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Gator Report

Antonya English

Florida opens SEC women's basketball tournament play against Auburn

The No. 12 seed Florida women's basketball team opens play tonight in the SEC Tournament with a rematch against Auburn.

The game will be televised on the SEC Network at 5 p.m.

The tournament will be held at the Verizon Arena in Little Rock, Ark., and tonight's game is the  first this season for the Gators played on a neutral court.

Florida has defeated Auburn in each of the last five meetings, the Gators' longest win streak in the 51-game series. The Gators defeated the Tigers 63-50 on Jan. 4, but Florida coach Amanda Butler said both teams are much different now.

"It was a long time ago," Butler sasid. "Not that we don't take anything from it, but they have progressed tremendously from the team we saw in January and I think we have as well. So I think it's going to be a very different ballgame. They have a tremendous zone defense, some of the really dynamic and difficult players in the conference to guard.There's going to be some really key matchups and we've got to do a great job handling that zone pressure and also just handling a team that feels really good about themselves."

The Gators are 19-34 all-time in SEC Tournament games, including 5-7 under Butler. …

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Gators, Jacob Kurtz leave O'Dome winners in regular season home finale

By game's end, senior F Jacob Kurtz had a black right eye he could barely open, the result of being hit during a scoring play late in the first half of Tuesday night's game against Texas A&M.

But Kurtz left the O'Dome with a smille.

The Gators' 66-62 win over Texas A&M ensured he would walk off the O'Connell Center floor for the final time as a winner.

The former manager turned vital walk-on played just 10 minutes due to his eye injury, but said he expects to be okay.

After the game, Kurtz shared his thoughts on the emotional pregame ceremony, the injury, and what one last home win means to him.

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Gators still without Michael Frazier as they prepare for Texas A&M

Florida junior G Michael Frazier still has not been cleared to play, and coach Billy Donovan said he does not expect Frazier to be able to play in the Gators' home finale Tuesday night against Texas A&M.

"Still nothing right now," Donovan said. "Still nothing. I would say he's probably not playing. He hasn't practiced at all. He tried to do some shooting and stuff. But he is not cleared for practice at all. I don't anticipate him playing (Tuesday) unless I got some miraculous diagnosis from our trainer and doctor that say he's cleared to play, but I don't envision that happening."

Frazier, the Gators' leading scorer, has missed six games since suffering a high ankle sprain vs. Kentucky on Feb. 7. Donovan said Frazier's slow recovery, or the fact he hasn't been medically cleared, isn't unexpected. …

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Gators coach Billy Donovan earns career win No. 500

In the end, Billy Donovan insisted he hadn't been dwelling on it much. In a season in which his Gators are struggling, he's had more important things to worry about.

But when the milestone finally arrived, Donovan acknowledged he was appreciative of the moment - and the many coaches and players that have helped him achieve it.

With a 66-49 win over Tennessee, Donovan earned career victory No. 500. At 49, he is only the second coach to reach that milestone before age 50.

"It's very cool," senior Jon Horford said. "Obviously it's a testament to him and everything he's put into the game, being able to get young men to play together at a high level and have success. 500 at such a young age, that's big time."

Donovan said he doesn't take the accomplishment lightly, but said it's not just about him. …

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Gators Dorian Finney-Smith has suspension lifted

Florida junior F Dorian Finney-Smith has been reinstated to the basketball team, coach Billy Donovan said today.

He is expected to play when the Gators host Tennessee on Saturday night at the O'Connell Center.

"Obviously he served his penalty," Donovan said Friday afternoon. "He served his penalty, did all the things that we asked him to do, and expected him to do."

Finney-Smith, the team's second leading scorer and top rebounder, has missed the past three games - Vanderbilt, LSU and Missouri - while suspended for violation of team rules. Donovan has not said publicly the exact reason for the suspension.

"When I first suspended him we kept him out of practice for about five days, " Donovan said. "We brought him back into practice and he needed to do some things. He's done everything that we've asked him to do up to this point and time."

Freshman guard Chris Chiozza said the team did not lose confidence in Finney-Smith because of the suspension and welcomes him back, hoping he'll be able  to help the team immediately. The Gators have lost six of their last seven  games. …

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Gators to open spring practice on March 16

Florida will officially kick off the Jim McElwain era when spring practice begins on May 16.

However, fans won't be able to see the product but once this spring.

All spring practices are closed to the public.

The annual Orange and Blue game will be held on Saturday, April 11 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

 

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Florida postpones massive renovation to Stephen C. O'Connell Center

The proposed $45-$50 million renovation of the Stephen C. O'Connell Center has been postponed one year, the University Athletic Association announced today.

