3/31: Florida vs. Michigan post-game report

By Adam Silverstein
March 31, 2013

The three-seed Florida Gators (29-8) collapsed in their most important game of the season on Sunday as they got routed 79-59 by the four-seed Michigan Wolverines (30-7) in the Elite Eight of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and a number of his players met with the media to discuss what transpired in their failed Final Four bid.

OPENING STATEMENT

“They capitalized on our turnovers. I thought we dug ourselves a hole very early in the game. … I think in the first half we missed 11 shots within three feet of the basket. They got off to a hot start and us not being able to manufacture enough points I thought really, really dug us a hole. I thought we got the ball where we wanted to go. … But I thought our guys – to start the second half came out – we battled, we fought, but we hurt ourselves with the way we played. … I just didn’t think that we did enough things there on both ends of the floor. I thought our defense in the second half was a little bit more characteristic of the way we’ve played this year. I thought our offense in a lot of ways, because we had some very, very, I thought, good quality looks deflated us around the basket. Especially against a team that’s not a great shot blocking team.”

THIRD TIME IS NOT A CHARM

Florida became the first team in NCAA Tournament history (since the field expanded to 64 teams) to lose three-straight times in the Elite Eight. Yet while the Gators did drop the game, they did not even have the opportunity to choke it away like the previous two years because UF never led at any point in the game. In fact, once Michigan opened the contest on a 13-0 run, Florida never trailed by fewer than 11 points over the duration of the contest. It is for that reason why Donovan was not emotional after the game.

“This is a totally different feel than the last two. The last two to me we gave ourselves every opportunity to win,” he explained.

“The Butler game was an overtime game, the Louisville game was a two point game. This one we didn’t play well enough or deserve to win the game. Michigan deserved this game. They played better than us. They performed better. They did things that were necessary to beat us. The other two games I was heartbroken for our team because we were really, really close. We weren’t that close here [Sunday].”

Asked how, as a coach, it felt to lose in three-straight Elite Eights and not advance to the Final Four, Donovan brushed off those concerns. “Well, it’s not really about me. I’ve been fortunate enough to be there as a player and several times as a coach,” he said. “I feel more upset for [Kenny] Boynton, [Mike] Rosario and [Erik] Murphy, [guys] who don’t get a chance and have come so close. I’ve experienced the Final Four enough. I want our program to continue to experience it and our players.”

To their credit, the players also took the loss relatively well all things considering. Boynton kept his chin up about the situation, expressing his regrets but also his appreciation for what his teammates and coach have done for him.


“It’s disappointing. Honestly, it is disappointing not make it my senior season. To make it to the Elite Eight, that’s something, too. I’m proud of my team that we even made it this far,” he said. “I don’t know how the outside world is going to view it, but I’m proud we made it to three-straight Elite Eights. I wish we could have won three-straight years. But we didn’t. I’m not sure how you view that, but I think it’s a great accomplishment. I feel the loss. I’m just not showing it. [Time] fliys by. I’m happy. I don’t regret anything in staying these four years.”

He continued: “I’m honored to play for Coach Donovan. I think he’s the best coach in the country, what he’s accomplished. And I’ve played with great players, I’ve met some great people. [There are] players that play college basketball and never make it to the NCAA Tournament, so I’m honored to make it to three-straight Elite Eights. I’m proud of my team to come this far.”

Donovan also took a moment to put things in perspective.

“I think in life it’s all how you look at things. It’s all how you want to look at things. You can look at the fact that we came so close to getting to a Final Four, but I would tell you right now maybe more painful than losing an Elite Eight game is losing a National Championship game and I experienced that in 2000. You get that close,” he said.

“I think what happens is people deem this NCAA Tournament journey of different pinnacles. Getting out of the first round, getting to the Sweet 16, getting to the Final Four. At the end of the day for the people that are involved in it and coaching it, there’s no easy exit out of the tournament. And you’ve got to deal with everything; you’ve got to deal with the highs and the lows of the tournament.”

FAILING TO SHOW UP WHEN IT COUNTED

Murphy and junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin both did plenty of great things for Florida throughout the season but each failed to contribute positively during the Gators’ biggest game of the season.

For Murphy, it was his second-straight surprisingly bad performance but easily the worst of his entire career. He went 0-for-11 from the field (0-for-2 from downtown), did not get to the free throw line once and committed three turnovers. Wilbekin was just 1-for-6 while coughing up the ball times and not running the offense properly whatsoever.

“Obviously, Erik had a very, very difficult game. And I feel bad for him, being a senior, considering what he’s done throughout his career. We went to him early there, to start the game against [Glenn] Robinson. We felt like there was a size advantage and we could get some stuff there. He just never could really get it going,” Donovan said.

“And I think Scottie, also, even though he had seven assists, I thought he struggled at times offensively, just making some decisions and doing those things.”

Asked after the game what was going on with Murphy, junior center Patric Young did not have an answer as he sat dejected, looking at the floor while responding.

“I just felt bad for the guy because for your last game to go 0-for-[11]… I just feel terrible for him because I know he’s trying, I know he’s giving his best effort out there,” he said. “I don’t know what it was [Sunday], if it was confidence or just nerves or the pressure, but I just feel terrible for the guy.”

A SPECIAL SENIOR CLASS

Donovan and the seniors have spent plenty of time discussing one another but had one last opportunity to do so after Sunday’s game. Rosario looked back on his career (which was one year shorter than his classmates and only included two seasons of playing time) and visibly got emotional towards the end of his statement.

