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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Former Gator Chris Rainey settles legal issues with no contest plea

Former Florida RB/return specialist Chris Rainey pled no contest to disorderly conduct in an Alachua County courtroom today, effectively ending his legal troubles following his arrest earlier this month on charges of simple battery after an alleged dispute with his girlfriend.
Rainey appeared before Judge Walter Green who withheld adjudication, but fined Rainey $200 and imposed court costs of approximately $300 in conjuction with Rainey's plea. Rainey's charge was reduced to disorderly conduct because the alleged victim denied being battered, and witnessess had contradictory statements.
According to a report from the Gainesville Police Department when he was arrested Rainey, who played for the Gators from 2008-11, and the alleged victim were in an argument over Rainey’s cell phone when the woman entered the vehicle of Rainey’s roommate, and he began to confront her on the passenger side of the vehicle, then began pulling her out of the vehicle.
Witnesses told police they observed Rainey slap the victim across the face with an open hand. Both Rainey and the female victim then fell to the ground. The victim was able to run away, according to the report, but Rainey chased after her because his cellphone was in a bag the alleged victim was carrying. Rainey grabbed the bag, and they both fell to the ground again. Neither Rainey nor the woman suffered visible injuries, according to police. …

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Florida Gators women's tennis remains No. 1

The women's tennis team retained its No. 1 ranking in this week's Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Rankings. 

The Gators received the top spot in the initial team rankings of the season, maintained that position for this second poll of the year and held steady during this third ranking period.

Florida earned back-to-back victories this week over USF and UCF Tuesday and Wednesday.

The win over UCF extended Florida's consecutive dual match win streak to 24 matches and its 109th consecutive win at home, which is the longest active home win streak by any NCAA Division I women's team in any sport.

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Gators trying to close out first month of SEC play strong vs. South Carolina

 The men's basketball team will close out the first month of SEC play tonight when the Gators host South Carolina at 8 p.m.

Florida enters the game with a 6-0 conference record, and is starting to generate buzz about its postseason potential.

Although Florida coach Billy Donovan warned earlier this week that it's far too soon to start talking about NCAA Tournament seedings, that hasn't stopped others from taking a look at where the Gators might land. 

Peter Tiernan of takes a look at the Gators through statistical analysis and said this : "One thing jumps out on this table: Florida's efficiency numbers are head and shoulders above the rest of the top 20."

Take a look at Tiernan's full story on where the Gators stack up statistically with the rest of the top teams in the nation.

Also, if you'd like to know where to find the Gators on the SEC Network tonight in your area, click here.



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Florida Gators' 4x400 relay team earns SEC honors

The men’s 4x400-meter relay team - composed of Hugh Graham, Jr. (Miami), Dedric Dukes (Miam), Leonardo Seymore (Palm Beach Gardens) and Arman Hall (Pembroke Pines) - has been named the SEC Men’s Runner of the Week, the league office has announced.

The four were honored for their world-leading time at the Razorback Invitational this past weekend. The relay team clocked in at 3:05.93, the seventh-fastest time in program history. The time went down as the fastest in the SEC and the NCAA this season and came against a competitive field at the Razorback Invitational that included relay teams from Arkansas, LSU and Baylor, all of which currently rank among the nation’s top 4x400-meter relay foursomes.

The Gator men’s team finished runner-up to host and No. 1 Arkansas this past weekend.

Florida will compete in the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational in Lincoln, Neb.,  Feb. 1-2.

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Florida commit Vernon Hargreaves III talks candidly about recruiting

One of the best players in Florida's 2013 football recruiting class is Wharton standout Vernon Hargreaves III.

A consensus five-star recruit, he recently sat down with Times staff writer Joel Anderson to talk about his recruitment - more than 70 offers - and other things on his mind.

It's worth the read for Florida fans.

Check it out here.

