Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: FEBRUARY 25, 2019

UGLY WAS QUITE BEAUTIFUL AGAINST MISSOURI

As we discovered Saturday afternoon at the O-Dome, ugly can be a very beautiful thing.

Ugly is indeed the only way to describe Florida’s 64-60 win over the Missouri Tigers, but this is the kind of season where you take wins any way you can get them. And, when you’re fighting your way off the NCAA bubble like the Gators have been forced to do recently, you can live with an ugly win.

Florida (16-11, 8-6 SEC) got its fourth straight despite the following head scratching stats:
(1) The Gators shot 3-15 from the 3-point line with KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke combining to hit just 1-9.
(2) The Gators were outscored in the paint, 28-22.
(3) The Gators managed only 2 fast break points.
(4) Florida had a negative assist-to-turnover margin – 8 assists, 10 turnovers.
(5) Missouri led the Gators 33-24 at the half and the Tigers held a 12-point lead (42-30) with 17:01 remaining in the game.

The Gators managed to compensate for all those problems by hitting 25-30 from the foul line including 16-19 in the second half and by shutting Missouri down from the 3-point line. In the last 17 minutes of the game, Mizzou went 1-8 on 3-pointers. Prior to that, the Tigers were 5-12.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that Florida got four gift points. Two of them came on a stupid flagrant foul by Mizzou’s 6-10, 250-pound center Jeremiah Tilmon that Kevarrius Hayes converted into a pair of free throws with 16:59 left in the game. The other two points came from a technical foul on Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin with 12:56 to go in the game. So it was a 60-60 standoff except for the help rendered by Tilmon and Martin.

Pretty it wasn’t. Ugly it was. But ugly looked really, really good at the end of the game when Florida was sitting at 16-11 with an 8-6 SEC record that has the bracketologists leaving the bubble for someone else while placing the Gators as a #10 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

SEC BASKETBALL STUFF

#13 LSU (22-5, 12-2 SEC): With wins over Kentucky (at Rupp) and Tennessee, the Tigers find themselves in the drivers seat for the SEC championship and the top seed at the SEC Tournament. It’s interesting that the wins over Kentucky and Tennessee had controversial endings. Maybe it’s that kind of year for the Tigers, when a majority of the close calls go their way.

Tuesday: vs. Texas A&M (12-14, 5-9 SEC); Saturday: at Alabama (16-11, 7-7 SEC)

#4 KENTUCKY (23-4, 12-2 SEC): The Wildcats have evolved into the best team in the league but they might not win the conference championship due to that controversial loss to LSU. Saturday, the Wildcats have a huge matchup in Knoxville against the Vols.

Tuesday: vs. Arkansas (14-13, 5-9 SEC); Saturday: at Tennessee (24-3, 12-2 SEC)

#5 TENNESSEE (24-3, 12-2 SEC): Rick Barnes probably won’t sleep for days after the loss to LSU in what was clearly the worst officiated game of the entire season. From a technical aspect, the foul call against Grant Williams with a few seconds remaining was the right call, but it’s not the one you make 75 feet from the basket at the other end of the court with less than 10 seconds to go. The Vols find themselves fading at the worst possible time.

Wednesday: at Ole Miss (19-8, 9-5 SEC); Saturday: vs. Kentucky (23-4, 12-2 SEC)

OLE MISS (19-8, 9-5 SEC): The goal for the Rebels is a top four finish in the regular season, which would mean they don’t play until Friday at the SEC Tournament. There is a Tuesday encounter with Tennessee and a visit next week to Rupp, so it could be a very difficult week for Ole Miss.

Wednesday: vs. Tennessee (24-3, 12-2 SEC); Saturday: at Arkansas (14-13, 5-9 SEC)

SOUTH CAROLINA (14-13, 9-5 SEC): Saturday’s loss to Mississippi State at home was a huge setback in terms of making the NCAA field. The good news is the final four games of the regular season are quite winnable and it’s going to take a 4-0 finish for the Gamecocks to avoid the NIT.

Tuesday: vs. Alabama (16-11, 7-7 SEC); Saturday: at Missouri (12-14, 3-11 SEC)

MISSISSIPPI STATE (20-7, 8-6 SEC): The Bulldogs got a gift win at Georgia thanks to a technical foul with 0:00.5 left on the clock, then followed that up with a win over South Carolina. The Bulldogs are very much in the hunt for a top four finish in the SEC. If they can win three of their last four, they’ll have a chance to be a top five NCAA seed.

