2/5: Parsons leads resilient, battle-tested team

By Adam Silverstein
February 7, 2011

No. 23 Florida Gators (18-5, 7-2 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability after Saturday’s hard-fought 70-68 win against the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (16-6, 4-4 SEC), Florida’s second win against a top 25 opponent in one week.

WELCOME TO THE CHANDLER PARSONS SHOW II

Florida played quite well as a team Saturday, but if you had to pick a most valuable player down the stretch it would be no one else than senior forward Chandler Parsons. Notching his fifth double-double of the year while leading his team in points (17), rebounds (12) and assists (five), Parsons also hit a clutch free throw at the end of the game (though he did miss another). He won the SEC Player of the Week award on Monday after scoring 35 points and grabbing 23 boards while posting back-to-back double-doubles this week.

“The one guy I thought offensively was really, really good was Chandler Parsons. He had an incredible game. Kenny Boynton gave us great points in production early in the game in the first half, but Chandler was really a complete game,” Donovan said. “I don’t know since I’ve been here if I’ve ever played a guy 20 minutes in the second half. That may be the first time I’ve done that. I wanted to rest him, I wanted to try to get him out of the game, but he was doing too many things. Defensive rebounding, starting the break… I felt like I needed him to facilitate offense against their zone. He was offensive rebounding. He really had a complete game all the way through.”

Donovan continued heaping the praise on Parsons.

“Visually, the greatest growth I’ve ever seen from a player that I’ve coached here at Florida since Joakim Noah,” he said. “[Noah went] from a total enigma – ‘Who is this guy? He plays eight minutes a game.’ – to potentially being the first player taken in the NBA Draft, winning a National Championship and being the finals MVP. Visually, you can see that. Chandler has made the same kind of jumps and steps in terms of understanding what this all is about.

“He came in with a very poor understanding of competition, work ethic, all that goes into this. Where he was from the first day he arrived on campus to where he is now is as great of a jump I’ve seen from a guy in terms of just changing in every possible way. I’m really, really proud of him because he had some stretches there earlier in the year where he really wasn’t shooting the ball well. He knocked down two free throws against Vanderbilt at a crucial time; he made one out of two tonight – I know he was 3-for-6. There’s a presence there with him where he, as a player, is giving me, as a coach, a confidence of him being very reliable.”

WILBEKIN, TYUS SPLIT THE HALVES (After the break…)

Freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin has done some nice things in his limited minutes on the court for the Gators this season. Mostly dishing out dimes while keeping Florida’s propensity for turning the ball over under control, Wilbekin sports the team’s best assist-to-turnover ratio but broke out offensively Saturday with nine points in the first half, saving a poor overall offensive effort by junior PG Erving Walker.

“He was great. Walker really, really struggled, and the fact that we got nine points from him in the first half really made up for Erving Walker. If you take those two players and put them together, we got several points from our backcourt,” Donovan said. “He was terrific. Knocked down a couple threes, had a good drive to the basket, he was really good defensively. […] When you put him in the game, you know what you’re going to get defensively, and he can really wear down a player. You can rest Erving Walker. He was really good tonight; I thought he really helped our team.”

Senior F Alex Tyus was silent in the first half for Florida but scored all eight of his points in the latter period while also playing good defense and grabbing some key rebounds. Donovan noted his struggles but appreciated his resiliency overall.

“I didn’t think he played particularly well in the first half,” he said. “Alex, he’s a great kid. He wants to do well. Sometimes when the ball goes in the basket for you, you make a couple shots, sometimes your energy changes. Us getting up13 had a lot to do with Alex. He made a couple turn-around jumpers. He made a baseline jumper. He did some really, really good things for us.”

LOSING A BIG LEAD, FIGHTING BACK

Leading by a game-high 13 points in the middle of the second half, the Gators coughed up their impressive lead as the Wildcats took off on an impressive 17-3 run. Donovan attributed the change in momentum to Florida’s defensive struggles at the time.

“In the second half, our guys got off to a great start. We were able to increase our lead. They had a difficult time guarding us in the second half,” he said. “John [Calipari] decided to go zone and probably broke our rhythm a little bit. I thought we had pretty decent looks from the perimeter. The zone kind of changed the pace of the game for us offensively. I was much, much more disappointed as, when they switched and went zone, none of that would have been an issue or problem if we continued to defend like we had most of the game. […] It broke our rhythm offensively. In breaking our rhythm offensively, our defensive focus wasn’t where it needed to be.”

Nevertheless, Donovan was impressed with how his team stayed in the game and did not let the loss of a large lead get into their collective head.

“Our guys were pretty resilient. They battled. They hung in there and found a way to win at the end,” he said. “It was great to see us win a game where Erving Walker really didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. I don’t even think our team, offensively, played ‘great.’ […] It was a great win for us. There’s a lot of hype, drama, when you have all that goes on right now. Our guys handled it pretty well. Two home games against two very, very good teams in Vanderbilt and Kentucky, and we were fortunate to get away with two wins.”

