No. 12 Florida falls flat as No. 16 Kentucky wins 2011 SEC Tournament in 70-54 rout

The weekend of slow starts and long stretches without scoring finally came back to bite the No. 12 Florida Gators (26-7), which fell to the No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats (25-8) 70-54 in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship on Sunday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA.

Florida scored their fewest points since Jan. 20 as Kentucky kept the pressure on and led the entire second half to win the 27th SEC Tournament title in school history. Guard Brandon Knight led the Wildcats with a game-high 17 points as four of five of his team’s starters scored in double figures.

Kentucky began the game with a high level of efficiency, going 6-for-7 from the field and 3-for-3 from downtown to take an early 14-5 lead. Florida responded with an 11-3 run including eight-straight points and two solid defensive plays from freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin to reduce their deficit to 17-16.

Moments later, the Gators took their first lead of the game, but the Wildcats erupted on a 9-0 run to go ahead 30-24. Florida failed to score for a 7:12 stretch as Kentucky capitalized and went into the break with a five-point lead built off of a major free throw attempt disparity (14-1) and UF’s numerous first-half turnovers (6) and fouls (9).

The Wildcats also started the second half with great energy, using an 8-0 run off of two Gators turnovers to take a 41-29 lead. Both teams went on a 5:11 scoreless stretch after that, but Kentucky G Darius Miller hit a big three-pointer to give his team a 14-point lead with 9:21 to left to play.

Florida scored five-straight to cut their deficit to eight, but Kentucky maintained their intensity to take a game-high 16-point lead with the clock winding down.

Forward Terrence Jones was the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer with 16 points. Miller was 6-for-8 from the field for 15 points, and G DeAndre Liggins scored 10 for UK. Jones and Liggins each went 7-of-8 from the line.

The free throw shooting and fouling disparity continued through the second half. The widely-panned officiating crew called seven additional fouls on UF and gave their opponent 21 more chances from the charity stripe (29-8) over the course of the game.

However, the Gators also committed 14 turnovers in the contest and only shot 38.6 percent from the floor even though they had eight more field goal attempts and six additional chances from beyond the arc.

Sophomore G Kenny Boynton scored 10 points and was the only Florida player to finish in double figures. Senior F Chandler Parsons contributed nine points and 10 rebounds but was 4-for-12 from the field and 0-for-4 from downtown. Junior PG Erving Walker added eight points but was also an inefficient 3-for-10 from the field.

Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin had the roughest afternoon of any Gators starter, only hitting three shots for seven points while managing just two rebounds and turning the ball over a season-high five times. Wilbekin didn’t score after putting up eight-straight points in the first half, and freshman C Patric Young wound up with four points and seven boards in 18 minutes of game action.

At the conclusion of the game, Boynton and Parsons were both honored with selections to the 2011 SEC All-Tournament Team. Miller was named the event’s MVP.

Florida must regroup as they await word on their position in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which begins on Thursday. The Gators’ seed and opponent will be announced Sunday at 6 p.m. live on CBS.

Photo Credit: Dave Martin/Associated Press

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2011 SEC Tournament Championship Gameday: No. 12 Florida Gators vs. No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats

Event: 2011 SEC Tournament Championship
Location: Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA [Capacity: 26,000]
Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ABC/ABCHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 12 FLORIDA GATORS No. 16 KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 26-6 Record: 24-8
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Kentucky -2

