(7) Florida Gators advance to second-straight Elite Eight with 68-58 victory over (3) Marquette

The No. 7-seed Florida Gators (26-10) will compete for a Final Four berth for the second-straight season after advancing to the Elite Eight on the heels of a 68-56 victory over the No. 3-seed Marquette Golden Eagles (27-8) in the Sweet 16 round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament at the US Airways Center in Phoenix, AZ.

Competing in the West Region, Florida will face No. 4-seed Louisville (which defeated No. 1-seed Michigan State 57-44 in the previous game) on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

The Gators were led, as they have been all postseason, by freshman guard Bradley Beal, who posted a game-high 21 points on extremely efficient shooting. Beal was 8-of-10 from the field and 3-for-5 from beyond the arc; he also grabbed six rebounds (two offensive), dished four assists, swiped two steals and registered two blocks.

Senior point guard Erving Walker and junior G Kenny Boynton each struggled with their shooting but combined to go 10-for-11 from the charity stripe. Walker and Boynton both scored 11 points and combined for seven boards, seven dimes and a pair of steals.

Marquette jumped ahead by five early as Florida started 2-for-9 from the field and UF junior forward Erik Murphy missed his first four shots. The Gators and Golden Eagles then jockeyed back-and-forth with impressive scoring stretches until Boynton tied the contest at 15 after completing a four-point play.

UF went on their second run of the half, a 7-0 stretch, as MU forward Jae Crowder went to the bench with his second foul. Sophomore PG Scottie Wilbekin drained a three after sophomore G/F Casey Prather scored four-straight points including a highlight twisting finish on an alley-oop by Boynton.

After falling behind three while being outscored 10-3 by the Golden Eagles, the Gators ended the first half on a 9-0 run lasting 3:47 to take a six-point lead into the break.

Florida extended that advantage to a game-high 14 points early in the second half as Murphy ended his cold streak (he started 0-for-8 from the field and 0-for-5 from downtown) by draining a three with the shot clock winding down. Beal followed that up with his third trey of the game only to have Murphy find the bottom of the net again after he finished on a driving layup. The 8-0 run extended an impressive scoring stretch by the Gators to 21-4 including the nine-straight points they scored to end the first half.

Marquette was able to answer Florida as UF fell into a shooting drought lasting 4:07. The Gators went 0-for-6 from the field as the Golden Eagles scored six-straight points to cut their deficit to eight points. Florida’s tough shooting continued as the team went 2-for-11 with three turnovers since achieving their game-high lead, but the Gators began attacking the basket again and went back up 12, 56-44, with 4:54 left in the contest.

MU refused to relent, however, scoring seven-straight points (including five by G Todd Mayo) to cut UF’s lead to six points with 3:20 remaining. Walker and Crowder traded threes to keep the Gators’ lead at six, but Boynton hit five of six free throws down the stretch to clinch the victory for Florida.

Though Murphy had a tough shooting night with just seven points while going 3-of-13 from the field and 1-for-8 from three, he registered a season-high and game-high 10 rebounds (one short of his career-best). The Gators added 11 bench points (all scored in the first half) and six from sophomore center Patric Young, who did not get the ball much but cradled nine boards including a game-high five off the offensive glass.

Crowder led the Golden Eagles with 15 points and the team’s leading scorer, G Darius Johnson-Odom, posted just 14. Both players went just 5-of-15 from the field and Marquette as a team shot just 30.8 percent from the floor.

UF won the rebounding margin 39-34 and had 15 assists on 24 made baskets. The Gators also hit 86.7 percent of their free throws and registered six blocks on the evening.

Florida will advance to face Louisville at 4:30 p.m. on CBS in what will be the seventh career meeting between Donovan and his former head coach Rick Pitino. Donovan is 0-6 all-time against Pitino including 0-2 since he took over the Louisville program.

Photo Credit: Chris Carlson/Associated Press

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NCAA Sweet 16: (7) Florida vs. (3) Marquette

Location: US Airways Center – Phoenix, AZ [Capacity: 18, 422]
Time: 10:17 p.m. (ET)

SiriusXM: 93/191
Online Video: TBS.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Buzz Williams
Record: 25-10 Record: 27-7
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +2; O/U 146.5


No. 3-seed Marquette, which has won 15 of their last 18 games dating back to Jan. 11, registered a dominant second-round victory (88-68) over Brigham Young before taking down No. 6-seed Murray State in third-round action to advance to the Sweet 16. The Golden Eagles went 15-5 against Big East opponents in 2011-12 but lost by 17 to Vanderbilt, the only SEC team they played this season.