MOVING FORWARD WITH CONFIDENCE

One issue surrounding the Gators basketball team over the last few seasons has been their ability to handle success and continue playing at a high level after hard-fought victories. Donovan hopes that is not an issue this year but believes that Saturday’s game was a “microcosm of our team” that they can use to move forward.

“Do we have the maturity level, as a team, to handle going forward from here? That has been our No. 1 problem – these situations. We have not handled them well,” he said. “Whatever I’m doing, I got to try to find some different ways to get to them. But when our guys get knocked down, they usually try to get back up and they try to fight. It’s when we have these moments that they want to go, ‘[Sigh of relief] OK.’

“We cannot do that right now. That’s the worst thing that we can do. I talked to them about it in the locker room after the game was over with. We have a great opportunity to make an incredible growth and step as a team going forward from this game.”

For their part, the players seemed to understand what it took to win.

“That’s a big-time win,” Parsons said. “We knew coming in here they had a lot of talent. We knew it was going to be a battle, and our guys really fought. We played defense, executed down [to] the end.”

“This is a great win for us,” Walker agreed. “We knew that was a great team, and we knew we had a great week ahead for us with Vandy and Kentucky. For us to be able to come out and defend our home court and get both wins is huge for us.”

QUOTES

Donovan on the first half performance: “The first half went like I thought it would go. I thought it would be back-and-forth, there would be some different runs in the game. They certainly got off to a quick start, and we kind of battled back and got the lead. I was a little disappointed with how we handled the underneath out-of-bounds play with 0.6 to go. Up four, they knocked down a two-point shot and cut it to two.”

On Walker’s struggles: “It was a hard game for Erving. At 5’8” going against a guy that’s 6’6” as long as [DeAndre] Liggins is and as athletic as he is and the way he moves his feat, it’s hard for Erv. We were able to win the game without Erving Walker really being a major factor in the game.”

Donovan on defending…and defending the perimeter: “We did a pretty good job. [Brandon] Knight made a couple tough threes with some guys in his face. Give him credit. I really thought we defended very, very well. We had some breakdowns here and there, but overall we guarded pretty well in the game. Their run offensively really came with our ineptness on offense. That probably drained some energy from our guys.”

Donovan on if Florida has a cushion in the SEC East: “We don’t have wins over everybody in the division. There you go.”

Parsons on Tyus: “That’s the Alex we know. That’s the Alex we want to play for 40 minutes every game. He’s a great player, and he’s helped us all year long, but the way he played in the second half was unbelievable.”

Parsons on his last home game against Kentucky: “It feels good. Obviously the rivalry, it’s a big-time win. These are the games you dream about as a child. It just feels great I could go out on top, my senior year, at home.

Parsons on the crowd: The crowd was great tonight. They said it was a record-breaking crowd, right? That’s awesome. That’s how it should be every night.”

Parsons on his rebounded tip-dunk: “The tip-dunk, I’ve done that a few times. I just want to keep hitting the glass aggressively. That was just kind of a reaction play.”

Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton on Tyus: “Down the stretch, Alex came alive tonight. That turn-around shot – that was a big shot for us tonight. He stepped up and played great.”

Boynton on Knight “Brandon’s a great player. He was as good as advertised. I think he played really well but, in the end, I’m kind of happy with the ‘W’ we got.”

Walker on the team’s free throw shooting: “We’ve been shooting them a lot. A lot of free throws; 100 every day. Coach has been emphasizing that. We know rebounds and free throws are what win you championships.”

Walker on the last shot: “[Knight] actually got off a fairly decent look, especially for a player of his caliber. I just held my breath. I didn’t know if he was going to make that or not.”

Walker on if the win is extra-special: “Certain teams have that affect on fans. Everybody is the same for us. This game or beating Auburn is the same for us. We just want to get a win.”

5 Comments

  1. Drew 4 Orange & Blue says:

    You do have to wonder if Parsons will get pulled in the tourney late in games….50% FT shooter on the floor is not good and UK clearly waited for him to get the ball to foul….if it wasn’t the double bonus he would not have got the chance to make the other FT…..not sure what Billy can do…it’s so hard to understand how he can almost be shooting 40% from behind the arc but is a 50% FT shooter

    • Drew 4 Orange & Blue says:

      Let me add I really like Parsons but I am looking at this team and wondering how far of a run we could make in the tourney and the two things that really worry me are FT’s and outside shooting….I was surprised of Vitale openly saying Boyton is not an outside shooter but the numbers back him up….29% yet he continues to jack more up than anyone….not sure if Billy has given him the green light but at some point you have to wonder if it’s going to lead to an early exit!! He’s attempted 145 vs Parsons only 64

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