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Kentucky leads the all-time series against Florida 89-33; the Wildcats swept the Gators last season, but the team’s split their regular season contests in 2011. Florida is 9-5 in their last 14 games against Kentucky and Donovan is 13-19 against them all-time.
» Calipari is 3-1 against Donovan as the Wildcats’ head coach.
» UF and UK have combined to win six of the past eight conference tournament titles. It is only the fourth time both are meeting in the title game, with Kentucky holding a 2-1 advantage in such match-ups.
» Since 2004, Florida has won the most SEC Tournament titles (three – 2005-07) and games (15) in the league. Among the six major conferences, UF ranks only behind Duke and Kansas since 2004 in conference tournament titles and league tournament wins.
» The Gators are 12-2 in their last six trips to the Georgia Dome (18-7 since 1992). They have won two SEC Tournaments (2005, 2007) and a NCAA title (2007) in the stadium. They have also won their last three SEC Tournament final appearances (2005-07).
» Florida has won 18 of their last 21 games (and 10 of their last 11) with 16 victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» UF enters the game having won the 2011 SEC regular season title and as a No. 1-seed in the tournament. UK is a No. 2-seed.
» The current Gators team is the fourth in school history to win 24+ regular season games. They also captured the third outright SEC title in school history (1989, 2007) and are the fifth team in school history to reach 26 wins in a season.
» Florida is 21-1 (10-0 vs. SEC) when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» The Gators, struggling all season from the line, are hitting 72.3 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe over the last 10 games.
» Florida is 10-2 when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10+ shots from the field. He has moved into the top 20 in school history in scoring (1,393 points) and is one of only two active players in Division I college basketball with over 1,300 points, 800 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals. He also became the sixth player in school history with 500+ career field goals after hitting four on Friday.
» Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, hitting a trio of three-pointers on Friday, moved into the top five all time in school history.
» UF has reached 20+ wins for the 13th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the SEC. The Gators have also reached 10 wins in league play for the ninth time in the last 13 years and first time since 2007 (13-3).
» Florida’s +6.2 rebound margin is the best in the SEC.
» The Gators have been averaging 50.2 points in the second half over the last four games, while shooting 61.2 percent from the field and 54.3 percent from downtown. Florida has averaged 81.5 total points over the last for games. In three of those contests, UF scored 49, 56 and 48 points, respectively, in second halves; they outscored opponents by 18.6 points in the second half in those games.
» UF is 7-1 in the SEC this year with three or fewer days to prepare for a game.
» Kentucky bests Florida in two of four major statistical categories including points per game 76.8-71.9 (23rd-87th) and rebounds per game 38.5-37.4 (23rd-58th). However, the Gators hold the advantage in and field goal percentage .463-.460 (47th-62nd) and assists per game 13.8-12.6 (102nd-181st). Florida also holds their opponents to fewer points per game 62.8-64.2, forces more turnovers 12.8-12.3 and grabs more steals 6.0-5.5. UF ranks 7th in RPI (.6395) and fifth in strength of schedule nationally compared to UK being ninth (.6383) and ninth, respectively.

LAST TIME(S) OUT

Florida and Kentucky will square off for the third time this season; the Gators defeated the Wildcats 70-68 in a thriller in Gainesville, FL on Feb. 6, but the Wildcats countered with a significant 76-68 victory in Lexington, KY on Feb. 26. In the first game, Florida fought off a late surge by Kentucky after being up a game-high 13 points with 11:50 remaining. The Gators out-scored the Wildcats 5-2 in the final two minutes of the game to hang on for the win. UK got a measure of revenge in the second game by piling it on UF late in the second half for the decisive victory.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Parsons…the 2011 SEC Player of the Year and a unanimous All-SEC First Team selection…who is averaging double-digit points (11.6) while leading the Gators with 7.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (821), No. 3 in points (1,405) and assists (314) and No. 4 steals (125). At one point he notched three-straight double-doubles and now has seven this year.
» Walker…who was marred in a shooting slump but has rebounded and is still leading his team in scoring with 14.6 points per game while also leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.415) and three-point percentage (.379). Walker also tops Florida’s turnover rankings (78) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but was struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is hitting 38.2 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 14.3 points per game and makes a team-high 81.7 percent of his free throws. He is also shooting 89.0 percent from the line (73-of-82) in SEC play. Boynton has been stellar from the floor over the last three games, hitting 48.3 percent of his field goals (29-of-60).
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.3 percent from the floor as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat two weeks ago against Vanderbilt.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging over 17 minutes per game. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.32:1), while Young averages 3.3 points and 3.6 boards.
» Kentucky G Brandon Knight…who plays a team-high 35.8 minutes as a freshman, averages 17.5 points per game and picks up nearly four rebounds and assists per contest, too. Knight and Boynton are friends who grew up and played both against each other and together in South Florida.
» Wildcats F Terrence Jones…who leads his team in rebounding with 9.0 boards per game and nearly matches Knight in points with 16.5 each contest.
» Kentucky G Doron Lamb…who has been on fire for his team since SEC Tournament play began. Lamb is averaging 13.2 points on the season but has combined to score 34 over the last two games.