Forward Jae Crowder, the 2012 Big East Player of the Year, is Marquette’s top weapon, averaging 17.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.0 block in 33.0 minutes per game. He also shots .504 from the field, .353 from three and .732 from the line. Joining him in leading the Golden Eagles is guard Darius Johnson-Odom, who averages 18.5 points and shoots 38.9 percent from downtown. Marquette does not have any other double-digit scorers but features five other players that see at least 19 minutes of action and score at least 6.5 points per game.


» Florida is making its 15th NCAA Tournament appearance all-time and 12th under Donovan. The Gators are 31-12 all time in the event (27-9 under Donovan) with two national titles in three championship game appearances and four trips to the Final Four. The team is making its seventh Sweet 16 appearance and is hoping to earn its sixth-ever and second-straight trip to the Elite Eight.
» Marquette leads the all-time series against Florida 2-0 winning consecutive games in the 1970s. UF, however, is 16-9 against Big East teams under Donovan.
» The Gators are the first team in the history of the NCAA Tournament to score more than 70 points and allow 50 points or fewer in its first two games.
» The Golden Eagles are making their 30th NCAA Tournament appearance all-time and fifth under Williams. Marquette is in the Sweet 16 for the 15th time and is hoping to reach their seventh Elite Eight and first since 2003.
» Florida has made a three in 686 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» The Gators have registered a school record and nation-high in three-pointers this season with 342 over 35 games; the 9.8 treys per game is No. 1 in the country.
» All five of UF’s normal starters are averaging 10.3 points per game or more.
» Florida is 18-2 (two losses to Kentucky) this year when posting a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and are just 7-8 when the margin is even or negative.
» The Gators are 238-39 since 1998-99 when recording 15 or more assists in a game and 290-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» UF is 6-6 against the NCAA Tournament field with four losses coming against No. 1 seeds (Kentucky, Syracuse) and one to a No. 2 seed (Ohio State). Conversely, MU is 9-6 against the same field with losses to a No. 1 seed (Syracuse), No. 3 seed (Georgetown), two No. 4 seeds (Louisville) and a No. 5 seed (Vanderbilt) and others.

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Donovan, Gators preview Sweet 16 match-up

No. 7-seed Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan, senior point guard Erving Walker and junior guard Kenny Boynton took the podium in Phoenix, AZ on Wednesday do discuss their upcoming Sweet 16 game against the No. 3-seed Marquette Golden Eagles on Thursday at 10:17 p.m. The game, which is part of the West Region of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, will air live on TBS.


There is no denying that the West Region’s Sweet 16 is filled with three of the most accomplished active college basketball coaches – Florida’s Donovan, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo – and then Marquette’s Buzz Williams. Asked how he compares with the other three, Williams was humble and praised their accomplishments.

“I don’t belong. I don’t compare,” he said. “Those three guys are the ultimate example of what this business should be about as people, the ultimate example of what it should be about as coaches. I have great admiration for them. I have studied them throughout my career as guys that you yearn to be somewhat like. Relative to: Buzz, Donvoan, Izzo and Pitino, which one doesn’t belong? That’s the easiest question to answer.”

Though that may be the case, Donovan is impressed with Williams’s accomplishments so far and believes he can reach the next level if he keeps working toward that goal. “Everybody has to start somewhere. All of us – Coach Pitini, Tom Izzo, myself, Buzz. You have to start somewhere. Buzz has done a phenomenal job with Marquette since he took over for Tom Crean,” he said.

Donovan also discussed how much of an influence Pitino has had on him as a person and his career as a basketball coach. “I’m incredibly impacted by him not even so much with the basketball part of it,” he said. “I look at myself as maybe not being a high-profile player and what he was able to do to me and the way he was able to transform me. I think that’s where it starts for me in our program work-ethic wise, getting guys that love the game, that want to get better, want to improve and want to invest that kind of time. The other part of it for me with him was game preparation, scouting, individual player development, practices – all those things.”


