11/15: Florida at Ohio State post-game notes

The No. 7/8 Florida Gators played their first road game of the 2011-12 season on Tuesday evening, falling 81-74 to the No. 3/3 Ohio State Buckeyes at Value City Arena in Columbus, OH. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some Florida players discussed the contest they just played.

DISPARITY OF TURNOVERS, FREE THROWS DOOM GATORS

A lot can be said about Tuesday’s clash between Florida and Ohio State, but two areas in which the Gators were noticeably deficient were in hanging onto ball and taking advantage of their opportunities at the charity stripe. UF coughed the ball up nine times in the first half and on seven more occasions after the break. OSU, on the other hand, only turned the ball over seven times the whole game.

“That allowed them to really get back in the game,” Donovan said of the miscues. “We had a stretch where [Mike] Rosario turned it over twice and our backcourt, I thought, turned it over way too much. Any time you turn the ball over, that’s not good playing on the road against a good offensive team. The turnovers on the road certainly hurt you. It’s going to be good for our guys to watch the film.”

Freshman guard Brad Beal was the worst offender with a game-high five turnovers, but senior point guard Erving Walker gave the ball up three times (officially), as did sophomore G Kenny Boynton. Walker and Boynton also combined to go just 4-for-9 from the free throw line, something Donovan blamed on himself.

“We have not shot enough – as much as we need to,” he said about free throw drills during practice. Donovan noted that more time had not been spent on those shots because the team had been doing too much preparation early in the season with installations and trying to perfect other areas of their game.

Florida missed eight free throws and shot just 61.9 percent from the line.

POOR SHOT SELECTION HURT MOMENTUM

The Gators started the game on fire and used the hot hand of junior forward Erik Murphy to jump ahead 14-6 after he hit his third three. Then things started to fall apart, and it appeared to start with Florida rushing possessions and taking bad shots.

“As the game wore on in the first half, we were taking too many shots too quick,” Donovan said. “We didn’t make good decisions of what was open and what was available to take advantage of. We got into some quick shooting, certainly in the second half we did, which allowed them to open up the game.

“When we moved the ball side-to-side and really got it popping around there – the ball was moving and we were getting penetration, kick-outs, inside and out, we were very effective scoring. When the first guy tried to make a play, it usually resulted in something bad.”

Though others were also to blame, Walker certainly took some bad shots early in the game. He finished 1-for-6 from the field and 0-for-3 from downtown with just four points.

“Erv got off to a tough night shooting. One of the things that he can learn from and grow from is an understanding…for Erving when things are not going great for him, there’s still so many other things he can do for our team,” Donovan insisted. “He’s such a good, solid player. He’s made a lot of big shots, and he’s done a lot of great things for us.

“But he’s got to understand that as a catalyst back there, he’s got to almost show a disposition and attitude of great mental toughness that is not going to break or wilt at all. As a senior, he has such high expectations for himself that he probably at times puts too much on his shoulders. He’s got to understand that he’s got a bunch of guys with him that can help.”

YOUNG PLAYED WELL BY NOT STANDING UP TO SULLINGER

Apparently a conversation with former Gators star Joakim Noah helped Young prepare for the task of defending 2010 Freshman of the Year Jared Sullinger. Young said the two spoke before the game and Noah communicated to him that he had to change his shape in order to play better defense against such a talented player.

“A lot of guys lull themselves to sleep and just stand and give him opportunities to duck them in. I had the mindset, I talked to Joakim Noah earlier, [he told me] ‘Pat, you stand up too much on defense. You stand straight up. If you stand up like that, any post player in the country will duck you in,’” Young recalled. “Coach Donovan has really been emphasizing position on me as well. So this game I really focused on staying low. Every time he came on offense he was going to feel my presence. I was going to let him know I was there and not give him anything easy.”

Sullinger scored 16 points on Tuesday but only hit 50 percent of his shots (half of his points came from the free throw line though Young only committed two fouls in the game). Donovan noted that Young defended him quite well.

“Overall I thought Pat’s size and strength against him was a big help. [Sullinger] never really got deep, deep post position where he could just catch, turn and score,” he said. “I got a lot of respect and admiration for [Young] as a frontcourt player to play and battle against Sullinger and only really get one shot off and play with that energy. I was proud that he never got frustrated in the game and just kept playing.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on how Ohio State got separation in the second half: “We got off to a really good start, which I think you want to do on the road, and then it went back-and-forth. Our defense in the first half was really good. We let Sullinger get to the free throw line a little too much, but I thought we did a nice job on him as a team and I thought Pat did a good job. We, for a period of time there, shots were not going in for us and we needed to have a better resiliency in terms of that we need to go back and play defense. When you play good teams and go on the road, you got to have something to fall back on when shots aren’t going. Maybe the first eight minutes we were shooting 29 percent and they were up around 60 [percent] that enabled them to get it around 8-10-12 and we were trying to fight back.”

