A team meeting on Monday obviously was just what the Florida Gators (15-5, 6-2 SEC) needed. After a bad week in which they lost to South Carolina on the road and Vanderbilt at home, the Gators held a team meeting to clear the air Monday and the results were stunning when they took the floor in Baton Rouge Wednesday night.
After two straight subpar offensive performances, the Gators played their best offensive game of the season as they ripped LSU (9-10, 1-7 SEC), 106-71, at the Maravich Center in Baton Rouge as six players scored in double figures and a new school record was set from the 3-point line.
After an 8-43 week in which the Gators launched more scuds than Saddam Hussein in his heyday, the Gators found the range early and often against LSU, hitting a school record 19-32 from long distance led by true freshman Eric Hester, who went 5-5 and scored 16 points. Hester came into the game having scored only 10 points all season. Florida’s 19 3-pointers was the second most in an SEC game in history.
The best news of all was the play of Devin Robinson, John Egbunu and Chris Chiozza. Robinson lit up the Tigers for 24 points, hitting 5-8 from the 3-point line while grabbing 8 rebounds, his best game since December 21 when he scored 21 against Arkansas-Little Rock. Egbunu, who hadn’t scored in double figures since November 25 against Gonzaga, scored 11 points to go with 4 rebounds. Chiozza came into the game hitting just 22% from the 3-point line, but he went 3-6 against the Tigers and complemented his game with 10 assists.
Also scoring in double figures for the Gators were Justin Leon (15), Kevarrius Hayes (12) and KeVaughn Allen (11). Given a chance to play because Canyon Barry was out with a sprained ankle, Hester made a statement about more playing time in the future.
Overall, the Gators hit 56.3% from the field (19-32) to go with their hot 3-point shooting. The Gators dominated LSU on the backboards, 40-31. Florida had 12 assists and 12 turnovers against Vanderbilt on Saturday but their assist to turnover ratio was an impressive 24-12 against the Tigers.
After a defensive game against Vanderbilt that drew the wrath of head coach Mike White, the Gators held LSU to 43.8% from the field and 2-17 from the 3-point line (11.8%).
Next up for the Gators is Oklahoma in Norman Saturday as part of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
SEC ARMS RACE: FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL SUPPORT FACILITIES
While the Southeastern Conference regularly wins national championships in sports other than football and basketball, football and basketball pay the bills so when studying what’s going on in the arms race, it starts with the money sports. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the rest of the sports facilities and we’ll rank facilities top to bottom of all 14 teams in the league.
ALABAMA: The Mal Moore Athletic Facility is dominated by the football program, which occupies the entire north side and houses locker rooms, weight rooms, player lounges, etc. The Hall of Champions on the second floor is quite impressive. Bryant Hall was gutted and turned into an academic support center and dining hall that features a deli, grill, buffet and nutrition center for athletes. Basketball practice facilities are located in Coleman Coliseum and are nothing special. Can you imagine Nick Saban settling for nothing special?
ARKANSAS: When it comes to facilities, the Razorbacks take a back seat to no one. The expansion of the north end zone is part of an overall $300 million commitment to upgrading facilities that are already among the nation’s best. The latest addition to the Arkansas football complex is the Jerry and Gene Jones Center, which is one of the premier academic support centers in the country. Football operations are conducted from the Fred W. Smith Center, which houses coaches offices, players lounge and locker rooms and the indoor football practice facility. Outside there are two 100-yard practice fields. The basketball performance center is a fancier version of Florida’s practice facility.
AUBURN: For a school that has great facilities, you would think Auburn would have more than one 100-yard practice field for football and a second that is perhaps 70 yards. The indoor facility is excellent. Football offices are housed in the Athletics Complex, which includes weight rooms and training facilities. Athletes live in the $51 million South Donahue Residence Hall, which also houses a 24-hour wellness kitchen where a chef is on duty 24 hours to cook to order meals. The basketball practice facility is located in the relatively new Auburn Arena.
FLORIDA: The Gators are late arrivers to the arms race. They opened the indoor practice facility last year but it came at the expense of one of the 100-yard outdoor practice fields. The Gators have one 100-yard field and a 70-yarder outdoors. There are plans for a standalone football facility that will be built in what is now the north end zone of the Percy Beard Track. Football is currently housed in the Heavener Complex, which is part of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. In the basement of BHG is the Griffin-Oakley Strength and Conditioning Center. The basketball practice facility, once the best in the SEC, needs some upgrades. Dorms have been upgraded but UF still lags way behind in that area.
GEORGIA: The Butts-Mehre Practice Facility is being expanded. The facility includes coaches offices, weight and training facilities and houses the outdoor Woodruff Practice Fields Complex thatincludes two grass and two artificial turf fields, all four 100 yards. Butts-Mehre also includes dining and nutrition centers for athletes. Georgia will open a monstrosity of a $30 million indoor practice facility in just a few days. Basketball training facilities are part of the Stegman Coliseum complex. Athletes are housed in the East Campus Village that houses 300 athletes among the 1,200 students.