Tuesday: vs. Missouri (12-14, 3-11 SEC); Saturday: at Auburn (18-9, 7-7 SEC)

FLORIDA (16-11, 8-6 SEC): The Gators can go a long way toward making the NCAA field with wins in two very winnable games this week. Given their strength of schedule and the strength of the SEC, it’s almost a lock they make the NCAA with 10 conference wins.

Wednesday: at Vanderbilt (9-18, 0-14 SEC); Saturday: vs. Georgia (10-17, 1-13 SEC)

AUBURN (18-9, 7-7 SEC): Just when they need to be playing well, the Tigers are playing like a team that is playing out the string. If they can’t turn things around in the next couple of weeks they’re going to play themselves into the NIT.

Wednesday: at Georgia (10-17, 1-13 SEC); Saturday: vs. Mississippi State (20-7, 8-6 SEC)

ALABAMA (16-11, 7-7 SEC): Alabama stopped a 3-game losing skid with a win over Vanderbilt. Making the NCAA field will require at least a 9-9 finish in SEC play and maybe a win at the SEC Tournament. The Tide has a tough week ahead with a roadie to South Carolina and a homer with LSU.

Tuesday: at South Carolina (14-13, 9-5 SEC); Saturday: vs. LSU (22-5, 12-2 SEC)

ARKANSAS (14-13, 5-9 SEC): Talk about going in the tank, the Razorbacks have lost five in a row and are in the process of playing themselves out of contention for even the NIT. There is a mounting social media storm calling for Arkansas to fire Mike Anderson.

Tuesday: at Kentucky (23-4, 12-2 SEC); Saturday: vs. Ole Miss (19-8, 9-5 SEC)

TEXAS A&M (12-14, 5-9 SEC): The Aggies have won four of their last five and they’re starting to play like a team nobody really wants to play. If they can go 3-1 in the last two weeks they can head into the SEC Tournament with a .500 record.

Tuesday: at LSU (22-5, 12-2 SEC); Saturday: vs. Vanderbilt (9-18, 0-14 SEC)

MISSOURI (12-14, 3-11 SEC): You wonder if Jeremiah Tilmon will ever figure it out. He’s fouled out of nine games this season. In the loss to Florida, his fourth foul was a silly flagrant and his fifth was an avoidable charge when he simply ran over a Gator.

Saturday: at Mississippi State (20-7, 8-6 SEC); Saturday:

GEORGIA (10-17, 1-13 SEC): Mark Fox may have never turned Georgia into a basketball powerhouse, but he never had a season quite like the one Tom Crean is having as Fox’s replacement. The Bulldogs have lost eight in a row and the only one of the remaining four that looks remotely winnable is Missouri next week.

Wednesday: vs. Auburn (18-9, 7-7 SEC); Saturday: at Florida (16-11, 8-6 SEC)

VANDERBILT (9-18, 014 SEC): The Commodores are within four games of a perfect (in reverse) SEC season.

Wednesday: vs. Florida (16-11, 8-6 SEC); Saturday: at Texas A&M (12-14, 5-9 SEC)

GATORS TAKE SERIES FROM MIAMI

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning of the second game of Florida’s weekend baseball series with the Miami Hurricanes, the Gators had the look of a team ready to go down for the fourth straight game. Held to just one run and four hits in the first 6-2/3 innings, Florida’s bats were anemic. Dating back to last Tuesday’s loss to South Florida, they were a combined 20 for their last 118 at bats, a rather pathetic .169 average. But as Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over until it’s over.”

By the time the Canes got the third out in the seventh, Florida had scored 4 runs, 3 on a triple to right center by Wil Dalton and the fourth on a double down the left field line by freshman Kendrick Calilao. From that point, it was all Gators, who tacked on 4 more in the eighth for a 9-3 win.

The Florida offense didn’t explode in Sunday’s final game of the series, but 10 UF hits were more than enough as the Gators took a 4-1 win and won their fifth straight series over the Hurricanes. In Sunday’s game, Calilao hit a single, a double and a home run while driving in 2 as the Gators improved to 5-3 on the season. Calilao went 7-12 for the weekend with 2 doubles, a triple, a home run and 6 RBI.