» Donovan on OSU PG Aaron Craft: “Clearly he dominated the game from start to finish. He was the whole key to me in the game. More importantly, he really did it defensively. He physically beat up our guards. I’m not saying that our guards got fouled – it was totally within the context of the rules of the game. He physically manhandled our guards I thought, and he did it against everybody. Steals, strips, loose balls, drives – he’s as good as any guard there is out there. I’ve got a lot of respect and admiration for him because he’s a tough, hard-nosed kid who probably does not get the respect in my opinion that he deserves.”

» Beal on the Buckeyes: “We were caught off guard at times where we weren’t guarding the ball well enough. They really just played better than our guards.”

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No. 3 Ohio State tops No. 8 Florida 81-74

The No. 7/8 Florida Gators flew to Columbus, OH looking for a signature victory early in the season against a new rival and one of the top teams in the country.

Florida (1-1) did not succeed to that end but held serve against the No. 3/3 Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0), falling 81-74 in a Global Sports Shootout game on Tuesday night.

Ohio State senior guard William Buford led all scorers with 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting, and Buckeyes sophomore center Jared Sullinger contributed 16 points and five rebounds in his team’s winning effort.

Florida opened the contest with an early 8-2 lead and jumped ahead 14-6 with 14:07 left in the first half after junior forward Erik Murphy hit his third-straight shot from downtown.

It did not take long for Ohio State to answer as OSU took advantage of nine first-half UF turnovers and outscored the Gators 10-3, holding a 35-32 lead at the break.

The Buckeyes came out firing in the second half, scoring five unanswered points and using a 15-6 run to take a 12-point lead with 13:42 remaining. Ohio State put their foot on the pedal at that point, eventually going up a game-high 16 points with under eight minutes to play.

Florida, however, refused to go away. Freshman G Brad Beal scored five quick points on a trey and layup, and Murphy put back a missed layup by Beal to complete a 7-0 run that cut UF’s deficit to single digits, 64-55.

The Gators were unable to maintain their newly found momentum, allowing OSU to keep a significant lead for the remainder of the contest. Junior G Kenny Boynton hit a pair of threes with less than a minute to play, but it was too little too late for Florida.

Beal led the Gators with 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting (3-for-7 from downtown) but also coughed up a game-high five turnovers.

Sophomore C Patric Young, tasked with guarding Sullinger all evening, finished 14 points and 12 rebounds for his second-straight double-double. Boynton and Murphy also scored in double figures, contributing 15 and 14 points, respectively.

Senior point guard Erving Walker, tasked by head coach Billy Donovan to be a game manager this year, had four assists, three turnovers and six rebounds. He scored just four points and was 1-for-6 from the field (0-for-3 from beyond the arc).

Florida went 11/22 from downtown on the evening and outrebounded Ohio State 34-25 (10-5 offensive) but gave up nine more turnovers (16-7) and hit 14 fewer free throws (27-13). UF shot just 61.9 percent from the line compared to 79.4 percent by OSU.

The Gators have less than 48 hours to prepare for their next opponent as they are set to return home to take on North Florida on Thursday at 8 p.m. The game will air live on FOX Sports Florida; check your local listings for availability.

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No. 8 Florida Gators at No. 3 Ohio State Gameday

Event: Global Sports Shootout
Location: Value City Arena – Columbus, OH [Capacity: 18,809]
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2/ESPN2HD
SiriusXM: 85
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(8) FLORIDA GATORS (3) OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Thad Matta
Record: 1-0 Record: 1-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big Ten
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +10, O/U 136.5

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before the big game? No problem. OGGOA has been here all season long compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam Tuesday night at 8 p.m.