While another Gators’ guard is also having a nice tournament, sophomore PG Scottie Wilbekin continues to have a breakout season. Not only is Wilbekin shooting the best percentage from three on the team (.444), he has been even more efficient in the postseason, connecting on 55.5 percent of his shots (5-of-9) from downtown.

Even with his stellar shooting being the area in which he has improved the most, Wilbekin’s defense is what earns the most praise from his coach and teammates.

“When a guy bypasses his senior year in high school, the first thing you worry about is if he’s physically strong enough, if he’ll get knocked around and what kind of foot speed does he have. The one thing that enabled him to play last year and now this year is he’s a great defender with great feet and he’s also a physically strong guard, he can physically defend,” Donovan said. “He has been one of our better defenders on the perimeter the last couple of years, and he takes great pride in that. His offense has continued to get better. We can put him on a lot of different people and he can really defend.”

Walker recognized this proficiency as well. “I think Scottie has improved a great deal since he first came here,” he said. “He’s always been a great defender, but I think his offense is improving game-by-game and he’s playing with a lot of confidence.” Boynton was more focused on his shooting, of course. “I think Scottie, he made a big jump skipping his senior year in high school. When he came into college, he worked hard and he’s handled it well. Lately he’s been hitting some outside shots and I think as the year has gone on, his offense has gotten better and better,” he added.


Williams is extremely concerned about Florida’s offense. Coaches often know the opposition’s statistics off the top of their heads when preparing for a game, but every time Williams mentioned one on Wednesday, he looked slightly deflated at what his team would have to go up against. He was impressed that a team like UF could not only be so efficient on offense but also on the offensive glass when not getting shots in the net.

“They’re really good. A lot has been made of how many threes they shoot and how many threes they make. Their perimeter players have shot 53 percent of their shots [from three] and they’ve made 37 percent of them. They make a lot of threes and they make a lot of dunks,” he said. “A lot of that comes from transition, and if it doesn’t come from transition it is going to come from a ball screen. I think that Coach Donovan has been ahead of the curve relative to college basketball in doing a lot of the same things that are done in the NBA.

“We reverse the ball side-top-side typically off the pass and they reverse the ball side-top-side off the ball screen. If you can’t slow them down or stop them in transition, your ball screen coverage has to be superb. Because if it forces you into rotation, they’re either going to make a dunk or make an uncontested three. They rebound 38 percent of their misses – that’s a very high number. Long shots equal long rebounds, but if they’re shooting 37 percent from the three and 53 percent of the shots that those guys shoot are threes but yet they’re rebounding 38 percent of those misses, that’s really, really good.”

Donovan is equally worried except his concerns are mostly about Marquette F Jae Crowder, who scores 17.6 points while averaging 8.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He is also shooting 50.4 percent from the floor and 35.3 percent from beyond the arc.

“He impacts the game maybe more so than any other player in the country in every facet,” Donovan said of Crowder. “He’s a tremendous offensive rebounder. He’s a great defender. He comes up with loose basketballs, deflections. He is a great outlet passer to start the break. He has incredible stamina with the way he can run up and down the floor. He shoots threes; he puts it down [on the floor]. Maybe the most underrated part of his game is he’s a phenomenal passer. He really can impact the game in just about every possible way. I love his motor and love how hard he plays and love the way he competes.”

Crowder also spoke about playing the Gators but took a slight shot at the team while doing so. “They are a great offensive team. They lack a few things defensively,” he said. “Of course, they bring great pressure in the frontcourt and try to get you rattled a little bit. I think if we handle that, we’ll get a lot of things we want offensively.”


» Former Florida center Neal Walk was on-hand to watch the Gators practice for the Sweet 16 game, according to The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. Walk, the highest-drafted UF player in team history (No. 2 overall) lives in Phoenix and had said he was “pleased that I can see them up close.” He also spoke to Brockway about Donovan. “He has taken the program and put it among the elites,” Walk said. “I know that guys of my time are very happy that Florida basketball is now able to be mentioned with Florida football.”

» Donovan on struggling at the end of the regular season and turning things around: “Certainly as it relates to wins and losses, no, we did not close out the regular season very well. […] I saw our team making strides and getting better. The biggest thing I try to do is I try to keep their confidence level high that they were doing the right things and these were the things that we really needed to confront and get better at to kind of push us over the hump a little bit.”