Saturday night, Tommy Mace got the win, giving up 5 hits and striking out 4 in 7 innings. Freshman closer Nolan Crisp got the save with 2 innings of 1-hit baseball. Sunday, Jack Leftwich was the winning pitcher, allowing 5 hits and 1 run with 7 strikeouts in 5 innings. Jordan Butler shut out Miami over the next 3 innings with Crisp coming in to nail down his second save of the weekend and fourth save of the young season with a shutout ninth.

The Gators will face Jacksonville on the road Tuesday night and return home to face UCF Wednesday.

AMANDA LORENZ IS SCARY GOOD

Amanda Lorenz is so good it almost obscures the fact the 3rd-ranked Florida softball team is off to an 18-0 start after a 6-0 weekend. Through 18 games, Lorenz, who is already Florida’s career hitting leader (.407 average), is hitting .474 (27-57) with 6 homers and 19 RBI. She’s walked 11 times and has been hit by a pitch once for an on base percentage of .557. In Florida’s six games over the weekend, Lorenz went 8-15 with 3 homers and 6 RBI.

The Gators outscored their weekend opponents 44-5 while improving the team batting average to .347 and lowering the team ERA to 0.97. Jaimie Hoover (.400, 3 HR, 13 RBI), Jordan Roberts (.390, 3 HR, 14 RBI), Hannah Adams (.383, 2 HR, 13 RBI), Alex Voss (.359m 1 HR, 10 RBI) and Kendyl Lindamin (.353, 2 HR, 14 RBI) are all hitting better than .350. Kelly Barnhill is 9-0 with an 0.59 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 47-2/3 innings and Natalie Lugo is 6-0 with an 0.91 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 38-2/3 innings.

Here are some numbers that help put Florida’s 18-0 start in perspective: Opponents are hitting only.155 against UF pitching. Additionally, the Gators have walked 82 times and reached after being hit by a pitch 31 times. Opponents have earned 23 walks by Gator pitchers while reaching only 3 times after being hit by a pitch. Florida’s team on base percentage is .469 while opponents have a .207 OBP. Florida pitchers have struck out 154 batters. The Gators have struck out only 69 times.

MEN’S SWIMMING, TRACK WIN SEC CHAMPIONSHIPS

It was a championship weekend for the Florida men’s swimming team and men’s indoor track team. The Gator men won their seventh straight SEC swimming championship and 40th SEC swimming title in school history at the conference championships in Athens, Georgia. The Gators totaled 1,233 points for a comfortable win over second place Missouri (1,137). In Fayetteville, Arkansas, the Gators got 28 points from Grant Holloway to win the SEC indoor track championship by a comfortable 15-point margin over second place Arkansas. Holloway won the 60 meter dash and 60 meter hurdles and took a second place in the long jump. Holloway owns the three fastest 60 meter hurdle times in collegiate history.

In Athens, the Florida women finished second (1,023.5 points) to SEC champ Texas A&M (1,107). It was the highest finish for the UF women at the SEC meet since 2011.

In Fayetteville, the Florida women finished fourth even though Yannis David won the triple jump and long jump.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: In the immortal words of Yakov Smirnov, “Such a country!” Where else but the US could a football coach like Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason (24-38 overall, 9-31 SEC) get a raise and a contract extension … Oumar Ballo, who averaged 21 points and 17 rebounds per game at the FIBA Under-17 World Cup last summer has committed to play at Gonzaga. The 6-10 native of Mali is only 16 years old and will enroll in the summer. He is considered the top international prospect in the world … Chris Clemons, the 5-9 scoring dynamo from Campbell University scored 41 Saturday to move into sixth place on the all-time NCAA scoring list with 3,074 points. Mike Daum, a 6-9 power forward from South Dakota State, scored 25 Saturday to move into 10th place on the all-time NCAA list with 3,006 points. Clemons averages 30.1 per game while Daum averages 25.8 points and 11.8 rebounds … Arkansas softball player Danielle Gibson hit a solo homer, a 2-run homer, a 3-run homer and a grand slam in four at bats in the Razorbacks 15-3 win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Sunday.