“This has been a wonderful season for me, Kenny and Murphy. Without the guys that’s behind us… This team was special this year. For me having the opportunity to play in the Elite Eight again and just to get this far – all the ups and downs I’ve been through personally here – this season was a special season for me,” he said. “I’m just thankful for these guys. Obviously Murphy and Kenny [and their support] and just Billy believing in me. I’m at a loss for words. It’s been a great year for me personally and individually and collectively. As this group knows, it’s a special group.”

Donovan added: “There’s a lot of really, really good things that these kids have done. And I’ll always be thankful and appreciative because they’ve always handled themselves with class, they’ve worked hard and given me everything they had. I wish our team could have played better [Sunday] for those guys. I wish they could walk out of that locker room and say we played our very best game, did our best and just came up short. I’m not taking anything away from Michigan, because they were terrific today.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on if the short turnaround (just more than 36 hours) affected his team’s performance: “I don’t think so. I think maybe you could talk about that if you had to play a back to back game. We had certainly plenty of time. We had probably maybe two or three hours less rest than Michigan had. Michigan also played an overtime game, we didn’t, on Friday night. So I don’t think that that was [an issue]. I think our guys were really excited to play. They wanted to play well. And sometimes you can want something too bad, maybe.”

» Boynton immediately after the crushing loss: “Right now, I just wish I could start the game over. … I really thought we were a great team, could get to the Final Four, but it didn’t happen and I wish Michigan luck.”

» Young on if the loss would play a part in his decision whether or not to turn pro: “No, this does not really affect my decision.”

» Rosario on the first half: “It was tough opening the game like that and those guys coming out striking the way they did, this wasn’t nothing new to us. We knew that they were going to be very efficient on the offensive end and I thought they did a great job overall. They did a great job on defense. They did a great job in transition. They made shots when they needed to make shots. Obviously when you’re down 20 points in the first half, it’s hard to bounce back with a very good offensive efficiency team like they are. We give them credit.”

» Rosario on the second half: “We came out with a lot of momentum in the second half, trying to get as many stops as we possibly could on the defensive end to try and chip back in the game. I feel like that’s what it was going to come down to. That was the halftime speech going out into the second half, we got to try to play three minutes of defense without them guys scoring. That was the goal. I just felt like they made plays when they needed to make plays and they knocked down shots when they had open shots.”

8 Comments

  1. Michael Jones says:

    Thank you, Adam, for doing a stellar job covering basketball. This site has become my lifeline for all things Gator sports.

    SIX DAYS UNTIL THE ORANGE AND BLUE GAME!! IT’S FOOTBALL SEASON, BABY!!! GOOOOO GATORS!!!!!!!

  2. Oldflyer says:

    I know that many will classify this as sour grapes, but I honestly thought the officiating was awful. Murph got hammered the first two times he tried to go to the basket with no call. It went on all game, with over the backs and arm grabs.

    I know that at this level, the team is supposed to adjust to how the game is called, but in some ways that is BS. Murph gets hammered and Patric gets two fouls in the first couple of minutes. That has to sow seeds of doubt about how to play the damn game.

    That having been said, UM was impressive and the Gators looked small and slow by comparison. UM was playing frosh and soph and the Gators were playing jrs and srs, but it looked the other way ’round.

    • Michael Jones says:

      I agree with everything you said. I don’t think the officiating is why we lost the game (and I don’t think you’re saying it is either), but I thought it was poor. As a whole, I don’t like the tournament officiating. They really reward over-aggressiveness on defense (e.g. see Louisville, who fouls on just about every fullcourt press turnover), plus the officials always give the call to an offensive player who jumps into a defensive player who has position. Drives me crazy.

      Even with poor officiating yesterday, we had our chances but seemed to be mentally in a fog (e.g. the bizarre sequences at the end of the 1st half). It’s been a long time since I remember us looking that confused and disoriented. It was almost surreal watching it. But, ultimately, I think we just got exposed. We’re not a top 4 team. Probably not even a top 8 team. We went about as far as a pretty favorable draw and circumstances (i.e. FGCU ambushing Georgetown) allowed.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        If you will recall we were beating Georgetown before the game was cancelled. It had nothign to do with the draw or getting exposed, for whatever reason, the team just wasn’t focused and into the game. We blew out most teams all season, with the 3rd most difficult non-conference schedule in the nation. We gave up more points than any other time this season and scored below our average on incredibly poor percentage. I can’t even keep count on how many layups were halfway down and rattled out. It was a poor performance in every facet of the game, and the team just couldn’t get it together, maybe the one and done stress got to them, who knows? I have no doubt that that team would beat Michigan as often or more than it would lose to them if they were playing up to the form they played early in the season.
        I think due to all the extended court time due to the lack of depth, and the injuries on top of it, this team just wore down and that showed in the end of the season, the conference tourney, and the last 2 games of the NCAA tourney.

  3. gatorboi352 says:

    This team is going to be absolutely loaded next year. Let’s break down potentials:

    1. K. Hill, S. Wilbekin, B. Ogbueze,
    2. S. Wilbekin, M. Frazier II, D. Graham (who could end up being our next Lee Humphrey)
    3. Finney-Smith, M. Frazier II, C. Prather, D. Walker
    4. W. Yeguete, C. Prather, C. Walker, Finney-Smith
    5. P. Young, D. Harris, W. Yeguete,

    • gatorboi352 says:

      Guys listed are in to particular starting order, as you can tell by my listing under the 3 spot. No way Finney-Smith starts over Prather.

  4. Ken (CA) says:

    Obama shot 2 for 24 in a game during the white house easter egg hunt today….better than some of our players yesterday….I wonder how many years of eligibility he has left!

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