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 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]”