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3/12: Donovan discusses semifinals victory

The No. 12/12 Florida Gators (26-6) advanced to the championship game of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday afternoon with a 77-66 win over the No. 24 Vanderbilt Commodores at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA. Florida head coach Billy Donovan and his players had plenty to say after the game as they prepared to face No. 16 for the third time this season. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the post-game press conference.

LOCKER ROOM VIDEO and SOUND BITES

QUOTES

Donovan on the team’s performance in the first half: “Physically at the basket, we didn’t get a lot done. We could have been down a lot more at the half.”

Donovan on guarding Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins: “Our team, collectively, did about as good of a job as you can do on Jenkins. Kenny did a great job on him. When the ball leaves his hands, it always has a chance to go in.”

Donovan on the fearlessness of sophomore G Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Erving Walker: “I have a lot of confidence in those guys because there’s a high-level of accountability I put on those guys on the defensive end of the floor. When Boynton’s doing what he’s doing defensively at the other end of the floor, and he’s working the way he’s working, I’m going to let him take a couple because he can get going. You’re going to live with it because he’s doing a heck of a job at the other end of the floor defensively. The same thing with Erving. Erving’s a smart guy. He understands scouting; he understands schemes. They’re both highly competitive, winning kind of guys. They can make winning plays for you – on offense and/or defense.”

Donovan on turning the ball over a lot early: “They understood the importance of taking care of the basketball. It was pretty clear half of their points in the first half came off of our carelessness.”

Walker on assessing how he played in the first half vs. the second half: “I didn’t play bad, but I wasn’t great. I just tried to be patient and Taylor was on my back the whole game. My teammates found me for some good looks, and I was able to get in a little bit of a rhythm.”

Walker on he and Boynton shooting with confidence: “We’re just two players that play with a lot of confidence. It always helps when your coach don’t yank you if you miss one. [Laughing] He’s been real generous to us. And we just got to keep shooting with confidence.”

Walker on scoring nine-straight points: “It started on the defensive end. We were able to get out in transition. Vanderbilt’s defense is real tough, and I was able to get some clean looks out of transition – and some layups. Defense sparked it all for us.”

Walker on starting slow: “In the first half, we have a bad habit of waiting to see how hard we have to play. We have to get out of that.”

Boynton on beating two teams three times in a single season: “It’s a great accomplishment for us. The key to these games was our focus to get one win and move on to the next. We had a problem with that – winning big games and then losing to other teams. Lately we’ve been doing well.”

Boynton on why his scoring is up: “Just confidence. [My] confidence level. I’m taking good shots, not forcing anything. When I get in a rhythm, they just fall.”

Boynton on having the confidence to take big shots: “Coach has a great amount of confidence for us, for him to give us that freedom. We love to take those shots. He gives us the freedom to take those shots because he knows that we can make them and we can go on runs.”

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FOUR BITS: Demps wins, Young staying, Ball

1 » Florida Gators sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps captured the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championship in the 60-meter dash on Saturday, beating his seven other competitors with a time of 6.53 seconds. Demps, who won the same title in 2010, is the first back-to-back winner of the 60-meter dash since 2004-05.

2 » Before enrolling at the University of Florida, freshman center Patric Young said he had his sights set on earning his degree in addition to improving as a basketball player. He even went as far to say that he could possibly stay all four years. In fact, even though the Gators star youngster is getting plenty of national recognition as a potential first-round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Young maintains that he will be returning to school for his sophomore season. “I love being in school right now,” said Young after Friday’s 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals game against Tennessee, according to The Gainesville Sun. “I like getting my education. I’m learning more from Coach [Billy Donovan] and he’s got a lot to offer me. He’s going to help develop me so when I go to the NBA, I’ll already be ready and teams won’t have to worry about developing me anymore.” He also said Saturday that he will “definitely” be back for his sophomore season, quelling any doubters.