Allen’s Alley: Previewing the 2011-12 Gators | The Countdown: 35-23, 15-1

Ohio State pre-game | Jackson State post-game | UF routs JSU by 40

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Ohio State leads the all-time series against Florida 4-7. The Gators are winless against the Buckeyes in Columbus, OH (0-3) but are 2-2 all-time against them under the stewardship of Donovan. UF defeated OSU 84-75 to win the 2007 NCAA Championship.
» Florida and Ohio State won their respective conferences in 2010-11.
» UF and OSU are each without three starters from a year ago. The Gators no longer have Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus or Vernon Macklin, while the Buckeyes are missing Dallas Lauderdale, David Lighty and Jon Diebler.
» Florida has never defeated an opponent ranked in the top three in a true road game and has not taken down one ranked No. 4 or better in such a contest since 1988.
» The Gators won their 21st consecutive season opener last week.
» Florida is 7-7 against Big Ten teams under Donovan.
» Ohio State is returning four of their top six scorers from a year ago.
» The Gators won three out of every four road games they played in 2010-11 and captured eight true road victories for the first time since 1993-94.
» Florida has made a three-pointer in 652 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» UF has the best winning percentage against ranked opponents (.558) among SEC teams dating back to 1999-2000.
» Tuesday’s game is part of the Global Sports Shootout, in which five teams each play four games against common opponents to begin the season.
» Ohio State has held 11-straight opponents under 67 points.
» The Buckeyes are 81-5 at home against non-conference opponents.
» OSU is 33-5 in November under Matta.
» Ohio State was 19-0 at home in 2010-11, shot 50 percent from the field on their court, outscored opponents by 24.1 points per game and outrebounded them by 6.1 boards.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and Ohio State squared off one year ago in the first contest of a home-and-home series scheduled between the two teams. The Gators held a three-point advantage heading into the locker rooms but were outscored 55-34 in the second half, falling 93-75 in Gainesville, FL. Jared Sullinger and David Lighty each scored 26 points for the Buckeyes, which dominated the latter portion of the game by playing from the inside out. Ohio State was able to take advantage of Florida’s press and knocked down 24-of-34 shots in the second half to take the lead and eventually earn the victory. Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 21 points on an efficient 8-of-14 shooting (5-for-8 from downtown), and three other UF players including Chandler Parsons, Erving Walker and Vernon Macklin scored in double figures.

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Senior point guard Erving Walker (#11)…who is the longest tenured player on the team having appeared in 108 consecutive games with 47-straight starts. A shoot-first player much of his career, Walker has been tasked with distributing the ball and managing the game this year. He is the SEC’s active leader in points (1,340), minutes (3,222) and treys (217) but also ranks second in assists (381) and steals (123) as well as third in free throws (329). Walker is No. 24 on the school’s all-time scoring list and No. 5 in field goals made and attempted (567).
» Junior guard Kenny Boynton (#1)…who is a dynamic scorer and just the second starter returning from a year ago. Boynton is working on his consistency this season and hopes to shoot better than he did a year ago (38.5 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from downtown). He is the best defender on the Gators and is often put on the opponent’s best backcourt playmaker. Boynton currently ranks fifth in the SEC among active players in points (1,001) and fourth in three-pointers (152).
» Freshman G Brad Beal (#23)…who is starting at the three for Florida fresh out of high school. Beal was the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year, one of the top five players in the country, and is arguably the most talented player to sign with the Gators since Donovan took over. He averaged 32.5 points, 5.7 boards, 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game as a high school senior.
» Sophomore center Patric Young (#4)…who joins the starting lineup this year after being the primary frontcourt reserve as a freshman. Young saw action in all 37 games as a freshman, averaging 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in limited action. He achieved his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 boards in the season opener.
» Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (#3)…who is finally playing for Florida after transferring out of Rutgers and sitting out the 2010-11 season. Rosario scored more than 1,000 points in two seasons with his former team and averaged 16.7 points per game during his sophomore year. He is the Gators’ de facto sixth man and will see starter’s minutes each contest.

OHIO STATE
» C Jared Sullinger (#0)…who returns for his second season after being named Freshman of the Year during his rookie campaign and a preseason All-American as a sophomore. Sullinger averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 boards a year ago while posting 26 points on 13-of-17 shooting against Florida in Gainesville. He has already scored in double figures 35 times in his career including in Ohio State’s season opener.
» G William Buford (#44)…who is the Buckeyes’ elder statesman in his fourth year and is the only player on Ohio State with more than one year of playing experience. Ranked No. 21 on OSU’s all-time scoring list, Buford has 1,437 career points in 107 games (13.4 average) and was the team’s leading scorer during the 2009-10 season.
» PG Aaron Craft (#4)…who led Ohio State in assists (177) and steals (73) last year while also averaging 6.9 points. Craft was called one of the best players at his position by Donovan, who was impressed with his work off the bench last season.

