NCAA Tournament: Florida’s postgame thoughts

By Adam Silverstein
March 18, 2011

Shortly after the No. 2-seed Florida Gators wiped the floor with the No. 15-seed UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 79-51, a handful of players and head coach Billy Donovan participated in the postgame press conference OGGOA has compiled some of the choice notes and quotes from the media availability.

EXPLOSIVE FIRST HALF SETS TONE

Florida started hot out of the gate on Thursday, taking a 10-1 advantage in the first few minutes of the game and extending it from there. Donovan noted that it was the team’s pre-game preparation that helped them achieve their goal of winning their first contest and advancing. “We came out and we played well in the first half. We had a lot of balance,” he said. “Our offense was good, but we really did a good job defensively. […] This is the first time where this is season-ending stuff right now. They came in very focused, and they learned some valuable lessons from the Kentucky game of what they needed to do better. Their focus coming in, and their preparation for the two-or-three days that we had leading into the game, was very good.”

Junior point guard Erving Walker and some of his teammates echoed Donovan’s sentiments. “This is a whole new season,” he said. “We wanted to come out focused, work hard and play hard. We did a good job of that tonight.” Sophomore point guard Kenny Boynton deflected the notion that the Gators were looking to make a statement. “We just came out and we wanted to focus on winning,” he said. We wanted to block out what everyone was saying. We just wanted to come out and play our best game overall – offensively and defensively.”

For senior forward Chandler Parsons, spreading the ball around (he had eight of the team’s 15 first-half assists) was the key. “It was definitely important to get off to a good start. My guards really found me and I was fortunate enough to knock down some shots early,” he said. “We just kept moving the ball great in the first half; I think we had 15 assists in the first half, which is really good. We just wanted to keep pushing the ball, play smart and limit silly turnovers and things that we can control. Just keep playing unselfish like we have been all season long.”

Boynton was also proud of how Florida performed overall to start the game. “This is definitely one of our best first halves. After the Kentucky game, we wanted to come out and start a game off with good team chemistry,” he said. “In the first half, we moved the ball well, we got good shots, we hit open guys. We worked inside-and-out. On defense we also did a great job making it tough for those guys to score.”

[EXPAND Click to expand the remainder of this post.]SHOOTING EFFICIENCY MARKEDLY IMPROVED

Less than a week after one of their worst shooting performances of the year, the Gators found their groove once again, shooting better than 70 percent from the floor most of the first half before tailing off around 58 percent to open the game and 54.7 percent overall. Walker was pleased with how the backcourt performed but recognized that Florida needs to do more than just shoot well. “It always feels good to hit shots, but like coach said, we’re focusing on defense,” he said. “We just want to take good shots; we know it’s not going to go in every night. But as long as we play good defense, we’ll stay in the game.”

Asked if the Gators can play this way against better competition, Parsons noted that it was Florida’s relentlessness that was actually the key. “We didn’t stop. Once we were playing well, hitting shots, playing unselfish, we just kept going. We didn’t let up. We didn’t let them come back in the game and we kept our foot on the gas,” he said. “That’s something we need to have, that killer instinct. When we get leads on teams, we can’t afford to let them come back. We’ve got to keep playing for 40 minutes.”

For Donovan, it was the shot selection of Walker and Boynton that really made the difference. “Erving, in the Kentucky game, really needed to understand that, with some of the length and size that he goes against, that there’s other things he can do to really affect the game,” he said. “Because he was scoring so heavily in the SEC Tournament, when we were struggling to score, he was trying to do too much offensively and not letting the game come to him. [Thursday] he scored but it didn’t look like he took very many shots. Kenny was patient and then all of a sudden there were a couple plays where the ball really moved quickly and next thing you know the ball ends up in his hands.”

QUOTES

Donovan on his team’s mindset moving forward: “These guys understand what’s at stake. They realize that, ‘OK, what happened today margin of victory – that’s not going to be the case the next game.’”

Donovan on if he was frustrated having not won a NCAA Tournament game since 2007: “The one thing that’s hard for me to absorb or take or create a level of peace is… I knew after those national championship teams that we were starting over. It has been very difficult. It has been very challenging. It has also been very rewarding being part of a group of guys and trying to help them understand what it takes to win at this level.”

Donovan on his team’s ball movement: “Our ball movement was very good, and I thought we had a stretch there where we really moved the ball at a very high level. We were pretty crisp with our passing and our ball movement and we found open people. Guys had their heads up, the vision was there, and we were able to utilize inside-out action and able to get some of our shooters open looks.”

Boynton on his defensive effort: “Coming into the game, my focus was to make [Orlando] Johnson take tough shots.”

Walker on finally winning a NCAA Tournament game: “This is huge just for us to come out and get the loss out of our brains. We just wanted to come out here and play hard and this should lead us into [UCLA].”

Parsons on finally winning a NCAA Tournament game: “It feels good. This is our first one. No one on our team has ever got one, so it definitely feels good to get one. We’re not satisfied. We don’t just want to come here and win one game. We want to make some noise. It feels good right now, we’re going to celebrate, but we can’t get too happy because we’re on a mission and we got another game here coming up Saturday.”

Parsons on the team’s defensive effort: “We did a really good job following the scouting report, knowing what they were going to run and their actions. KB and our guys did a good job on Johnson, not giving him easy looks.”

Parsons on if he knew he was within reach of a triple-double: “I saw it. People were talking about it close to the end of the game. It was more important for our guys to get rest than me to do something like that. They were definitely talking about it, but it really doesn’t matter to me. The win is much more important than anything I can do.”[/EXPAND]

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