3 » Florida sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball suffered a scary episode in February, being rushed to the hospital after a blood vessel in his brain burst. After surgery and plenty of rest, Ball was released after six days in the hospital. The Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser spoke Ball’s brother-in-law and find out more about his current condition. “He’s good. He’s fine. You wouldn’t even know he had any trouble,” said Dary Myricks of Ball’s health. He also revealed Ball’s issue was an arteriovenous malformation that will need at least one more surgery to prevent further issues. “He can’t do anything…until they’ve dealt with this,” Myricks said. The Mayo Clinic defines an AVM as:

An abnormal connection between arteries and veins. An AVM is typically congenital, meaning it dates to birth. An AVM can develop anywhere in your body but occurs most often in the brain or spine. A brain AVM, which appears as a tangle of abnormal arteries and veins, can occur in any part of your brain. The cause isn’t clear.

4 » Former Gators wide receiver Cris Collinsworth was one of 83 people rescued from a Kentucky waterfront restaurant that broke from its moorings on Friday and was floating downstream. It took hours for rescue crews to clear the restaurant of patrons and staff, a mission they accomplished with a single-file line and the passing of lifejackets back-and-forth. Check out the Associated Press’ story on the event here.

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Florida fights back to beat Vanderbilt 77-66, advance to SEC Tournament Championship

Advancing to the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship for the first time since 2007, the No. 12 Florida Gators (26-6) outscored the No. 24 Vanderbilt Commodores (23-10) by 19 points in the second half to come out of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA with a 77-66 victory in the semifinals.

Florida sophomore guard Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Erving Walker combined to outscore Vanderbilt 33-30 in the second half to help the Gators match a season-best mark by coming back from a 12-point deficit.

The Commodores were fast out of the gate, starting the game with an 11-2 run as the Gators shot 1-for-7 from the field. Florida answered back with a 13-3 run to tie the game at 18, but a subsequent 10-1 stretch by Vanderbilt put them back ahead nine points.

UF suffered a 7:15 drought without a field goal in the middle of the first half and turned the ball over 11 times (resulting in 18 points) in the period. VU went into the half with a 36-28 advantage, forcing Florida to attempt to come from behind once again.

The Commodores started the second half by scoring four-straight points to take a game-high 12-point lead; however, the Gators responded immediately with a 15-4 run to take their first lead of the game, 51-50. Walker exploded for nine-straight points during the run, giving his team a much-needed spark.

Florida kept their foot on the pedal from there. Tied at 57, the Gators utilized a 17-6 run (including nine consecutive points from Boynton) to put them up a game-high 11 with 1:09 remaining in the contest. Vanderbilt fouled the rest of the way, sending Florida to their eighth appearance in a SEC Tournament Championship game.

Boynton’s hot shooting continued for the Gators; he hit 8-of-16 shots and 5-of-9 attempts from downtown to score 24 points including 16 in the second half. Walker was 0-for-2 in the first half but countered that with a 6-for-12 second half (3-for-6 from beyond the arc) for all 17 of his points.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons once again filled in the cracks with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting (2-of-4 from three) to go along with a team-high nine rebounds. Florida’s young bench supported the effort, combining for 13 points with freshman center Patric Young grabbing eight boards in 20 minutes of action.

Vanderbilt F Jeffery Taylor was consistent all game for the Commodores, scoring a team-high 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting; however, Taylor was only 1-for-5 from downtown and committed three fouls. Center Festus Ezeli caused UF’s frontcourt all sorts of problems; he finished with 17 points and nine rebounds (five offensive). Facing immense defensive pressure, VU star G John Jenkins only hit 3-of-15 field goals (2-of-12 three-pointers) and struggled to score 10 points on the afternoon.