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11/14: Donovan, Boynton, Young talk Ohio State

With No. 7/8 Florida Gators basketball set to take on the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes Tuesday evening in Columbus, OH, head coach Billy Donovan, junior guard Kenny Boynton and sophomore center Patric Young met with the media Monday to discuss what preparations have been made for the first road game of the season.

CONTAINING SULLINGER IS PRIORITY NO. 1

When it comes to preparing for Ohio State, center Jared Sullinger always stands out on film as the most dominant player on the court. Like most teams, Florida will do what it can to reduce the effectiveness of a player who averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game just one season ago.

“We’ve faced enough big, strong, physical guys. The thing with Sullinger to me that makes him great is he has a great basketball IQ and he’s very smart. He understands how to play. He’s a really good passer. He understands how to play angles. He’s a very good offensive rebounder. He’s a good decision maker and can certainly score inside and out,” Donovan said Monday.

“People talk about his size, but the thing that’s never talked about when you watch him on film…I have a great deal of respect for him because he really understands the game. He reminds me of a throwback guy from a long, long time ago.”

Sullinger and Gators sophomore C Patric Young are quite familiar with each other from their days in AAU basketball. Though they did not go head-to-head much when the Buckeyes came to Gainesville, FL last Nov. 16, Sullinger’s 26 points (on 13-of-17 shooting) and 10 boards that evening undoubtedly stood out and made him an even bigger target this year.

“The game plan is to keep him off the boards, not let him get anything easy,” Young said of Sullinger. “He’s a good player, and he’s going to a few score points here and there. Don’t let him get anything easy. He scores a lot of points off of offensive rebounds, so keep him off of that. Everyone just contain their other guys.”

Young realizes Tuesday night’s game is not just about his personal competition with Sullinger and plans to play within himself throughout the contest.

“I keep realizing that the game is not about me; it’s about our team. Picking up dumb fouls isn’t really good because we’re short in our frontcourt this year. It would be bad if I picked up a dumb foul trying to make the game about me,” he said.

Florida sophomore guard Kenny Boynton likes what he has seen from Young in practice this week and is confident in his ability to make an impact Tuesday. “Pat has been more focused this week, definitely focused on getting better position in the low post,” he said. “I think he’s ready.”

NEW LOOK LINEUPS THIS SEASON

The series between UF and OSU may be going strong but there has been plenty of turnover since it began a few years ago. Just between 2010-11 and 2011-12, each team has lost three starters heading into the contest.

The Gators, of course, will be without their three forwards – Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin – while the Buckeyes no longer feature Dallas Lauderdale, David Lighty and Jon Diebler. Florida sees this as an advantage heading into Tuesday’s contest.

“They don’t have the same leadership hey had in Lighty and Diebler last year, but they’re still a good team,” Young said. We feel we have an opportunity to disrupt those guys because their chemistry isn’t as good as it was last year.”

Boynton thinks UF’s defense will be the most improved.

“Watching our team on film last year, we did not play defense very well at all last year. I feel that the defensive presence for this team is a lot better than the team last year,” he said. We had to elevate our team’s level to a really high level at the end of the year last year, and I think now we’re better than that team.

“We are going there for the win this year. It’s going to be on the road; they beat us at our home last year. We’re definitely looking forward to getting the win this year.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on the Florida-Ohio State series: “I think it’s been really good hopefully for them because I know it’s been very good for us. The second game of the year, getting a chance really to find where we are going on the road against a good, quality team has been good. The history of the football team playing for the national championship game and then us having to play them twice in that one year. […] I know coming out of this game we’re going to find out a lot more about our team because it’s a great test not only playing against a good team but playing on their home court.”

» Donovan on point guard Aaron Craft: “He probably doesn’t get enough recognition for his speed and quickness. He’s very quick, heady, tough kid. Another guy I’ve really enjoyed watching play. He was on the all-defensive team in the big 10. He’s a great defender. He’s great with his hands and comes up with a lot of steals. He’s got toughness and is savvy. I would classify him as a winner. He’s a winner. His ability to do what he did last year [at point guard] allowed [William] Buford to play a little bit more to his strengths.”

» Donovan on junior forward Erik Murphy: “Offensively the strength of Erik is shooting the basketball. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in the first game, but in that game he ended up having five rebounds and probably should have had 10-12 in the game. He had a lot of balls knocked out of his hands and plays in traffic where he couldn’t come down with it; he was off-balance. We just need Erik to continue to defend, rebound and be a threat offensively, to make good decisions.”

