3/28: Florida and FGCU prepare for Sweet 16

By Adam Silverstein
March 29, 2013

The three-seed Florida Gators (28-7) advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA Tournament and will face the (15) Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (26-10) on Friday at 9:57 p.m. live on TBS from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. On Thursday, both coaches and their players met with the media to discuss Friday’s showdown.

FAMILIARITY MAKES MATCH-UP EVEN BETTER

While on the surface it looks like Florida and FGCU would have no reason to know much about one another, the relationship between the head coaches makes the Gators and Eagles a more intimate match-up than most realize.

In fact, Billy Donovan and Andy Enfield are so familiar with each other that the two discussed running a scrimmage between their teams before the season began, something that obviously did not come to fruition.

“Andy had called me wanting to try to get together to scrimmage. At that time, we were looking at a couple options. They were one,” Donovan explained. “One of the things that I was really looking at as a coach going into our scrimmage was our first game of the year was against Georgetown. Just going against that Princeton style of play – and also having Air Force on our schedule as well – that’s a unique system and style of play that you don’t normally see. At that time, I decided that we needed to play against Rollins in the scrimmage to get us prepared for the Georgetown game.”

Donovan said that as part of the conversation, Enfield bragged about his team and said he expected them to have much-improved chemistry in their third year.

“I know in talking to Andy on the phone, I’m not one bit surprised of the year they’ve had because when I had a conversation with him, he was telling me how really good they were and how special he thought his team could be and that he had a lot of really good players and they were going to have a really good year,” Donovan said. “What they’ve done up to this point in time hasn’t surprised me just based on my conversation with him back in early September and October.”

Enfield is especially familiar with Florida – the team and its players – considering the job he held prior to taking over the FGCU program.

“I was an assistant at Florida State for five years. We played Florida every year. I got to see Coach Donovan, his brilliance, and see what a great coach he was as we prepared for the team,” Enfield said. “He makes adjustments during the year, during the season and even during the game. He’s as good a coach as I’ve ever seen. And the players, I know them personally because I recruited a lot of them while I was at Florida State. They’re terrific young men. I know their families. It’s very ironic that we’re playing Florida in the Sweet 16. I blame this on the Selection Committee. This should be a Final Four game, not a Sweet 16 game. [Laughing]”

GATORS NOT UNDERESTIMATING THE UNDERDOG

Florida is not heading into Friday’s game looking at their opponent as a high seed lucky to have advanced this far. Instead, the Gators see the Eagles as a formidable opponent and have been planning for them as such.


“You don’t get to the Sweet 16 unless you’re really good. I think the only thing that surprising to me about them is that they’re a 15-seed. They’re way, way better than that,” Donovan said. “For us, just watching them on film and they’re playing at a very high level, they’ve played exceptional here in the postseason. In order to be a good team, you have to do a lot of different things. You can’t be good at one thing.”

Donovan’s message has obviously reached his players because redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario conveyed a similar sentiment when asked about FGCU on Thursday.

“We commend those guys a lot for the success that they have had, going on the road and beating Miami at Miami and beating Mercer at Mercer, and taking down a very good team, Georgetown. That tells you a lot about their team right there with those three wins,” he said. “It’s nothing new to us. It’s just another good team we have to prepare for. And the most important thing going into this game, you have to know a scout report. You have to know all the guys that’s coming in and out of the game and who you’re guarding, that’s your position, and what spot you need to be in on the floor on the defensive end. I feel like those are a lot of things we can control. So I feel like if we take advantage of that we’ll be OK.”

Asked Wednesday if his experience playing another Cinderella in George Mason a few years ago has helped Florida prepare for this contest, Donovan shook off the possibility. He also said that the Gators going into the game as the villain in the eyes of the nation is not something the team can be concerned about.

“Those are all things that we have no control over. What we have control over is stuff that we have to do in the game. We’ve got to be prepared to play against a really good team,” he said.

According to UF junior center Patric Young, the team is prepared no matter what the atmosphere is like on Friday. “[Donovan] said he knows it’s going to be a road game for us [Friday], pretty much. Everyone in the building is going to want to see them go on. The Kansas and the Michigan fans, they don’t want to see us coming and play one of their teams, so they’re going to cheer against us as well. We just got to go in, take care of business and do our jobs.”

Yet no matter what the Gators said this week, for some reason, Eagles point guard Brett Comer could not get the thought out of his head that Florida was somehow underestimating FGCU. “They are obviously the higher seed. They’re the well-known school, the well-known players and team. I feel like, you know, honestly deep down they might not be taking us as seriously, just like other teams, because we weren’t the high-recruited guys,” he said Thursday.