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Florida women's golf earns nine-stroke win over Florida State in Florida Challenge

The No. 3 women's golf team earned its third team title in five outings this season at the Florida Challenge in Lecanto.

The Gators took an early three-shot lead after round one (292) and then built that lead in the second round to win by nine strokes (586) over Florida State (595).

Florida is in the midst of its best season since 2007-08 when the Gators won five team titles including the SEC championship.

Florida sophomore Camilla Hedberg was named the co-winner of the tournament along with UCF's Monifa Sealy. Hedberg and Sealy shot identical rounds of 72-71 to finish at 143 (1-under).

"This is a great way to start the spring season," Florida coach Emily Bastel said. "We can take a lot of positives away from today. . . Black Diamond is an awesome venue and it was great to compete on such a great golf course. We will use what we did to work on some more specific things before we head to California."

Florida's next competition will be the Northrup Grumman Regional Championship at the Palos Verdes Golf Club in Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 11-13.



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Billy Donovan trying to keep Gators humble as they rise to No. 4

Florida's rise to No. 4 in both polls has come as the Gators are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak and pure domination in the SEC.

The Gators have outscored their six SEC opponents by an average 26.5 points, and three times the margin has been over 30 points.

But the challenge now for the Gator players is to understand there’s a lot of basketball left to be played, and they are counting on coach Billy Donovan to make sure they don’t let the growing national attention become a distraction.

"Well, I know coach Donovan's going to humble us,’’ junior C Patric Young said. “He's going to find something to make sure we don't get too lifted up on this attention that we're getting now. We want to be recognized as a good team, but we want to make it all the way. We want to win it all. Then we'll finally be satisfied with what we've got."

Listen to Donovan's take on what the national attention will be like for the Gators and what they need to do to avoid the distractions:

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Florida basketball team ranked No. 4 in latest AP poll

The Florida men's basketball team is ranked No. 4 in the latest AP poll, which was released this afternoon.

It is the Gators' highest regular-season ranking since being ranked No. 3 on March 12, 2007 - heading into the 2007 NCAA Tournament - the final AP poll in the 2007 season. The Gators went on to win the national championship that season.

Florida was ranked No. 5 earlier this season before its 65-64 loss to then-No. 8 Arizona.

Michigan is No. 1 in this week's poll, followed by Kansas and Indiana. Duke is No 5.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said it's imperative that the Gators keeping the rise in the rankings in perspective. …

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Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin named SEC Player of the Week

Florida junior guard Scottie Wilbekin has been named SEC Player of the Week, the league office announced this morning.

Wilbekin averaged 15 points, six assists and two rebounds in wins at Georgia and at Mississippi State. At Georgia, Wilbekin led the team in scoring with 17 points, matching a career-best. He was 7-for-9 from the field against the Bulldogs.

Against Mississippi State, Wilbekin had his third-straight game scoring in double-figures, finishing with 13 points. He was also one assist shy of his second career double-double. This marks the second consecutive week that Wilbekin has recorded at least nine assists in a game.

Florida (16-2, 6-0 SEC) will host South Carolina Wednesday at 8 p.m. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

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Gators weekend sports wrapup

Several Florida sports teams were in action this past weekend, including the men's and women's basketball teams.

Here is a short recap of this past weekend's results:

MEN'S BASKETBALL: The Gators improved to 6-0 in SEC play with an 82-47 win over Mississippi State Saturday night. Seniors Erik Murphy and Kenny Boynton scored 18 points each - and accounted for eight of UF's season-high 14 3-pointers. Junior guard Scottie Wilbekin had 13 points and nine assists, while center Patric Young had 13 points on 6-for-6 shooting, and six rebounds. For the game, UF shot 55.4 percent, including 64 percent in the second half. 

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: The Gators suffered a 69-52 loss to No. 14 Georgia on Sunday at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens. The Gators are currently on a four-game losing streak.

