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Chomping at Bits: Florida women’s basketball continues torrid run in SEC play

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The Gators Girlz are hot, all right.

Syndication: Online Athens Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK

Florida follows Tennessee toppling with gritty win at Georgia: Just three days after a historic rout of Tennessee, Florida’s women’s basketball program accomplished something else it had only done fewer than 10 times in program history, scoring a road win at Georgia on Sunday by a 54-51 count.

The Gators and Bulldogs fought back and forth in the game, resuming the see-sawing action that had given Georgia a win over Florida in Gainesville in early January, but it was Florida that threw the last combination, finishing the game on an 8-0 run for just their sixth win all-time in Athens and their first over Georgia since 2018.

Florida now owns wins over five ranked teams for the first time since 2005-06; it has not won five games over ranked SEC teams since 2003-04. In each of those years, stewarded by Carolyn Peck, the Gators went to the NCAA Tournament.

These Gators, only marginally included in NCAA Tournament projections to this point, can now expect to see their name inked in those hypothetical fields, and to be ranked within the nation’s top 25 teams when the next series are issued. And one of the headlines in the near future for Florida’s program should reflect more ink — that of interim coach Kelly Rae Finley on a new contract that will remove her interim title and keep her in Gainesville for years to come.

Florida men stage third straight comeback win: Florida’s men, on the other hand, have been steering into the storms of on-court adversity and social media antipathy after falling back to Earth following a 6-0 November. But the Gators got Colin Castleton back this week, once again came back to win a crucial game, and are positioning themselves well for a push toward the NCAA Tournament.

Castleton had 17 points and seven rebounds in his first action after missing six consecutive games with a left shoulder injury, and Florida rallied back from a nine-point halftime deficit with stingy defense and timely shooting to defeat Ole Miss in overtime, 62-57.

Without Castleton, Florida went 4-2, despite losing Jason Jitoboh to a season-ending eye injury halfway through that stretch. And the Gators are 6-2 overall since an 0-3 start to SEC play that featured losses to Alabama, Auburn, and LSU — they now, in fact, sit ahead of both Alabama and LSU in the SEC standings.

That’s at least partly due to the SEC slate getting easier since then — but Florida has also held serve at home and against lesser teams over that slate, a road loss to Ole Miss its only significant blip. And with a week consisting of a home game against Georgia and a road trip to Rupp Arena ahead, Florida will get both a chance to get above .500 in league play and an opportunity for an enormous win over the next six days.

Florida tennis sweeps FSU — again: Just a week after having downed in-state rival Florida State in matches in Gainesville and Tallahassee, the Gators men’s and women’s tennis teams repeated the feat in College MatchDay action at the ITA Complex in Lake Nona over the weekend.

For the men, it’s just more evidence that they’ll mount a spirited defense of their first national title; for the Florida women, the wins over FSU have run their record to 6-0, a mark not seen since a 2016-17 campaign that concluded with their last national championship.

Florida gymnastics dashes road upset dreams on beam: The Gators gymnastics team went with something less than its optimal rotation at Missouri last Friday, and almost paid for it on a night when the Tigers posted a program-record score.

But the Gators proved once again that their balance beam prowess is the stuff of legend, outpacing what the Tigers were able to do on floor to hold them off in a tight, tense meet.

Counting nothing less than a 9.9 on beam, Florida totaled a 49.625 on the apparatus — ninth-best in program history, and just 0.025 shy of their best road mark, though not even the Gators’ best score this season — to not just hold a slim lead over the Tigers but extend it. Missouri’s floor total of 49.600 was another program record.

Florida’s next meet? A home showdown with rival LSU.