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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SEC Tournament: No. 12 Florida vs. Tennessee

Event: 2011 SEC Tournament – Quarterfinals
Location: Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA [Capacity: 26,000]
Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET)

TV: SEC Network (Local listings)
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 12 FLORIDA GATORS TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Bruce Pearl
Record: 24-6 (13-3 SEC) Record: 19-13 (8-8 SEC)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -4; O/U 130

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Tennessee leads the all-time series against Florida 69-51 and has won 10 out of the last 15 contests; however, the Gators have defeated the Volunteers in the teams’ last three meetings including twice in 2011. Florida is 2-4 all-time against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament; the teams have not faced-off in the event since 1989.
» Donovan is now 15-16 all-time against UT, while Pearl is 8-3 all-time against UF.
» Since 2004, Florida has won the most SEC Tournament titles (three – 2005-07) and SEC Tournament games (13) 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 10-2 in their last five trips to the Georgia Dome (16-7 since 1992).
» Florida has won 16 of their last 19 games (and eight of their last nine) with 14 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. UT is a No. 4-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 72.6 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe over the last eight 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.
» Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, with 197 three-pointers, is sixth all-time at UF. He is one trey away from moving into the top five.
» 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 bests Tennessee in three of four major statistical categories nationally. The Gators hold advantages in points per game 71.5-70.5 (101st-128th), assists per game 13.9-13.2 (99th-154th) and field goal percentage .460-.433 (66nd-187th), while the Volunteers grab more rebounds 38.1-37.6 (30th-47th). Florida also holds opponents to 4.4 fewer points per game than Tennessee 62.3-66.7. The Gators rank 10th in RPI (.6368) and fifth in strength of schedule nationally compared to the Volunteers being 31st (.5918) and second, respectively.

LAST TIME(S) OUT

Florida and Tennessee will square off for the third time this season; the Gators defeated the Volunteers in an 81-75 overtime thriller in Knoxville, TN on Jan. 12 and a 61-60 nailbiter in Gainesville one month later. In the first contest, Florida saw all five starters score in double figures and the team held off numerous rallies by Tennessee to eventually prevail. The latter game was won by Walker, who scored a team-high 16 points (mosty from the free throw line) and hit a go-ahead layup with 14 seconds remaining to propel his team to 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 (11.4) while leading the Gators with 7.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (805), No. 3 in points (1,377) and assists (307) and No. 4 steals (123). 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 (.410) and three-point percentage (.366). Walker also tops Florida’s turnover rankings (73) 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 57.6 percent from the floor as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.5 points and 5.8 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 37.5 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 13.7 points per game and makes a team-high 81.0 percent of his free throws. He is also shooting 85.5 percent from the line (53-of-62) in SEC play. Boynton has been stellar from the floor over the last three games, hitting 48.5 percent of his field goals (16-of-33) and 50 percent of his threes (13-of-26).
» 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 two games for the Gators have been efficient and productive as he has combined for 25 points and 19 boards while shooting 56.3 percent from the floor and 7-for-9 from the line.
» 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 3.4 boards.
» Tennessee G Scotty Hopson…who leads his team in scoring with 17.3 points per game and shoots a team-best 38.1 percent from downtown. Hopson has had eight 20-point games this season with one coming in his first game of the year against Florida.
» Volunteers F Tobias Harris…who averages 14.9 points while grabbing 7.3 boards each game. Harris, along with Hopson, averages a team-high 29 minutes per contest.

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Contributions from Young, Wilbekin make impact

By Malik Grady – OGGOA Columnist

Comparing the 2010-11 version of Florida Gators basketball with the team as it was constituted in 2009-10, it is quite obvious the group as a whole is drastically improved. In addition to playing better defense, something Adam previously touched on, Florida is shooting better and turning the ball over less.

Up 1.6 percent from the field (46-44.4 percent) and 3.3 percent from downtown (34.6-31.3 percent), the Gators are more efficient than they were last year, making approximately the same number of baskets per game in fewer attempts.

Where and why has this slight but integral positive change come from? For one, the returning players are showing a newfound cohesiveness. Then there is the departure of guard Ray Shipman (transferred to Central Florida) and forward Dan Werner (graduated). Sophomore F Erik Murphy and some of the other young reserves have stepped up to replace the minutes previously occupied by Shipman.

