2/7: Donovan hopes to ride momentum wave

By Adam Silverstein
February 8, 2011

No. 17/19 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 Monday.

AVOIDING A LETDOWN AFTER A BIG WEEK

All but one of the Gators’ losses this season have come after a hard-fought and/or impressive victory. Florida fell to Central Florida after beating Florida State 55-51 on the road, lost to Jacksonville in overtime after defeating then-No. 6 Kansas State in South Florida, dropped a tough one to South Carolina following a 81-75 overtime win at Tennessee, and lost to Mississippi State after taking down Georgia 104-91 in two overtimes. Coming off two difficult home games against top 25 opponents, UF looks not to repeat a trend Wednesday at USC.

“We are at an interesting time right now in our league, because we will start to play people in the East for the second time,” Donovan said of his team’s second game against South Carolina. “[We’re] going to Columbia against a team that I thought played very, very well here in Gainesville, they really out-played us all the way through. Their front court did a great job blocking shots. I thought when the game was close [Bruce] Ellington, really made some key free throws and some key plays coming down the stretch. It was a hard-fought game; a game that they really out-performed us, and out-played us, and we now have the challenge of going there to play.”

He also realizes the Gators must mentally adjust to being successful and adapt accordingly. “There’s got to be a level of awareness and a step that we can make to understand what we got to do. We do have a very, very clear visual understanding that the team we are playing against beat us already – and beat us on our home court. We’ve got to understand why we got to do to get better,” Donovan said.

“They’ve got to understand very, very clearly what we have got to try to do against South Carolina. They are a great offensive rebounding team. They are a great shot-blocking team, and they are a team that takes a lot of three-point shots. Those things really, really hurt us. Our energy and our effort; emotionally, can we get to a level that we need to get to on Wednesday night to try and play at the very best of our ability?”

PARSONS’s RESURGENCE

Florida senior forward Chandler Parsons has improved his offense substantially over the past few games, but what he has done rebounding the ball has been equally impressive. Donovan notes that his growth in that area is simply due to putting himself in the right place at the right time and being aggressive.

“The biggest thing is, for any rebounder, he’s active. He makes the effort to go to the glass. When you are a small forward like he is, there is an advantage there for his size because he is on the perimeter a lot,” he said of Parsons. “It is a lot more difficult, believe it or not, for Vernon Macklin or [Alex] Tyus to rebound the ball when you are in a smaller space. For a guy like Chandler, who is playing on the perimeter, it’s a lot easier to see flights of balls and run in. The tendency when someone’s on the perimeter a lot of times is not to block them out, to lose sight, to be caught in a rotation. That gives him a lot of times the free run to go in there. It helps us when he defensive rebounds, because of his size he can start to break and run quickly without having to outlet the ball. He provides effort when he goes to the back board.”

GOOD DEFENSE MAKES UP FOR POOR SHOOTING

Junior point guard Erving Walker, perhaps the team’s best pure shooter at this point, continues to struggle at points either for portions of games or for full contests. Saturday was one of those nights as he went only 1-for-9 from the field (1-of-6 from downtown) and scored six of his nine points from the charity stripe. Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton has also had issues scoring this season, mostly stemming from his reliance on the three-pointer. Donovan believes that even though the duo may not be shooting as well as he’d like, what they’ve done on the other end of the floor has been huge.

“I thought [Walker] was really pretty good [Saturday],” he said. “I did not think that he forced very many shots; he took nine shots. He really tried on defense. He had a huge steal that he got fouled on when we were down. He ran our team. I did not think he got to a point where he was over-penetrating and trying to be too aggressive and make too many plays. He and Boynton, when the ball goes in or out, it is going to be kind of part of it with them. I do think both guys try at the other end of the floor. Boynton has been on some tough matchups these last couple of games. He gives it to me at the end of the floor; both those guys try to do that.”

QUOTES (After the break…)

On South Carolina blocking ability: “The blocks that we’ve got to eliminate or avoid is Erving Walker driving down the lane getting too deep, trying to shoot a floater over them; those aren’t good.”