» Walker on Florida not panicking after the tough end to the regular season: “We definitely didn’t hit the panic button but we knew it was time to buckle down, listen to coach and have some great practices before we got to the NCAA Tournament. I think it has definitely paid off for us.”

» Donovan on sophomore guard/forward Casey Prather’s illness: “He’s fine now. It shouldn’t’ be a problem. […] He’s 100 percent and hasn’t missed anything since [the third-round game].”

» Donovan on if it is tougher to build a program up or maintain a high level of success: “It’s always harder to try and maintain, in my opinion. The reason I say that is that, when you’re trying to build something, once you’ve built something, trying to maintain it is so difficult because there are so many peaks and valleys and there are drop-offs. The energy and the passion and the drive that it takes day-in and day-out to try to maintain something is very difficult. You can get to the pinnacle and then, a lot of times, there’s going to be a dip and there’s going to be a drop. Do you have the energy to try and build back up or maintain where it’s been?”

» Donovan on the role that conditioning will play in the game: “The game will certainly be a fast game. With the way we play and the way that they play, conditioning probably in both of our practices will probably be a premium. You’re doing that in practice where you’re trying to condition to play that way. That’s the thing that’s so impressive with Crowder is how many minutes he can actually stay on the floor with the intensity level he plays at.”

» Williams on if his team can keep up with UF’s conditioning: “They’ll play more guys that will play more meaningful possessions than we will. […] I don’t think because of how we operate that conditioning is going to be a problem.”

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FOUR BITS: Caldwell, Tebow, Nike, Donovan

1 » The same day that the Denver Broncos shipped quarterback Tim Tebow off to the New York Jets, the team acquired one of his former wide receivers with the Florida Gators. Denver and WR Andre Caldwell, a free agent who played for the Cincinnati Bengals last season, agreed to terms on a two-year contract Wednesday. Caldwell was vastly underutilized in Cincinnati mostly because there were always a number of talented wide receivers ahead of him on the depth chart. A four-year NFL veteran, he has never registered more than 432 yards in a single season (2009) or caught more than three touchdowns (2009, 2011) though he has been productive when given an opportunity. For example, Caldwell started the final three games of the 2010 season and accumulated more than 80 yards in each contest.

2 » In a conference call with reporters Wednesday night, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum explained the team’s acquisition of Tebow from the Broncos. Tannenbaum said that “Mark Sanchez is, has been and will be our starting quarterback” but that the team is adding Tebow “to be our backup and be used in other packages.” He made it clear that the team currently has two men (head coach Rex Ryan and former Miami head coach now offensive coordinator Tony Sparano) “who lost to Tim last year” and that the team has been interested in Tebow for quite some time going back to his days with the Gators. Tannenbaum added, “How many plays Tim plays in one game, Rex and Tony will decide that. But we have a vision for the player, we have a role for the player. […] He’s a great competitor. He’s going to come in next year and help us win.”

3 » In conjunction with the Gators Nike Sportswear Basketball apparel set written about by OGGOA and released by the company in February, a new commercial featuring the basketball program – “Florida Gators: Rise as One” – was released on YouTube on Wednesday. You can check it out below:

4 » The Sweet 16 in the West Region of the 2012 NCAA Tournament is filled with three top-of-the-line college basketball head coaches – Florida’s Billy Donovan, Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo – as well as a big-time up-and-comer in Marquette’s Buzz Williams. However two of those four men, Donovan and Pitino, have forged a very special and unique relationship that dates back decades. Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg took a look at that relationship in a feature published Wednesday in The Dagger sports blog. You can check it out by clicking here.