Construction was set to begin immediately after the conclusion of the Gator men's basketball home regular season in March.

The UAA said an aggressive schedule, escalating costs, and a change in the construction management team were all contributing factors in the decision to delay Current cost estimates for the project are
approximately $60 million.

“The renovation proposal is a major renewal of one of our campus’s most iconic buildings,' said Florida president Kent Fuchs, who took over the position in January. "It’s incumbent on us to take the time and do it right.

Postponing the project will allow for completion of the construction management team’s design plans, which the UAA said is currently about 60 percent complete. A new construction manager has been brought in, and a construction schedule and budget are expected within the next couple
of months.

The UAA said it is assessing what effects the change will have on its various athletic and community events which are held at the O'Connell Center. …

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Gators coach Jim McElwain puts Colorado home up for sale

If you know anyone in the Fort Collins, Co. area that's looking for a new house, Gators football coach Jim McElwain has one to sell.

McElwain, who was hired in December to replace Will Muschamp, has put his home on the market for $1.3 million, according to Matt Stephens of The Coloradoan.

The property is listed as having four bedrooms and six bathrooms within 7,174 square feet on 2.3 acres. According to county records, McElwain purchased the home for $1.15 million in June 2012. A ranch-style home, it also has a five-car garage, more than 1,100 square feet of patio, indoor and outdoor kitchens, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, a fire pit, hot tub and theater room.

 

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Will Billy Donovan get win No. 500 this season?

Billy Donovan needs just one more win to become only the second men’s Division I basketball coach to reach 500 wins before turning 50. Donovan turns 50 in May.

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Billy Donovan needs just one more win to become only the second men’s Division I basketball coach to reach 500 wins before turning 50. Donovan turns 50 in May.

When Florida played at Missouri Tuesday night, the Gators were trying to secure a victory and a personal milestone for coach Billy Donovan.

Donovan needs just one more win to become only the second men’s Division I basketball coach to reach 500 wins before turning 50. Donovan turns 50 in May.

But after last night, and yet another late-game collapse and loss, the question now becomes whether Donovan will get win No. 500 this season?

Florida has three regular season games remaining - Tennessee on Saturday, Texas A&M on March 3, then the Gators close with a game at Kentucky on March 7.

The latter two are NCAA-tournament bound teams. Tennessee is struggling, but so was Missouri before it snapped a school-record 13-game losing streak with a win against Florida. That's how this season has gone for the Gators.

Donovan said about two weeks ago it was possible the Gators wouldn't finish with a .500 record. At 13-15, it's clearly feasible he is right, particularly if the Gators continue to be without their top two players - Michael Frazier(ankle) and Dorian Finney-Smith (suspension). …

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Could Dante Fowler, Jr. be the No. 2 pick in NFL Draft?

A new mock draft by Nate Davis of USA Today Sports has Dante Fowler Jr., the former St. Petersburg Lakewood standout, at No. 2 in the 2015 NFL Draft.

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A new mock draft by Nate Davis of USA Today Sports has Dante Fowler Jr., the former St. Petersburg Lakewood standout, at No. 2 in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Dante Fowler, Jr. went to the NFL Combine last week hoping to prove to scouts what he's believed in his mind all along: that's he has the talent to be a Top 10 pick in the NFL Draft.

"To be honest with you that’s the way I always train myself to be I’m not gonna lie," Fowler said before leaving for the combine. "I always wanted to be the number one guy the top person in my caliber and I felt you know that’s the type of person that I was.  . . . I’m just glad to see that my work is being recognized now."

Apparently, he made a pretty good impression.

A new mock draft by Nate Davis of USA Today Sports has Fowler, the former St. Petersburg Lakewood standout, at No. 2 in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Check out Davis' logic on why Fowler might be headed to the Tennessee Titans.

In other mock drafts, Fowler is projected at No. 6 to the New York Jets by SB Nation, and Bleacher Report has him projected at No. 5 to the Washington Redskins.

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Gators Dorian Finney-Smith's suspension won't be lifted for Missouri game

Junior F Dorian Finney-Smith has not had his indefinite suspension lifted, and will not play when the Gators play at Missouri Tuesday night, coach Billy Donovan said.

“He’s out," Donovan said Monday morning. "He’s not playing tomorrow. Probably revisit it again after this game. We’ve got to take off Wednesday, so I’ll have an update on Thursday, if we do media. But he’s out for this game."

Finney-Smith, the team's second leading scorer and top rebounder, was suspended last Wednesday. He has already missed games against Vanderbilt and at LSU. Donovan has not said specfically what the nature of the suspension is, but said Finney-Smith has made decisions that are not in the best interest of the team.