Not only did the Gators shoot better than the Commodores (48.3 percent vs. 36.5 percent), UF also out-rebounded them 38-30 and only turned the ball over once in the second half after coughing it up 11 times in the first.

Florida has now defeated both Tennessee and Vanderbilt three times each in the same season. It is the first time UF has swept either program thrice in one year and also the first time the Gators have beat any two opponents three-straight times in a season.

With the win, Florida advances to face No. 16 Kentucky for the SEC Tournament Championship on Sunday. UK will be the third-straight SEC East opponent UF will face in the event. The game airs live at 1 p.m. on ABC.

Photo Credit: Dave Martin/Associated Press

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SEC Tournament: (12) Florida vs. (24) Vanderbilt

Event: 2011 SEC Tournament – Semifinals
Location: Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA [Capacity: 26,000]
Time: 3:30 p.m. (ET)

TV: ABC/ABCHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 12 FLORIDA GATORS No. 24 VANDERBILT COMMODORES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Levin Stallings
Record: 25-6 Record: 23-9
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -3; O/U 139.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Vanderbilt leads the all-time series against Florida 63-58 and won both meetings last season. However, the Gators are 17-5 in their last 22 games against the Commodores including two victories earlier this year.
» Florida is looking to defeat Vanderbilt three times in a single season for the first time in school history. The Gators accomplished that exact feat Friday night against Tennessee.
» UF is 6-7 in their previous 13 SEC Tournament semifinals appearances. However, Florida has won its last four semifinals (2004-07) by an average margin of 16 points; the Gators are 4-1 in SEC semifinals under Donovan.
» Since 2004, Florida has won the most SEC Tournament titles (three – 2005-07) and SEC Tournament games (14) in the league. Among the six major conferences, UF ranks only behind Duke (4-15) and Kansas (4-14) since 2004 in conference tournament titles and league tournament wins.
» The Gators are 11-2 in their last six trips to the Georgia Dome (17-7 since 1992).
» Florida has won 17 of their last 20 games (and nine of their last 10) with 15 victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» UF enters the game having won the 2011 SEC regular season title and as a No. 1-seed in the tournament. VU is a No. 3-seed.
» The current Gators team is the fourth in school history to win 24+ regular season games. They also captured the third outright SEC title in school history (1989, 2007).
» Florida is 20-1 (9-0 SEC) when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» The Gators, struggling all season from the line, are hitting 72.4 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe over the last 10 games.
» Florida is 10-2 when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10+ shots from the field. He has moved into the top 20 in school history in scoring (1,377 points) and is one of only two active players in Division I college basketball with over 1,300 points, 800 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals. He also became the sixth player in school history with 500+ career field goals after hitting four on Friday.
» Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, hitting a trio of three-pointers on Friday, moved into the top five all time in school history.
» UF has reached 20+ wins for the 13th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the SEC. The Gators have also reached 10 wins in league play for the ninth time in the last 13 years and first time since 2007 (13-3).
» Vanderbilt leads Florida in points per game 76.5-71.9 (27th-87th) nationally, while the Gators hold advantages over the Commodores in assists 13.8-13.4 (102nd-135th), rebounding 37.4-37.1 (58th-68th) and field goal percentage .463-.460 (47th-63rd). Florida holds opponents to five fewer points per game than Vanderbilt 62.7-67.3, grabs more turnovers 13.0-12.2 and coughs up fewer 12.4-13.4. The Gators rank 8th in RPI (.6366) and seventh in strength of schedule nationally compared to the Commodores being 25th (.6083) and 19th, respectively.

