The three-seed Florida Gators (27-7) advanced to the round of 32 in the 2013 NCAA Tournament with a 79-47 take down of the 14-seed Northwestern State Demons (23-9) at the Erwin Center in Austin, TX. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and seniors guard Kenny Boynton and forward Erik Murphy met with the media to discuss what transpired on Friday evening.
The 11-seed Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the six-seed UCLA Bruins in the South Region’s final game of the second round on Friday. UF and Minnesota will go head-to-head on Sunday for the opportunity to advance to the Sweet 16. The Gators are 0-1 all-time against the Golden Gophers (falling 66-74 in the 1993 NIT) and Donovan is 10-14 all-time against head coach Tubby Smith (but holds a 6-0 record against his long-time foe in the last six meetings).
The game is set for 6:10 p.m. (EDT) on TNT. Tim Brando (play-by-play), Mike Gminski (color commentator) and Otis Livingston (sideline reporter) will be on the call.
Donovan, explaining what went right and wrong for Florida on Friday:
“The thing I was disappointed about in the first half was our defense; we did not do a great job. They shot over 50 percent from the field and I think 45 percent from three. And we did a much, much better job [in the second half]. I think some of that is when you’re playing a team for the first time and you haven’t really seen them before, there’s a little bit of an adjustment period, probably. And I thought our guys adjusted pretty well coming out of the half defensively.
“Then I thought we really defended well in the second half. We established inside. I thought Patric Young and Erik gave us really good post presence where we could get the ball and do good things around the basket. And I thought our back court and Kenny did a good job of finding them and getting them the ball. So it was a good win considering the fact that we came out of maybe a little bit of a slow half.”
Northwestern State head coach Mike McConathy:
“[I’m] really proud of our team for coming out and competing hard and some people would say, ‘Well, coach, you got whipped pretty good,’ but it’s all about competing and playing hard. We played against an extremely well-coached team. It’s quite obvious in Florida. Their bulk and strength over the course of the game just really got us in the second half when we got ourselves in a situation where we didn’t make shots. I think we had 12 empty possessions and they were going down and getting them. Murphy and Patric Young, they did well, very, very well. And we had a hard time on their ball screens. But I’m really proud of how hard our kids played. Just got to be big enough and strong enough to compete against the talented team and well-coached team like Coach Donovan has in Florida.”
DOMINATING THE PAINT
UF was clearly the better team on Friday, but the Gators’ size in the frontcourt was a huge advantage they had over the Demons. Florida won the rebounding battle 43-26 (16-6 on the offensive glass) and outscored Northwestern State in the paint 44-22.
“Patric Young was able to establish himself, so was Erik, we were able to get it inside. Will Yeguete got in there, he was 1 6 from the field, but he even got it deep and probably needed to do a better job finishing than he did,” Donovan explained. “We wanted everything to be taken to the basket first and then if they showed off penetration, then we can kick out and take threes. And I thought our guys made some really good, wise choices in both halves of doing that. We went to the basket.”
Murphy, the Gators’ best three-point shooter, said he was perfectly content to settle for shots around the basket. He finished with a game-high 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting (2-of-3 from downtown) to go along with eight rebounds.
“Offensively, whatever’s there, I try to take advantage of,” he said. “The ball got inside [Friday] to me and Patric Young and we just did a good job of finishing around the rim. And guards got us the ball in good positions and that’s what worked [Friday].”
Young posted 16 points and a game-high nine boards but continued to struggle from the free throw line, going 4-for-10 from the charity stripe. Young is shooting 37 percent from the line (10-for-27) over the last four games. He also appeared gassed in the early going on Friday, but Donovan said he was not worried about his conditioning.
“It probably took him a little while to get going. I thought we did a good job of establishing him up front,” Donovan said. “He was 6-for-10 from the field and I actually thought he missed some easy shots around the basket. But we got it to him in good areas of the floor. I think that his being winded was probably just normal. [...] I tried to sub him pretty frequently in the first half to get him a quick rest and put him back in.”
BOYNTON HITS ANOTHER MILESTONE
With 11 points on Friday, Boynton became the second player in program history to eclipse 2,000 points for his career. His 2,006 points rank only behind Ronnie Williams (2,090) in the UF record books. Boynton would need to average 18 points per game (and have Florida reach the NCAA Tournament finals) in order to tie Williams.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” he said after the game.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan on a high number of upsets occurring this year: “It’s amazing to me. Every year there are upsets, as people like to put it. I don’t know why anybody’s surprised any more. Everybody that’s in this NCAA Tournament is a really, really good team. And if you don’t play well, you’re going to probably have a hard time winning the game. So I just talked to our guys, more than anything else, that when the ball goes up in the air and it’s tipped to start the game, there’s no extra points we get for being a higher seed. We don’t start the game 10 0, there’s no extra benefits from being that. It’s two teams lining up and playing. [...] In this tournament, anything can happen on any given night. It’s just, that’s just the way the tournament’s always been. And it will continue to be that way. And that’s what makes this tournament so great and so special.”
» Murphy on Florida winning the rebounding battle by a large margin: “A big thing for us is rebounding. That’s one of the keys to defense. If you guard and make teams miss, you got to rebound and end the defensive possession. And I think that as long as we have a mindset that it’s the whole team, it’s not just the front court guys, it’s the whole team. I think if we have that mindset of just ending defensive possessions with rebounds, I think we can do that.”
» Donovan on the pace of the game: “That’s just the way we want to play. I was never concerned going into this game about the pace of the game. That didn’t concern me. [...] The pace I thought was fine for us, we wanted to play just as fast as they did.”
» Murphy on if Northwestern State’s pace bothered Florida in the first half: “I think one thing was we got back in transition a lot better and got matched up. They were hurting us a little bit in transition. We just came together as a team and decided we were going to get stops. And when we play together on defense, we play well. It’s tough for teams to score.”