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FOUR BITS: Beal, Leak, Parsons, Tebow

1 » Already in Phoenix, AZ preparing for their Sweet 16 game against the No. 3-seed Marquette Golden Eagles, the Florida Gators have been going through practices while also reflecting on the 2011-12 season. One hot topic of conversation has been the emergence of freshman guard Bradley Beal, who responded to a recent request from head coach Billy Donovan and has made the most out of his new opportunity. “The thing I tried to get through to him [was] stop worrying about your shot. Freshmen are going to have peaks and valleys shooting the basketball,” Donovan said, according to GatorZone.com. “I told him, ‘You do too many other things as a player that impact our team,’ and to start stepping up and trying to be more aggressive.” Beal has done just that after spending most of his season somewhat deffering to his more experienced teammates. He has begun been taking the ball to the hole more while simultaneously working on both his defense and rebounding; that in turn has helped increase his overall production. In fact, even his three-point shooting has improved. “I really took it upon myself to bear down and start guarding guys and crashing the boards,” he said. “My shot just ended up coming out of nowhere, really. Coach told me it was just a matter of me playing and getting my rhythm. Sure enough, it came.”

2 » Former Florida quarterback Chris Leak took a job with the AFL’s Jacksonville Sharks this year and was almost universally expected to be the team’s starting quarterback for the duration of the season. However, just days after throwing for five touchdowns in the team’s season opener, Leak was informed that he would no longer be the team’s starter. He was supplanted by Omar Jacobs, a player that was on the team as a backup last season, on Tuesday and reacted by skipping practice on Wednesday. According to the Florida Times-Union, Leak was immediately suspended by the Sharks; FOX 30 WAWS TV reported Wednesday that Jacksonville has already signed another signal caller, which makes it appear as if Leak will no longer be with the club.

3 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons was tasked with guarding Kobe Bryant down the stretch in a game with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. Parsons did an exceptionally good job defending Bryant late in the fourth quarter and Houston wound up winning the contest by three. After the game, Bryant was asked about Parsons’s defense and – after first deflecting a bit – not only praised his effort in that situation but also this season in general.

4 » Quarterback Tim Tebow received some perhaps unexpected support from former Denver Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski, who told Yahoo! Sports Radio this week that he thinks executive vice president John Elway has made a mistake in deciding to trade the former Gators star. “To me, you had the answer. You just need more talent around a guy like Tim Tebow,” he said. “The kid’s a winner. I don’t care where he ends up. Cream rises to the top. That kid is beyond cream. He will rise. […] He’ll do the same that he did last season – and probably better.”

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FOUR BITS: women’s bball, baseball, lax, NBA

1 » No. 9-seed Florida Gators women’s basketball (20-13) saw their season come to an end Tuesday night at the hands of the No. 1-seed Baylor Bears (36-0) and star center Brittney Griner. Florida fell 76-57 to Baylor in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament as Griner posted 25 points (on 8-of-14 shooting), nine rebounds, four assists and six blocks. She was just one of five Bears’ starters to score in double figures on the evening. The Gators were led by three seniors including C Azania Stewart, who scored 14 points and grabbed four boards. Classmates and guards Deana Allen and Lanita Bartley also scored in the double digits, adding 13 and 10 points, respectively. In addition to being knocked out of the tournament and having their season come to an end at the hands of the top team in the country, Florida was hit hard emotionally by Tuesday’s loss. Five seniors – Stewart, Allen, Bartley and redshirts G Jordan Jones and forward Ndidi Madu – played their final games in a Gators uniform.

2 » No. 1 Florida baseball (20-1) extended their school-record winning streak to 18 games with a 5-3 win over the Samford Bulldogs (13-8) on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Freshman right-handed pitcher Johnny Magliozzi (2-0) got the start and picked up the victory while tossing a career-high six strikeouts and allowing just one earned run on three hits in 4.0 innings. After giving up a run in the first inning, Magliozzi got some support as the Gators rallied to tie the game. Florida hit around for two more runs in the bottom of the second and – after Samford got within a single run of tying the game in the top of the seventh – added another in the next frame to solidify their lead. Junior catcher Mike Zunino (2/4, 2 RBI) drove home senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (1/3, 2 R) twice in the contest. Freshmen first baseman Taylor Gushue (1/4) and third baseman Josh Tobias (2/3, R) each batted runners in as well. Junior RHP Austin Maddox (S 7) came in for the final frame, striking out one of three batters he faced and clinching the victory.