» Donovan on UF participating in something like the Carrier Classic: “There was talk last year for next year for us doing that. I would definitely be interested. We’ve been invited to do a lot of different things. […] We try to balance those neutral site games and also for our fans have an Ohio State come in, and Arizona come in, obviously we have the home-and-home with Florida State. We try to have for our fans really high levels of teams that people identify with as it relates to college basketball. The balance of being able to do that and then not just being totally overloaded where you’re all over the place. I’m always open to – I thought that stuff was really a great thing for our country, a great thing for college basketball and something I would be interested in if it made sense for our schedule.”

» Boynton on how he has improved this year: “Gym time pretty much. I think I’ve been in the gym a lot more than I was previously. That’s pretty much why the first two games I was better.”

» Boynton on former players talking to the team: “It’s definitely good. Chandler [Parsons] I played with him for two years; he gives great advice about defense. Chandler did the small things like rebounding and things like that. Joakim [Noah] sometimes talks to us about winning, how they won and how focused you have to be to win it all.”

» Young on if he was happier about his double-double or one foul against Jackson State: “I’m sure the one foul made [the media] happier, but the double-double made me happier. [The media] always think I’m going to foul out or something. [Laughing]”

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Florida bumped up in first top 25 polls

The first regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the North Carolina Tar Heels remain slotted as the overwhelming No. 1 team in the country with a combined 92 of 96 first-place votes. The Florida Gators advanced a spot in each ranking and are one of four Southeastern Conference teams listed in the respective polls.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-

USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: North Carolina (30), Kentucky (1), Ohio State, UConn, Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Louisville, Florida, Pittsburgh, Memphis
11-15: Kansas, Baylor, Wisconsin, Xavier, Alabama
16-20: Arizona, Michigan, Texas A&M, Marquette
21-25: Cincinnati/Vanderbilt, California, Gonzaga, Florida State, Missouri

Preseason 1-5: North Carolina (30), Kentucky (1), Ohio State, UConn, Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Memphis, Florida
11-15: Pittsburgh, Baylor, Kansas, Wisconsin, Xavier
16-20: Arizona, Alabama, Michigan, Texas A&M, UCLA
21-25: Marquette, Cincinnati, Gonzaga, California, Missouri

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: North Carolina (62), Kentucky, Ohio State (1), UConn (2), Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Florida, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Memphis
11-15: Baylor, Kansas, Xavier, Wisconsin, Arizona
16-20: Alabama, Michigan, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Cincinnati
21-25: Marquette, Gonzaga, California, Missouri, Florida State

Preseason 1-5: North Carolina (62), Kentucky, Ohio State (1), UConn (2), Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Vanderbilt, Florida, Louisville, Pittsburgh
11-15: Memphis, Baylor, Kansas, Xavier, Wisconsin
16-20: Arizona, UCLA, Michigan, Alabama, Texas A&M
21-25: Cincinnati, Marquette, Gonzaga, California, Missouri

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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Florida vs. Jackson State post-game notes

The No. 8/10 Florida Gators opened the 2011-12 regular season by soundly defeating the Jackson State Tigers Friday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some Florida players discussed the contest as well as their outlook for the upcoming season.

NEW GUARDS ADJUSTING NICELY

Freshman Brad Beal and redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario were outstanding in the opener, combining for 38 points and hitting 8-of-14 shots from beyond the arc. The duo was also quite effective on Friday. Rosario (and junior Kenny Boynton) led all scorers with 19 points (5-of-8 from downtown), while Beal added 14 on 10 shots but was just 1-for-6 from three.

“The ball went in the basket for him,” Donovan said of Rosario. “The one thing I talk to those guys about is just that there’s so much more to the game than that. Mike made some shots tonight. He did some things that helped our team where maybe two of our better shooters from behind the three-point line didn’t have it going. Offensively there’s some firepower out there with our team as it relates to shooting the basketball. If we can get stops and out in transition, we can really get it going.”

He also said that Beal’s ability to score even when his shot is not falling is something special the team can take full advantage of this year. “The thing that makes him a great player is that he’s not a high-volume shooter. He scores very quietly and is very efficient when he scores. He had great looks,” Donovan said. “He scores 14 points and 10 at the half, and he’s 5-for-10 and probably in the realm of the way he thinks, 1-for-6 from the three-point line is unacceptable. On 10 shots, he’s very capable of getting 20 points pretty quickly because he’s very efficient scoring.”