LAST TIME(S) OUT

Florida and Vanderbilt will square off for the third time this season; the Gators defeated the Commodores in a 65-61 overtime thriller in Gainesville, FL on Feb. 1 and a hard-fought 86-76 contest in Nashville, TN just one week ago. In the first game, Parsons led the way with 18 points and 11 rebounds as Florida clawed their way to a victory. The latter game was won a team effort that saw all five starters score in double figures to help propel the team to the outright SEC regular season title.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Parsons…the 2011 SEC Player of the Year and a unanimous All-SEC First Team selection…who is averaging double-digit points (11.5) while leading the Gators with 7.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (812), No. 3 in points (1,389) and assists (311) and No. 4 steals (125). At one point he notched three-straight double-doubles and now has seven this year.
» Walker…who is marred in a shooting slump over the last few games but is still leading his team in scoring with 14.5 points per game while also leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.414) and three-point percentage (.375). Walker also tops Florida’s turnover rankings (76) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.7 percent from the floor as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.6 points and 5.7 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but is struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is only hitting 37.7 percent from the field and 32.3 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 13.9 points per game and makes a team-high 82.7 percent of his free throws. He is also shooting 87.5 percent from the line (63-of-72) in SEC play. Boynton has been stellar from the floor over the last three games, hitting 47.7 percent of his field goals (21-of-44).
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat two weeks ago against Vanderbilt. His last five games for the Gators have been efficient and productive as he has combined for 56 points and 32 boards while shooting 52.4 percent from the floor.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging over 17 minutes per game. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.32:1), while Young averages 3.4 points and 3.5 boards.
» Vanderbilt G John Jenkins…who plays a team-high 34.6 minutes and is his team’s leading scorer (19.8 points per game). Jenkins also shoots 89.0 percent from the charity stripe, hits 41.4 percent of his three-pointers and leads the SEC in scoring average.
» Commodores F Jeffrey Taylor…who is his team’s second-leading scorer (14.9) and third-leading rebounder (5.4) while playing the second-most minutes (31.5).
» Vanderbilt G Brad Tinsley…who leads the SEC in assists with 4.5 per game. He also contributes 10.6 points and 3.8 rebounds for the Commodores.

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3/11: Donovan discusses quarterfinals victory

The No. 12/12 Florida Gators (25-6) advanced to the semifinals of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Friday night with a 85-74 win over the Tennessee Volunteers at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA. Florida head coach Billy Donovan and his players had plenty to say after the game as they prepared to face No. 24 Vanderbilt for the third time this season. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the post-game press conference.

LOCKER ROOM VIDEO and SOUND BITES

QUOTES

Donovan on having a bye: “Where a bye, you probably have an advantage, is if you’re fortunate to move deeper into the tournament.”

Donovan on how Tennessee ended the first half: “As they turned up the defensive pressure, our guys didn’t respond well to that. There was a reason why we shot so many free throws in the second half. As they started to be aggressive, we responded and became aggressive offensively by putting the ball on the floor, going strong to the rim, and then it got us to the free throw line. Their aggressiveness created turnovers, it broke our flow. They deserve a lot of credit for doing that. I thought we responded much better in the second half.”

Donovan on the second-half turnaround: “Our guys really settled down going into the second half. We were much more connected as a team; we looked like a cohesive unit in the second half. Ten-minute mark until the end of the first half, I didn’t feel that way.”

Donovan on how good the team is overall: “We played a really good second half, but it doesn’t ensure that you’re going to play well tomorrow. If we would have continued on like we did in the first half, you’d be saying, ‘Gee, is your team going into the tournament on a downswing?’ You cannot embrace day-to-day. Just because you did something yesterday or a game ago doesn’t mean it’s going to carry over unless you understand why you play well. We cannot embrace where we’ve been; we have to understand that tomorrow afternoon creates a whole different challenge. Because we won the league or played a second half last night, that doesn’t mean anything going into the [next] game.”

Donovan on fixing foul shooting woes: “We’ve tried to spend a lot of time on that. As best you can to create a game-like atmosphere in practice; I don’t think you can ever really simulate what it’s like. It’s something we want to focus on. It was an area that we’ve tried to get better at; I still think we can get better at it. I don’t think we’re a great free throw-shooting team, but I do think we’ve made some strides in a positive direction.”

