Donovan’s halftime speech lights fire for Florida

By Adam Silverstein
February 22, 2012

The No. 11/12 Florida Gators started slow but pulled away from the Auburn Tigers in the second half of Tuesday night’s game, eventually routing their visitors 63-47.

Down 30-27 at the break after playing “careless” basketball including committing 12 turnovers and making a number of extremely poor decisions in the first half, the Gators received a stern talking to by head coach Billy Donovan in the locker room.

Senior point guard Erving Walker summed it up in three simple words: “You guys suck.”

Donovan was disappointed in his team not only for the turnovers but also because they played poor three-point defense and did not attack the boards on either end of the court.

“In the first half, there was nobody home mentally. We were slow reacting,” he said. “They beat us to a lot of loose basketballs and we were down by three. I think those guys realized that we got to kind of get going here a little bit.”

The first half ended with a microcosm of how the entire 20 minutes played out.

Rather than either trying to create a play or running the clock out as much as possible, Walker threw up and missed a long three-pointer that was rebounded and driven the entire length of the court for a buzzer-beating layup. Florida headed into the half down three, and Donovan knew he had to do something to help change his team’s fortunes.

“I spoke from my heart just how I felt about the way we played and what we did and what we needed to do,” he explained. “Those guys went out there and did it in the second half. They played very well and were able to get things turned around.”

Check out what Billy Donovan had to say to his team…after the break!

Donovan, even though he said he was not going to go into detail about his halftime speech, wound up explaining the gist of what he said to the team.

“We’re all privileged in that locker room — coaches, players, strength coaches, trainers — to have an opportunity to be at this school representing this school, wearing that jersey. There is something that goes along with wearing that jersey.

“If Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem and Matt Bonner and Kenyan Weeks and Brett Nelson and Joakim Noah and Al Horford are watching right now, what’s their feeling right now? Those guys gave their heart and soul to this program right now and that’s the way you’re representing our program right now with your effort and your focus and everything else? Beyond that, what are your families thinking right now?

“Sometimes what gets lost is they have to understand that it means something when Florida is across the jersey for me. There’s a lot of energy that went into this. We may not always play great, we may not always make every shot, we may not always play mistake-free. That’s part of the game. But you know what? We can play with a focus and a passion and energy that the people that are here that are watching us deserve to see, that they deserve to show to one another, that people that have played here in the past deserve to see and that means something.

“That’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable. Because the things that were going on in the game had nothing to do with [how the game was played].

“Erving Walker’s going to shoot the ball with eight seconds to go at the end of the half and then he’s going to look up at the clock and hope the clock runs out and lets Denson go drive in and take a lay-up?! Are you kidding me?! So, I don’t think that for me as a coach, I don’t think that’s that outrageous to ask.”

Walker and junior guard Kenny Boynton both listened to their coach agreed after the game that the Gators did not come out ready to play.

“We weren’t focused, and we were lacking energy,” Boynton admitted. “Twelve turnovers – that was also a factor. Luckily we came out in the second half and corrected it – started getting stops and hit some shots.”

The most important thing Florida did was listen to Donovan and correct their mistakes. The Gators outscored the Tigers 36-17 over the final 20 minutes and at one point took a 20-point lead thanks in part to 7-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc.

A complete game effort is always ideal but sometimes making the necessary and proper halftime adjustments is all a coach can ask for from his players.

EXTRA BIT

Though the injury to sophomore forward Will Yeguete (broken foot) is the most damaging for Florida, Donovan explained that he and sophomore center Patric Young (ankle tendinitis) are not the only players currently hobbled.

Sophomore point guard Scottie Wilbekin played Tuesday with a hyper extended knee, sophomore G Casey Prather missed shoot around with an ankle sprain, and redshirt freshman F Cody Larson has a bursa sac issue near his kneecap.

5 Comments

  1. El Meester says:

    Kenyon Weaks sighting! Haha, that’s just too awesome.

    The team definitely needed to hear that at the half. Impressed with the nice turnaround in the 2nd half. The Yeguete news just sucks.

  2. cline says:

    So Brutal to lose Will. Hopefully Murphy and Prather can fill in. I am not sure Larson is ready.

    • Tractorr says:

      Hopefully, Young can fill in. He really needs to step up his game. Man does this suck. I was worried about this team before Will went down and now I am terrified. He is the only guy on the team who ever seems to go after rebounds consistently. Everybody else seems to stand their and watch the ball half the time. Of course his “go get it” attitude is probably half the reason Will is hurt now.

      Feel better man.

  3. Ken (CA) says:

    Walker sums it up in 3 words, “You guys suck”…..he should look in the mirror, he makes some completely boneheaded decisions that completely turn games around sometimes, or feels the need to juack up a 30 foot 3 pointer with 30 seconds on the shot clock….

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