KENTUCKY: Kentucky leapt into the SEC arms race in a big way. The new UK Football Training Facility was built at a cost of $45 million and includes a state of the art 15,000-square foot weight training facility as well as a dining hall and a nutrition center. Kentucky has two new outdoor practice fields and an indoor facility it shares with track and field that has hosted the SEC Indoor Championships. As you might expect, basketball goes first class at UK, starting with Joe B. Hall Wildcat Coal Lodge, a dorm for men’s basketball players. The dorm has its own chef, 8-foot beds to accommodate basketball players, and pool tables in the lounge. The basketball practice facility is considered one of the two or three best in the country. Football and other sports are housed at Central Hall I and Central Hall II where the beds all have Tempurpedic mattresses.
LSU: The Tigers have four outdoor practice fields to go with the indoor facility at the Charles McClendon Football Practice Facility, which is part of the Football Operations Center. Basketball has a practice facility in the Maravich Center. LSU would be smart to either build a brand new arena or gut the Maravich Center and do an O-Dome-like renovation. The weight and training facilities are first rate and on campus housing is exceptional for athletes. There is talk of an athletic dorm.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Under athletic directors Greg Byrne and Scott Stricklin, Mississippi State has been playing the catch up game in terms of facilities. Davis-Wade Stadium has been expanded and modernized, the Leo Seal Jr. football practice facility was built and opened and there are plans in the works for a 100-yard indoor practice facility for football. Basketball has the Mize Pavilion (attached to Humphrey Coliseum) for practice and training.
MISSOURI: Mizzou has a well-planned athletic park with room to expand and it’s needed if the Tigers are going to be relevant in the SEC. A new football operations center is part of a $75 million upgrade. Basketball practice facilities are located in Mizzou Arena. Outside the indoor practice facility (not 100 yards) are two 100-yard practice fields.
OLE MISS: The $200 million capital fund for Ole Miss athletics resulted in the building of The Pavilion (basketball arena), expansion of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and upgrades everywhere else. The Manning Center houses Ole Miss football offices, dining, nutrition and the indoor practice facility. The Rebels also have two full length outdoor practice fields. Ole Miss basketball is housed in the Tuohy Basketball Center, one of the better practice facilities in the SEC.
SOUTH CAROLINA: South Carolina has gone aggressive in the arms race behind athletic director Ray Tanner. The Gamecocks moved into the Jerri and Steve Spurrier Indoor Practice Facility last year and the Football Operations Center will be state of the art. The Gamecocks have two outdoor practice fields to go with the indoor facility. The new operations center will move the weight room from Williams-Brice Stadium and an upgraded basketball practice facility is currently being built.
TENNESSEE: Room to expand from one and a half outdoor practice fields to three was made possible when the Stokely Athletics Center was demolished in 2014. Razing the old building (basketball arena that seated 14,000) also paved the way for the Stokely Residence Hall where UT athletes will live.
TEXAS A&M: The Bright Complex is in the south end zone of Kyle Field and has all the bells and whistles. When Kyle Field was rebuilt, the Bright Complex got a $20.8 million renovation that made it one of the best in the SEC. The Aggies have two grass outdoor practice fields and the McFerrin Athletic Center, which is their full length indoor practice field. The Cox-McFerring Center for Aggie Basketball is extraordinary.
VANDERBILT: The Commodores have two grass outdoor practice fields and indoor practice at the Multipurpose facility, which also serves as training facility for track and field and other outdoor sports when the weather is inclement.
The basketball practice facility is connected to Memorial gym and includes one full length playing floor and two crosscourt floors.
After Florida’s 35-point win over LSU Wednesday night, buzzards are circling the Maravich Center. There is no lack of talent in Baton Rouge but this is the second straight year Johnny Jones’ team has totally underperformed. It’s highly doubtful he will last the entire season.
Georgia coach Mark Fox, who has been taking exception with SEC officiating lately, got booted in the Bulldogs’ 80-60 loss to Alabama at Stegman Coliseum.
Just days after it’s suggested that Florida State basketball could make the Final Four, the Seminoles went down in a big way to Georgia Tech, 78-56, in Atlanta. Maybe the Seminoles will defy the norm this year, but history says there will be more losses like this. Nobody handles success quite as badly as a Leonard Hamilton coached team.
I have to wonder if Roger Goodell is serious when he says “it would be an honor” to hand the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady next weekend for Super Bowl LI.
The Poinsettia Bowl is calling it quits after 12 years. There are about 6-7 other bowl games that need to ride off into the sunset.
Rick Pitino is fighting charges he failed to monitor former assistant Andre McGee, who is at the center of the NCAA investigation into use of escorts to induce recruits to sign with Louisville. Pitino could get a multiple-game ban like the one that cost Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim several games in 2015-16.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Now that the 2016 college football season has come and gone and you’ve got nothing better to do, how would you rank the top 10 head ball coaches in the college game?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Allman Brothers one of the original drummers for the Allman Brothers Band, died Tuesday at the age of 69. I found this video of Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band from last February.