Beal simplified it a bit, noting that the large scoring numbers are something fans can expect as the season continues to go on even against better defenses. “We were just playing Florida basketball basically,” he said.

WALKER’s IMPACT NOT SHOWING UP IN BOX SCORE

Senior point guard Erving Walker’s final line may have only been 10 points and four assists, but Donovan believed he played exactly the way he was asked all offseason. Donovan has gone out of his way to say that his plan for Walker this year is for the player to become the SEC’s regular season assist leader who is more concerned about making sure Florida gets open looks than knocking down baskets himself.

On Friday, Walker not only shot efficiently (4-of-6 from the field, 1-for-2 from downtown), he also had a 4-0 assist-to-turnover ratio, grabbed a steal and hustled for four boards. Donovan said the way he effected the game is much deeper than that, too.

“Erving Walker is a special player. He’s special. He does a lot of different things. The thing that’s not even talked about today – I’m really proud of him. He was 4-for-6 today, pretty efficient, four assists and no turnovers,” he said. “In hockey the guy that throws it to the guy that gets an assist also gets an assist. How many times did Erving Walker drive down the lane and kick the ball out to an open guy and that guy threw it to the guy who shot the ball but Erving Walker was the one that created the play?

“When you play that way from a media standpoint there is not a lot of recognition that comes with playing that way. People that really understand the magnitude of what you’re doing, they can see it. There was a lot of examples of Erving having four assists and he probably could have had 15 if there were hockey assists being counted. He made some passes and some plays that led to a lot of open shots for our team.”

REBOUNDING MUST REMAIN A POSITIVE

After only out-rebounding Catholic by five in their exhibitioner, UF grabbed 15 more boards than Jackson State did Friday (40-25). Donovan said after the game that a margin like that is exactly what the Gators should have against such competition.

“That’s kind of the expectation level I have for our guys,” he said. “Overall I thought our guys competed on the backboard. I thought we did a good job there.”

One player Donovan was looking for more from was junior forward Erik Murphy, who grabbed just four boards because a handful of others were bobbled underneath the basket. Donovan thought he could have had a big rebounding game if he had just been able to hang on to a few more.

Florida also acquired 23 offensive rebounds which provided the high-powered offense additional opportunities to put the ball in the basket. Donovan said that number was “encouraging” as was the way the Gators came out of halftime – on a 15-0 run that resulted in a 51-point lead. “Hopefully it’s something where they can develop that kind of mentality,” he said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on the team’s shooting: “When the floor is spaced like it is, there’s so much shooting out there that Mike just happened to be on the receiving end on knocking down a lot of shots. I also thought that Brad and Murph had a lot of shots they normally could have knocked down.”

» Donovan on playing Ohio State on Tuesday: “This is a great test for our team. It’s a great challenge. Obviously they’re ranked extremely high and playing at home. Hopefully our guys are ready to take this challenge on. I’m excited about it for our guys, and I think our guys are excited about it. Any time you get a chance to play against the best, that’s what you want to do and find out where you’re at.”

» Boynton on the victory: “We’re right where we want to be. We got to clean up a little bit of rebounding but other than that we are where we want to be for Ohio State.”

» Rosario on playing well in his first game: “It was tough but every last bit of it is worth everything today. Everything that I’ve been through since I’ve got here made tonight unbelievable.”

» Sophomore center Patric Young on facing Jared Sullinger on Tuesday: “It’s going to be a team effort. I’m not going to be guarding him the entire game, so I’m just going to do the best I can.”

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Florida wins season opener in 40-point rout

The sharpshooting No. 8/10 Florida Gators opened the 2011-12 regular season in style Friday night, dominating the Jackson State Tigers 99-59 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Sophomore center Patric Young posted his first career double-double, and a duo of guards – junior Kenny Boynton and redshirt junior Mike Rosario – led Florida with 19 points each on 14-of-25 combined shooting (9-of-15 from downtown).

The Gators opened the game by outscoring the Tigers 18-3 in under five minutes and held a 59-23 lead at the half. Florida began the second half with a 15-0 run to take a game-high 51-point lead with nearly 17 minutes left to play.

UF outrebounded JSU 44-29 and forced 24 turnovers while only giving up the ball 10 times. Florida also dished out 14 more dimes (20-6) and held Jackson State to 34 percent shooting while hitting 51.3 percent of their tries during the contest.

