay Bilas)
SiriusXM: 134/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper

No. 10 FLORIDA GATORS No. 22 WISCONSIN BADGERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Bo Ryan
Record: 1-0 Record: 1-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big Ten
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -6 | O/U 122

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is 1-1 all-time against Wisconsin, but the teams have not gone head-to-head since playing a home-and-home series in 1967-68. The teams will play again next year in Madison, WI. The Gators are 14-26 all-time against the Big Ten while the Badgers are 22-15 all-time against the SEC.
» UF dominated in its season opener and held Alabama State to just nine first-half points, which set a school record in the shot clock era for fewest points allowed in a single half. Florida had four players score in double figures.
» One season ago, the Gators led the nation in three-pointers by netting 9.8 per contest. UF was so proficient from beyond the arc that the team connected on 10 or more treys in 22 games during the 2011-12 campaign.
» Florida was 10th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.3 in 2011-12.
» The Gators are 26-1 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding opponents under 71 points in a game.
» Florida was just 3-5 against top-25 opponents last season with all five losses coming to top-three teams. UF is currently scheduled to take on seven top-25 opponents as part of the 2012-13 campaign with Wednesday’s contest being its first such game.
» Wisconsin is the best road team in the Big Ten since Ryan took over the program 12 seasons ago. UW owns the most road victories (62) and best road winning percentage (.508) in its conference.
» The Badgers, like the Gators, have a veteran starting lineup. UW starts three seniors in the frontcourt.
» Wisconsin is 2-5 under Ryan in non-conference road games vs. top-25 teams.

Read the rest of the Florida-Wisconsin preview including injuries and absences and which players to look out for from both bench.
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