“We have to regroup,”  UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “It stinks. It feels bad to have lost four in a row, but again we have a really, really tough league and if you cry too long you’re going to lose five. So we have to get it back together, get our heads screwed on right and play with more overall determination."  …

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Billy Donovan takes pride in Gator NBA All-Stars

Two former Gators are among the players selected to the 2013 NBA All-Star game.

Former Gator David Lee is a reserve for the Western Conference, while Joakim Noah is a reserve on the Eastern Conference squad.

Lee, who is with the Sacramento Kings, is averaging 19.6 points per game and 10.8 rebounds per game. Noah, a center with the Chicago Bulls, averages 12.2 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said he's thrilled for Lee and Noah, as well as Bradley Beal and Chandler Parsons who are also having outstanding seasons and could be selected to play in the Rising Stars Challenge between the rookies and second-year players. …

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Florida women try to end two-game losing streak when the Gators host Ole Miss tonight

The Florida women's basketball looks to halt a two-game losing streak when it hosts Ole Miss tonight at 7  - the final game in a three-game homestand.

The Gators have lost their last two games by a combined 11 points to nationally-ranked opponents. 

Ole Miss enters the game coming off a 73-72 overtime loss, and is also trying to end a five-gme losing streak. The Rebels are led by acting coach Brett Frank, who took over after former head coach Adrian Wiggins was dismissed earlier this season due to alleged recruiting violations.

“Ole Miss is really impressive with how inspired they are playing in spite of the adversity they face,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “I think they are playing with a tremendous amount of pride. Our level of play shouldn’t change whether there is a (ranking) number in front of a team’s name. That can’t impact who we are, possession by possession and the energy we use to set the tone.”

All five of the Gators' SEC games this season have been decided by eight points or less, including its most recent outing - a 52-44 loss to No. 19/18 South Carolina on Sunday. Overall, nine of Florida’s games this season have been decided by 10 points or less (5-4 record). …

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Florida tries to achieve 5-0 in SEC play at Georgia tonight

The Florida men's basketball team is on the road for the third time in four games, playing Georgia tonight for the second half of the two-game series.

The game will be televised at 8 p.m. on the SEC Network.

Florida has been terrorizing teams defensively. The Gators have held opponents to fewer than 60 points 12 times this season. Florida and Georgia met in Florida’s SEC opener two weeks ago, with the Gators earning a 77-44 victory, but Georgia has won three of the last four in Athens.

"Billy's team is just playing terrific,’’Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “I think they are arguably one of the top two or three teams in the country right now. I think they have an outstanding defensive team that is really committed to defending and as always they have a very balanced and potent offensive group as well. You combine those two things and they have a very good team, a team that arguably will compete for the national championship. So I have a lot of respect for Florida's team and we'll have to play extremely well (tonight).” 

Listen to Gators F Erik Murphy talk about playing throuh pain with broken ribs and some of the elements that have made this team so successful.

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Gators taking a heavy hit with early NFL departures

By the time the deadline had come and gone for players who planned to leave early for the NFL, Florida had lost four members of its 2012 team.

DT Sharrif Floyd, S Matt Elam, TE Jordan Reed and LB Jelani Jenkins all opted not to return for their senior seasons. 

And that, says college football columnist Bruce Feldman, is a major blow for the Gators. 

The Gators come in at No. 3 on Feldman's list of programs hit hardest by the NFL early departures.

Check out his reasons and the full list here.

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Florida fills final coaching vacancy with South Carolina defensive line coach Brad Lawing

Florida has filled its final vacancy on its football staff.

Former South Carolina defensive line coach Brad Lawing has been hired as Assistant Head Coach/defensive line coach, sharing the latter duties with current assistant coach Bryant Young.

"We are excited to have Brad Lawing join our coaching staff," Florida head coach Will Muschamp said. "His track record speaks for itself. His nearly three decades of experience coaching defensive lineman, his familiarity with the SEC and our shared philosophical beliefs make him a perfect fit for our program." …

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