Young tied a career-high with 12 points and added 10 rebounds for his first double-double. Four other Gators (including Boynton and Rosario) posted double digit points.

Freshman G Brad Beal shot 1-of-6 from downtown but posted 14 points. Senior point guard Erving Walker contributed 10 points and notched a game-high four assists.

Sophomore forward Will Yeguete was efficient in his 15 minutes of action, hitting three of four shots for seven points and seven boards. Redshirt freshman F Cody Larson scored the first points of his career, and sophomore PG Scottie Wilbekin played 15 minutes after sitting out the exhibition game due to a broken finger.

Florida passed its first test of the young season but will have a much tougher opponent in their next game as they are set to face Ohio State on the road in Columbus, OH on Tuesday. The game will air live at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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The Countdown: Florida Gators roster (15-1)

With just days to go until the Florida Gators‘ 2011-12 basketball season gets underway, the second half of OGGOA‘s series – The Countdown – takes a look at those players on the roster wearing jerseys ranging from No. 15-1.

15 – Will Yeguete (Bourdeaux, France)
Sophomore forward
6’7” 222 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A diamond in the rough, Yeguete joined Florida as a three-star recruit out of high school last year. He played for Florida Air Academy (the same school attended by Walter Hodge) for two years, averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds in his senior season. Prior to that, Yeguete lived in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and France before coming to the United States with his family. As a freshman last year, he averaged 1.3 points and 2.6 rebounds in 7.1 minutes per game but was often a spark off the bench for the Gators who could attack the boards and be active on the floor.

2011-12 Outlook: Yeguete has been told by head coach Billy Donovan that he is being counted on to be a rebounding machine, a role he embraces tremendously. “I know that’s my first thing – defensively getting rebounds,” he said. Though he is comfortable with that assignment, Yeguete has also been trying to improve his offense in order to stay on the floor longer and contribute even more to the team. “I’ve tried to be more aggressive offensively. I can’t just play defense,” he said. “Coach D wants me to be a fixture on offense and not turn the ball over. I’ve been working on it a lot lately and the whole summer, so I think it’s coming along pretty good.”

11 – Erving Walker (Brooklyn, NY)
Senior guard
5’8” 177 lbs.

Quick Bio: The lone remaining player from Florida’s 2008 recruiting class, Walker joined the Gators as a three-star point guard but has become a veteran leader and dynamic shooter. Arguably Donovan’s favorite current player, Walker earned second team All-SEC honors in both 2009-10 and 2010-11. He was also nominated to the SEC All-Freshman team in 2008-09 and led the team in assists and steals during his sophomore season. Walker has hit numerous game-tying and game-winning shots in his career, often coming through in the clutch late in the second half for Florida. He has also had his share of miscues, turning the ball over too often and taking poor shots.

2010-11 Season: The Gators leader in points (539) and steals (41) as a junior, Walker started 37 games and was Florida’s leading scorer often throughout the season. He scored more than 18 points in three-straight non-conference games, had a season-high 25 at South Carolina and scored double-digit points in each of UF’s first three NCAA Tournament games. Walker also had a team-high 87 turnovers and posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.4 (fourth-best on the team among active players).

2011-12 Outlook: Donovan charged Walker this offseason with leading the SEC in assists and spreading the ball around to the Gators’ numerous dynamic scorers. He scored 15 points and dished four assists in the exhibition game but played within the system and looked to have improved. Nevertheless, Florida is going to need Walker to hold onto the ball and only take quality shots in order to maximize his ability this year. “He has really tried to grasp and understand who he is playing with on the floor. His assist-to-turnover ratio in practice has been very good. He has an idea and understanding of the challenges in front of him, and I feel like he’s really trying to do that,” Donovan said.

5 – Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, FL)
Sophomore guard
6’2” 178 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A two-star recruit coming out of high school, Wilbekin skipped his senior season and accepted a scholarship to UF as a junior. A lifelong fan of the Gators, Wilbekin proved to be a capable backup point guard last year, spelling Walker when he was tired and also allowing him to play off the ball on occasion. He posted the best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team (2.2) and earned one start. Wilbekin scored a season-high 11 points against North Carolina A&T and handed out six dimes on two occasions last year. He was the first player to come in off the bench in 16 games and led Florida in assists in five different games.

2011-12 Outlook: Though he broke one of his fingers in practice and missed the exhibition game, Wilbekin will be healthy and is set to return for the start of the season. He will continue to serve as the primary backup point guard and a good backcourt defensive presence for UF, though it is unknown how often Donovan may go without one in order to get more shooters on the floor.