Donovan on advancing in a tournament: “First game in a tournament is always hard; it’s a hard game. It’s a different feeling playing when it’s one-and-done. If you don’t play well, you’re not going to advance. When you have four teams remaining, the four teams that are remaining are pretty well-connected and playing well in this league right now. You can expect that. Now it comes down to execution and how well you can utilize each other and how well you can play together.”

Donovan on the performance and honors given to senior forward Chandler Parsons: “Go look at where his scoring numbers are at in terms of our league. It’s a great thing that he was on a winning team, getting less than 12 points a game, but he’s just multidimensional. The coaches see this guy affects the game in a lot of ways. Because of his ability to be so versatile, it’s not about points. It was good to see him get the award by being a guy who was really unselfish [and] multidimensional.”

Junior point guard Erving Walker on the Vols’ physical defense: “It was kind of a shock for us. We know they’re an aggressive team, but they didn’t start off like that. They started hand checking and swiping at the ball, and we just wasn’t aggressive enough with the ball. They got some steals and some easy layups. In the second half, we were able to be aggressive and be strong with the ball and get shots.”

Walker on if he was embarrassed with the team’s first half: “Definitely. Coach yelled at us at halftime and put us in our place. It’s great to play for him, and he got us going. We just didn’t want to continue to look like that. We wanted to play how Florida is supposed to play in the second half.”

Walker on advancing to the semifinals: “This is huge. I’ve been knocked out in the quarterfinals the last two years of my career. Any time you can win in this league, in a tournament like this, it’s a good feeling.”

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Florida advances with 85-74 win over Tennessee

Fast out of the gate but down six at halftime, the No. 12 Florida Gators (25-6) outscored the Tennessee Volunteers (19-14) 56-40 in the second half on their way to a 85-74 victory in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Georgia Dome on Friday evening in Atlanta, GA.

Gators sophomore guard Kenny Boynton led the way for his squad with a team-high 22 points. Junior point guard Erving Walker and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin were dynamite in the second half, adding 17 and 15 points, respectively.

Florida started hot, using an early 12-4 run to go up 21-20. Senior forward Alex Tyus hit his first four shots of the game and the Gators started 9-for-12 from the field.

After taking a 12-point lead, 25-13, Florida allowed Tennessee to take off on a ridiculous 21-4 run to end the half. The Volunteers forced eight turnovers and held the Gators scoreless the final 6:22 of the half, outscoring them 9-0 during that period.

UF started the second half with plenty of aggression, using a 13-4 run including six points from Boynton to take a 49-46 lead. Minutes later, tied at 50, Florida scored seven-straight to jump ahead 57-50 with 10 minutes remaining in the game.

The Gators extended their lead to a game-high 15, 80-65, on two free throws from freshman C Patric Young with 2:25 left.

However, a quick turnover by Young while being pressed in the backcourt led to a three from Volunteers G Scotty Hopson and a 6-1 run that brought Tennessee’s deficit down to nine. In the double bonus for most of the second half, Florida took foul shots the rest of the way to hold on to the victory.

Boynton capitalized on some fastbreak opportunities to go 5-for-11 from the field; he also hit all 10 of his free throws and dished a team-high four assists. Walker went 3-for-4 from downtown, and Macklin added four rebounds to his 6-for-10 shooting performance.

Senior F Chandler Parsons proved to be the glue the Gators needed, scoring 12 points while grabbing seven boards, dishing four assists, snatching two steals and blocking a pair of shots. Tyus and Young each added five rebounds with the latter playing top-notch defense in the second half.

Tennessee F Tobias Harris flexed his muscles down low all game, going 10-for-17 for a game-high 25 points. Volunteers C Brian Williams brought down a game-high 12 rebounds, and Hopson finished 6-for-14 from the floor for 19 points.

Early in the first half, Parsons got his 500th career field goal – only the sixth player under head coach Billy Donovan to reach that mark – and Walker hit his 198th career three-pointer, good for fifth all-time in school history.

Florida awaits the outcome of Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi State late Friday to determine who they face on Saturday. The game will air live on ABC at 3:30 p.m.


 

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