3 » No. 5 Gators lacrosse (9-2) routed a fellow top-ranked opponent on Tuesday, defeating the No. 10 Dartmouth Big Green (5-1) in a 20-4 blowout at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Florida scored a school-record 17 first-half goals and registered eight-straight goals to end the contest including only three in the second period. UF’s 20 goals against Dartmouth were the most the team has ever scored against a ranked opponent in school history. Junior attacker Kitty Cullen led the Gators with a career-high eight points including five goals and three assists (she also added a career-high three ground balls to her total). Juniors As Ashley Bruns and Gabi Wiegand each had four goals, and midfielder Brittany Dashiell added three more.

4 » In his first mockup for the 2012 NBA Draft, ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford has Gators freshman G Bradley Beal slotted as the No. 4 overall pick heading to Portland. Though Ford notes that Beal “hasn’t had a dominant freshman season,” he believes that “his scoring ability in the backcourt” is something that is undeniable to NBA scouts. Ford is bullish on Beal’s potential in the pros and has been for quite some time, noting often that he expects him to go anywhere from fourth to sixth in the upcoming draft should he decide to leave school early. He also has sophomore center Patric Young listed as No 22 overall to Memphis even though he recently noted that he plans to return to school for his junior season. An extra year in college for Young could very well vault him into the lottery in 2013 should he improve his offense and all-around consistency.

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Gators talk big win, advancing to the Sweet 16

No. 7-seed Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan and a number of his players took the podium in Omaha, NE after Sunday’s blowout victory of the No. 15-seed Norfolk State Spartans to discuss the victory and the team advancing to the Sweet 16 of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. UF will face No. 3-seed Marquette on Thursday at 10:17 p.m.

THE 25-0 RUN

Trailing 6-4 early in the contest, Donovan decided to put Florida in the full-court press early, and the move undoubtedly paid off for the Gators. Florida erupted on a 25-0 scoring stretch lasting seven minutes and including a flurry of threes and plenty of great looks inside the paint as well. It was likely the longest run that most of the players on the court had ever been a part of (both ways) and something that put the game out of reach for Norfolk State before the players even got a chance to get a good sweat going.

“I haven’t ever been a part of anything like that, a 25-0 run,” junior guard Kenny Boynton said after the game. “I think we did a great job getting stops and converting on the offensive end. It just showed a level of focus there.”

That defense-first mindset is something Donovan has been trying to instill in his team for some time considering he knew that the Gators could pretty much score at will. It finally seems to be settling in.

“I think our defense just propelled us to get some good, easy shots with transition and guys were shooting with confidence,” senior point guard Erving Walker said. “We got some extra work in the gym and it just paid off for us.”

The players’ comments seemed to echo that mindset Donovan has been preaching, which he explained after they left the podium.

“The whole key for us was we did a great job defensively where we rebounded the basketball,” he said. “Once we rebounded the ball, they do such a great job of applying pressure on the backboard with their guards. I thought if we could come down with clean rebounds, we could get out in transition and run. That really helped us.”


Florida has won their first two NCAA Tournament games by 26 and 34 points, respectively, and finally seems to be playing like the team they were at the beginning of the season. It has been a slow process getting back to this point after sophomore forward Will Yeguete went down with a broken foot, but Donvoan is pleased to see that the team is finally filling their roles and understanding what it takes to win at this level.

“When Yeguete got hurt, it really changed our team in a lot of ways. It changed us in the press. It changed our rotation in the front court. We had to sometimes go small at a weakness instead of strength. That was a different dynamic because of our lack of depth,” he explained. “When that happened against Auburn, we then didn’t have very much time to kind of make adjustments. I really felt like coming out of the Vanderbilt game we played harder and we played better after that Georgia game. I was disappointed in that game. We were able to work on some things.

“After playing Kentucky, we had about five days [of preparation] because we had a bye in the SEC Tournament. I really thought that eight or 10 days of practice helped them kind of see how they had to play and the adjustments, and I think I talked about a vision for them now with him being out. That took a little bit of time. I know we dropped some games at the end of the year, but those four games we dropped, two of them were against Kentucky, one was against Vanderbilt on the road, and then obviously the Georgia game was disappointing.

“The one thing about these guys is they do listen, they do try to implement what you ask them to. But there was a period of time there where there was definitely an adjustment that had to go on.”

Boynton said after the game that the confidence Donovan brings with his experience and coaching acumen is something that propels the Gators.