4 – Patric Young (Jacksonville, FL)
Sophomore forward/center
6’9” 247 lbs.

Quick Bio/2010-11 Season: A 2010 McDonald’s All-American, Parade Magazine second-team All-American and a five-star recruit out of high school, Young was the Gators’ top recruit one year ago. With a veteran frontcourt set as starters, he served as the primary reserve, playing 17.8 minutes per game off the bench (with two starts when Vernon Macklin got injured). Young averaged 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds but also blocked a team-high 31 shots, earning his way onto the SEC All-Freshman team. He was the first player off the bench 22 times and dunked the ball 16 times. Young had the opportunity to leave for the NBA after the season but chose to stay for at least his sophomore year (if not beyond).

2011-12 Outlook: Moving into a starting role in his second year, Young is Florida’s primary frontcourt presence this season. His size, strength and athleticism makes him tough to defend, but his offensive game continues to be a work in progress. However, Young is an impressive defender who – if he can keep his fouls down – may very well find his way on some All-SEC teams at season’s end. “Pat is an absolute monster. Watching him workout this summer, he really impressed me. He competes and plays so hard and has a great motor and is all about the team and winning,” former Florida forward Chandler Parsons told OGGOA last week. “He’s going to have to play big all year long and lead the way rebounding. He’ll also have to step up and block shots as well as finish everything around the rim. I believe in him and think he has the potential to be one of the best centers in the conference.”

3 – Mike Rosario (Jersey City, NJ)
Redshirt junior guard
6’3” 191 lbs.

Quick Bio: A four-star recruit out of high school who signed with Rutgers and played there for two years, Rosario was just the second sophomore in team history to hit 1,000 career points. He was named a freshman All-American and Big East All-Rookie in his first when he set the team’s all-time freshman scoring mark with 517 points. As a sophomore, Rosario scored 16.7 points per game and led Rutgers in scoring 19 times with 28 double-digit scoring games and nine games in which he posted 20 or more points. He transferred to Florida one year ago and sat out the 2010-11 season.

2011-12 Outlook: Back in action once again, Rosario adds another dynamic scoring option to the Gators’ offense. He is also a solid defender who – like Walker – Donovan wants to learn to play within UF’s system. Rosario scored 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) with six assists and two steals during the exhibition game and was visibly excited to be playing college basketball gain. Though he may have hoped to be a starter for Florida, Rosario will instead play off the bench and will likely be the team’s primary sixth man. “The biggest thing for Mike is just being more and more consistent each and every day,” Donovan said. “We’ve got to be a very unselfish group, and Mike’s got a good feel of how to play. He’s smart, he’s intelligent. He’s competitive. He’s got to be an everyday guy though.”

1 – Kenny Boynton (Pompano Beach, FL)
Junior guard
6’2” 189 lbs.

Quick Bio: The No. 3 leading scorer in Florida high school basketball history, Boynton was a five-star recruit who has started all but two games in his entire Gators career. A McDonald’s All-American and Parade All-American who honored with a SEC All-Freshman nomination in 2009-10, he led UF in scoring his first year and posted a school-high 27 points against BYU in the NCAA Tournament that year. Boynton only shot 37.6 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from three in his first season but still managed to be an important part of Florida’s team.

2010-11 Season: Returning as a starter, Boynton averaged 14.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting slightly better from the field (38.5 percent) and downtown (33.1 percent). He made 82.3 percent of his foul shots and turned the ball over 15 fewer times than he did as a freshman. Boynton continued to be a streaky shooter but scored in double digits in each of the Gators’ final 16 games including every SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament contest. He was also named to the SEC All-Tournament Team and the All-SEC second team in 2010-11.

2011-12 Outlook: Boynton scored a team-high 21 points (on 6-of-11 shooting from downtown) in Florida’s exhibition game and said he has been working on being a more consistent shooter all offseason. “Instead of trying to change it [my form], I have just been getting more repetitions and get used to it.,” Boynton explained. “Basically getting more practice makes perfect, so I have been trying to shoot a lot of it every day.” His defense was a highlight throughout the 2010-11 season, and Donovan plans to continue playing him on the opposition’s best backcourt player each game. “He’s got a better understanding of shot selection. He is a consistent guy every single day. He gives you great effort. He works really hard. He’s a great kid and he wants to be a good player,” Donovan said.

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