Donovan said the decision to suspend last season's SEC Sixth Man of the Year was solely his, but he did consult with the athletic administration, including athletic director Jeremy Foley, before making the final decision. …

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Gators softball remains undefeated

After an oustanding weekend performance, the Florida softball team remains undefeated.

The Gators (16-0) totaled 30 runs and 10 home runs in a doubleheader sweep of Mercer on Sunday. Florida won by scores of 20-3 (5 innings) and 10-3.

The victories were highlighted by Briana Little, who had a three-homer, nine-RBI game, in just her second start of the season. Little’s three-homer game was the first in Florida history, and her nine RBI in the game was a single-game school record.

"I was just really excited to get in the game, and to be ready," Little said. "I'm just happy to be able to contribute to the team. I was just going up there looking for pitches to hit hard."

On Saturday, led by a nine-RBI day from Lauren Haeger and 16 strikeouts from their pitching staff, the Gators won both games of a doubleheader at the Aquafina Invitational, defeating Illinois State, 4-1, and Kansas, 7-1.

Aleshia Ocasio threw a one-hit complete game against the Redbirds, striking out five and issuing no walks, while Haeger and Delanie Gourley combined to hold Kansas to one run on six hits with three walks and 11 strikeouts. …

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NCAA won't hand down further punishment to Gators for NCAA violation

The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has determined that former Florida offensive coordinator Joker Phillips committed a Level II infraction when he met with a recruit outside of the NCAA contact period.

AP photo

The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has determined that former Florida offensive coordinator Joker Phillips committed a Level II infraction when he met with a recruit outside of the NCAA contact period.

The full NCAA investigation report here

The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has determined that former Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips committed a Level II infraction when he arranged an impermissible meeting with a high school junior with the help of a reporter that covers recruiting, but the Gators will not receive any additional sanctions from the NCAA because of their actions following the infraction.

The NCAA announced on Friday afternoon that "the panel determined the former coach’s contact with the prospect was a Level II violation because it was not inadvertent and provided more than a minimal recruiting advantage. Specifically, the former coach was able to get the prospect’s contact information at a time when coaches who were following the rules were unable to have the same level of contact."

Florida's self-imposed penalties included suspending Phillips from all off-campus recruiting for 30 days beginning on April 10, 2014 and the end of the recruitment of the prospect involved in the contact. …

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NCAA infractions committee set to announce decision on Florida football investigation

Joker Phillips resigned as the Gators' wide receivers coach in June, citing personal reasons. He joined the staff in December 2012 after three seasons as Kentucky's head coach.

[Associated Press (2013)]

Joker Phillips resigned as the Gators' wide receivers coach in June, citing personal reasons. He joined the staff in December 2012 after three seasons as Kentucky's head coach.

he NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. today to discuss potential sanctions against the University of Florida regarding former wide receivers coach Joker Phillips.

Phillips, a former Kentucky head coach, abruptly resigned last June after one season with the Gators.

After his resignation, reports surfaced that Phillips had been photographed having interaction with a recruit during an NCAA dead period. Florida athletic officials never specifically stated why Phillips resigned.

"We have not received the report yet, but we will receive it later today," Florida athletics officials said in a statement. "However, this is a final resolution to a matter that we dealt with last June regarding one of our former assistant football coaches."

Phillips resigned two months before the start of fall camp stating "personal reasons."

A 26-year coaching veteran, Phillips joined the staff in December 2012 after he was fired as the head coach at Kentucky. He spent three seasons (2010-2012) as the Wildcats' head coach, and is a former Kentucky player and assistant coach.

Check back here for more on the story this afternoon.

 

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Suspended Gators forward Dorian Finney-Smith to miss the LSU game

The suspension of Florida F Dorian Finney-Smith will extend at least through the weekend, Gators coach Billy Donovan said Wednesday night.

Dononvan announced prior to Wednesday night's game against Vanderbilt that Finney-Smith had been suspended indefinitely for "violation of team rules."

After the Gators' 50-47 win over the Commodores - without Finney-Smith and Michael Frazier (high ankle sprain) - Donovan said Finney-Smith will not play Saturday at LSU and his suspension will be “revisited on Monday.” The players said after the game they had known about the suspension since Monday.

This is the second time in Finney-Smith’s two seasons that he has been suspended. He started the 2013-14 three games in before going on to be named SEC Sixth Man of the Year.

Donovan seemed to indicate that Finney-Smith's suspension was related to his behavior and attitude with the team, but did not go into specifics, only saying he didn't want the suspension to serve as a negative reflection of Finney-Smith's character. …

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