On the Gators’ playing more like a team this year: “Sometimes what happens is we don’t give the opponent enough credit. What I mean by that is: Tennessee’s on their home floor with four or five minutes to go, down by six or eight…they are going to fight back. Same thing with Georgia, those teams are going to fight back. Sometimes you got to give those other team’s credit; they are not just going to roll over and die. Our guys have gotten better. The biggest thing when you are talking about the team concept part, for me, is an understanding of what a team is and an understanding of what goes into winning. For Macklin, Tyus and Parsons, those three people in particular, they had what I would consider somewhat rocky starts to their careers. Chandler had a real good freshman year; then maybe his sophomore year wasn’t quite what he had hoped for. Macklin, a McDonald’s All-American, he transfers from Georgetown with probably the expectation of being one-and-done. Alex Tyus has got to play out of position because we lose Marreese Speights. I don’t think you can really win and win big until your heart really gets broken. And then what happens is you find out how important winning really is to you. When you put a lot of time and energy into something and it doesn’t work out for you, I think there’s two kinds of players: there’s players that really battle and fight and try to figure it out, and then there’s other players you can see, ‘It’s just not that important to me. I like playing the game but the winning part is not out of that.’”

On his team’s success winning close games: “There is always a fine line between winning and losing, because we could be sitting here, ‘Coach, a lot of tough losses. Your team’s right there and you’ve fallen short.’ We are 7-2 and our league record could look totally different because we could of lost Georgia; we could have lost Tennessee; we could have lost Kentucky and we could have lost Vanderbilt. We could have lost all four of those games, and we didn’t.”

On trusting the bench: “I trust their effort. I trust we are going to get great effort. I don’t trust necessarily their experience because they don’t have a whole lot in certain situations. They are going to play hard; they are going to be aggressive; they are going to do a lot of those things and that is that you want as a coach. When you have guys playing really, really hard and they’re physical and they’re trying to do things that are going to put our team in a position to win, I’m a lot more comfortable putting guys in the game with that kind of understanding.”

On Parsons’s second-half against Kentucky: “Every player wants to win; you never come across a player or a team that says, ‘I don’t want to win.’ The question that needs to be asked is: ‘Do you hate losing more than you enjoy winning?’ Some guys don’t. What Chandler was doing in the game, he always plays hard; I’ve never, ever had a problem with Chandler’s effort. He has always been an aggressive hard-playing guy. He’s always wanted to win. It’s an understanding of what you got to do to win. He did some things defensively in the game when we were in a bind on some rotations that really provided a lot of great help. I was asking him during the first and second half, ‘Do you need to come out,’ but he didn’t say he needed to come out; he said he was fine. I do not know how many times in my career here that I’ve actually played a guy for 20-straight minutes, because that’s a hard thing to do.”

On Tyus: Like anything else, like most players, you always feel like you are in the flow of the game when the ball goes in the basket. [He] made his first couple of shots to start the second half, which probably helped him out defensively a little bit more. […] That’s an area that Alex has to get better at, because he hasn’t scored a lot and hasn’t shot the ball, but he is still athletic enough that he could do other things to really help our team.”

On the successful season so far and where he ranks the team: “Being 7-2 in first place, if you look at our league, especially our side, it’s all botched up. All of that’s going to play itself out. Our team has gotten better. We went through some different phases. Every player on your team has their own individual expectations of how the season is going to go for them, and it never goes like they think it’s going to go. Then what happens is there’s a level of disappointment that they experience. We were able to work through that, and we are becoming more of a team in terms of understanding how to utilize each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I know this is a coaching cliché: I think on any given night, we can play with anybody, and I think on any given night, a Jacksonville or a Central Florida can beat us. That’s who we are. However, I think we are a better team today then when we played those guys. I do not look at us as being a top-10 or top-20 team right now. You have to go out there and play the games, and hopefully our guys understand that there is such fine line right now, even for us.”

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