Statistics show that the greatest difference is the combination of losing nearly 30 minutes per game from Werner and adding the 35 combined minutes that emerging freshmen Patric Young and point guard Scottie Wilbekin have contributed.

Neither Werner last season nor Young and Wilbekin this year shoot the ball often, but the duo’s shot selection and efficiency have made their production markedly different.

Werner Young Wilbekin Young/Wilbekin
3PT 19/73 (26%) N/A 11/37 (30%) 11/37 (30%)
2PT 34/87 (39%) 40/69 (58%) 16/36 (44%) 56/105 (53%)
FG 53/160 (33%) 40/69 (58%) 27/73 (37%) 67/142 (47%)

In 30 games, Young and Wilbekin combined for 64.7 percent more two-point baskets (56) than Werner did (34) in 34 games; the duo has also hit 26.4 percent more overall field goals (67-53). From three-point range, though Werner made eight more than Wilbekin has so far, it took him 36 additional attempts to do so.

In the other aspects of their games, the Young-Wilbekin combo has eerily similar production to Werner’s last year:

Werner Young/Wilbekin
PTS 4.6 5.8
REB 4.1 5.0
AST 2.0 2.1
TO 1.5 1.4
STL 1.3 1.6

Standing out the most is Young’s penchant for blocking shots. He has 26 rejections in 30 games, which easily dwarf’s Werner’s five in 34 contests.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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3/9: Players discuss upcoming SEC Tournament

As the No. 12/12 Florida Gators (24-6, 13-3 SEC) prepare for the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament, four of the team’s starters discussed the successful regular season while looking ahead to all of the game action ahead of them. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the media availability.

MOTIVATION TO PLAY AS A TEAM

At the start of the season, head coach Billy Donovan kept repeating that Florida was failing to come together as a cohesive unit and instead consisted of players who were worried about “getting their own.” Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton insists that all changed after UF dropped a tough neutral site game (in Orlando, FL) to Central Florida.

“We had a meeting – players only – we told each other it’s not about the individual. That’s going to come [in time],” he said. “After the UCF game, it made a lot of sense. We played selfish that game. After watching film, we had a meeting and we came together and said we had to play together as a team in order for us to get where we want to be. That was the start. Every game after that we came out and played as a team.”

Now the team is focused on maintaining that edge. “All we can do is stick together as a team and keep practicing hard and just be ready for the games,” junior point guard Erving Walker said. “It’s one and done now. We’re not going to be satisfied with just winning the regular season SEC. We want to do more things.”
Continue Reading » 3/9: Players discuss upcoming SEC Tournament

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Gators add commitment from 2012 PG Ogbueze

Florida Gators basketball’s 2012 recruiting class doubled in size Wednesday as four-star point guard Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, NC) committed to head coach Billy Donovan.

Joining four-star shooting guard Michael Frazier (Tampa, FL), Ogbueze is Donovan’s second backcourt commitment for the 2012 cycle and the University of Florida’s highest-ranked point guard recruit since former five-star Nick Calathes. He is listed as the No. 7 player at his position by Scout and the No. 9 point guard in his class by Rivals.

“When I arrived on campus I was impressed with all the coaches, players and the beautiful campus,” Ogbueze told ESPN about his decision. “I want to learn my position from Coach Donovan, who has had great success with perimeter players and is a proven winner. Winning back-to-back national championships means a lot.”

Always holding the school in high acclaim, Ogbueze decided to attend Florida over offers from Oklahoma, Baylor, Tennessee, Wake Forest and South Carolina. Assistant coach Rob Lanier was heavily involved in his recruitment.

“Braxton Ogbueze approaches everything with excellence in mind,” his high school head coach Sean Wiseman told ESPN. “From the court to the classroom as well as his character, he tries to be the best at what he does. That’s what makes him special.”

The Gators already have five-star SG Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) and three-star forward Walter Pitchford (East Lansing, MI) on board as members of their 2011 signing class.

Scout.com first reported Ogbueze’s decision.

Photo Credit: NY2LA

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