STOPPING COMER AND DEFENDING THE LOBS

One of the best defensive teams in the nation, Florida is skilled at taking away what their opponents do best. On Friday, the Gators will be tasked with stopping Comer’s effectiveness and limiting the Eagles’ ability to score via the alley-oop dunk.

Stopping Comer from shredding Florida’s defense will be the first task, one that will primarily fall on the shoulders of junior PG Scottie Wilbekin (who should have some help from senior guard Kenny Boynton).

“I think he has a great vision,” Boynton said Thursday. “Basically I think the main thing with us is staying in front of our man. He’s a great passer but to prevent it you’ve got to stand in front of your man. They make a lot of cuts, you can’t let a person get backdoor on you and make it easier for them.”

Donovan is impressed with what he has seen from Comer on film and was well aware of his talent because he got the opportunity to watch him a lot in high school while he was recruiting teammate Austin Rivers.

“He’s done this all year long. For people that have not had a chance to see him play, he to me is one of the better passing point guards there is in college basketball. He’s got good size, strong body, he sees a lot of different things. He reads defense as well as anybody I’ve seen,” Donovan said.

“We had a player several years ago at Florida named Nick Calathes, who had great vision as well. And there’s just a special ability and talent that he has in doing that. So, you know, we’re going to have to really do a great job against him as best we can, and it can’t be against one person because if you start running two people at him, start rotating certain ways, he’s really good at seeing and picking apart what he’s doing. And for us, again, it’s going to be a collective job by everybody.”

The Gators will also be looking to take away the alley-oops and dunks that the Eagles have made a name for themselves with over the last two games. Though Florida will not be able to eliminate them completely, Donovan understands how FGCU puts the plays into motion and believes he has a plan to at the very least reduce the quantity of successful finishes.

“The one thing I would say is that they are outstanding in transition. They get out on a break, they push it really hard,” he said. “When you got a point guard that’s got that kind of vision and can make pinpoint passes like that, it takes their team to a different level. In transition where they do get a lot of those lobs, you got to do a really good job getting back in transition and taking care of the basketball and doing those kinds of things. Because when they get out and they space it with their speed and quickness, they are really, really good on the break, putting the ball up around the rim. And they’ve got athletic front court guys and wing players that can go up and get it and finish.”

Senior forward Erik Murphy appeared a bit less concerned about the Eagles’ propensity for dunking the ball, noting that he would rather live with the long ball and put more points on the board.

“Obviously they’re really athletic across the front line. But my dad always told me dunks [are] worth two points,” he said. “We’ve just got to try to take one of those easy baskets. But a dunk, layup, two points, the same thing. Those plays energize them, though, so we want to try to limit them.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on playing FGCU: “We’re really excited to have the opportunity to continue to play, excited about playing against Florida Gulf Coast and congratulations to them advancing, as well. It should be an exciting game [Friday]. And I know our guys are looking forward to the challenge and it should be a great one for us.”

» Enfield on playing Florida: “We have an extremely challenging game Friday night against one of the best teams in the country. We’re going to try to play as hard as we can and see what happens.”

» Donovan on his relationship with Enfield: “I’ve obviously known Andy for a long time, him working with the Boston Celtics and then obviously going to Florida State as an assistant and being in the state here for a while. I’ve always had a good relationship with Andy. I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a person and as a coach. And he’s obviously done a terrific job there.”

» Enfield on how the Eagles feel heading into the game: “Our team chemistry is at an all time high. What you’re seeing is genuine. They enjoy being here; they enjoy playing the game of basketball.”

» Donovan on basketball talent coming out of the state: “I’ve always said the state of Florida is a great state as it relates to basketball. I totally understand that maybe football recruiting gets seen maybe in a different light with Miami, Florida State and Florida and even South Florida. But I think the one thing, when you look at players that have come out, whether it be a Kenny Boynton or an Austin Rivers, there’s been terrific players that have come out of this state. Udonis Haslem and Brent Wright that we’ve had, kids that have played very well. … I think that this is a very, very, very good state as it relates to basketball at the high school level. And I think this state is very fortunate that we have some very good high school coaches in the state of Florida.”

» Donovan on recruiting Comer out of high school: “He was always a very good passer. They came to our camp when they both were young. … I thought he was a very, very good player. For us with Austin at that time being committed, with Brad Beal right around the corner, Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, our backcourt, we had a lot of depth there. Our focus was our front court. He was a very good player. Actually, Matt McCall, who is on our staff now, left Florida and went to Florida Atlantic, and he thought so much about him he offered him a scholarship. And he originally signed to go down there. He’s always been a very good player.”

» Young on the FGCU pep rally: “We didn’t react to it at all. We said, if that’s what they got to do, that’s what they got to do to get motivated for the game.”

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