“We know we have a great coach. We believe in coach and everything he tells us to do,” he said. “When we prepare for a game, we try our best to listen to what’s being said because we know he’s been here before as a player and as a coach. I just think, going forward, we need to keep listening to him and doing what’s asked of us.”

That is why Florida is playing at such a high level right now, and it is something not lost on the players whatsoever. However, there is also a common sentiment amongst them that the Gators’ ceiling is much higher than the Sweet 16.

“I think we still have a lot more things that we’re capable of doing and we just haven’t showed it yet,” freshman G Bradley Beal said. “It’s just a matter of time with these last couple of games and I think it’s just going to get exposed pretty soon.”

UF’s elder statesman agreed. “We’re doing a lot better job of understanding each other’s roles and where each other is going to be on the court, so it is making it easier to play with each other. Like Brad said, I think we got a lot of room to improve still,” he added.


» Walker on comparing the level of play this year against last year’s team: “It’s two totally different teams, but I would say both teams have really good chemistry – this year’s team and last year’s team. I would say this year’s team, we’re still learning more so than last year’s team, we pretty much had things figured out being an older group. We have guys in different roles and we still have room to grow.”

» Boynton on comparing the two teams’ chemistry levels: “Last year’s team and this year’s team, on a chemistry level, I think they’re similar. Last year’s team we had great leadership with the three seniors that we had.”

» Walker on reaching back-to-back Sweet 16s: “It’s a great feeling. It’s a good accomplishment for us as a team to get back to the Sweet 16, but it would be an even better feeling to get to the Final Four, so we still got work to do.”

» Sophomore center Patric Young on reaching back-to-back Sweet 16s: “It’s not far enough.”

» Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario on getting to advance to the Sweet 16: “I dreamed of this. That was the reason why I made the decision to come here and now it’s here. Now we have a big opportunity now to go play in Phoenix. There are 16 teams left and it’s a great experience and a great feeling.”

» Donovan, half-joking, on Boynton’s rebounding on Sunday: “Kenny Boynton, during the year it would take him five games to get eight rebounds, but he got in there and rebounded the ball well.”

» Boynton on his career-high eight boards: “It was a level of focus. We know coming in the two ways that they beat Missouri was rebounding and getting loose balls. It was just a level of focus on everything boxing out and attacking the rim to get the rebounds.”

» Boynton on breaking out of his shooting slump: “Pretty much I tried to do a better job recently attacking the rim. I attacked the rim and I tried to get fouled early in the game and that kind of put me in a rhythm later in the game.”

» Donovan on sophomore G/F Casey Prather having a 101-degree fever and possibly strep throat: “He actually did a pretty good job. He knocked down a mid-range jumper, had an unbelievable block, but you could just tell how exhausted and tired he was.”

» Donovan on the ups-and-downs of this season: “I’m proud of these guys. They’ve always worked hard. It’s been a great group. There’s been some growth and maturing that has gone on and sometimes maybe it has frustrated me with these guys. I’ve said this before, I think as a coach you always want to expedite sometimes the growing process because you want to get there now. That’s probably not fair to them.”

» Donovan on what speaks to his sterling record in the NCAA Tournament: “Hopefully every coach, and I put myself there, you try to get better every year as a coach. I still think there’s room for improvement all the time. […] There are certain guys that want this kind of stage. There just are. As much as you can talk to guys about wanting the stage, sometimes it’s a different kind of stage that is a little bit different for them. That kind of mentality can go a long way. I really think, in this tournament, you got to have players that play fearlessly on both ends of the floor and are not worrying about making mistakes and are competitive and are driven to want to be great and want to try to be the best they can [be].”

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Florida basketball celebrates tournament wins

The Florida Gators men’s and women’s basketball teams were each victorious in their respective games in the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Sunday. The seven-seed men defeated the 15-seed Norfolk State Spartans 80-54 in the evening after the nine-seed women topped the eight-seed Ohio State Buckeyes 70-65 in the afternoon.

Below are a pair of videos courtesy of GatorVision.tv featuring the men’s team and women’s team celebrating their respective victories in the post-game locker room.

The Florida women’s team will take on top-ranked and undefeated Baylor in second-round action on Tuesday, while the Gators’ men’s squad will square off against three-seed Marquette in the Sweet 16 on Thursday.

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