Kentucky bests Florida 74-59 on Senior Day

Despite a valiant effort that kept the score close most of the game, the No. 13/16 Florida Gators (22-9, 10-6 SEC) were unable to hold off the top-ranked team in the country, dropping their third-straight game to end the 2011-12 regular season and falling 74-59 to the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats (30-1, 16-0 SEC) on Senior Day at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida senior point guard Erving Walker was honored before the contest but was one of three Gators backcourt members to struggle mightily during the game, scoring just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting in his final appearance in the O’Dome. Guards junior Kenny Boynton and freshman Bradley Beal were also ineffective shooters, combining to hit just 3-of-18 shots from the field and 2-of-10 from beyond the arc.

Sophomore center Patric Young led the way for the Gators with team-highs of 21 points (on 10-of-15 shooting) and nine rebounds. He was matched by Wildcats forward Anthony Davis, who posted game-highs of 22 points and 12 boards for the visitors.

Kentucky started the game on fire from the floor, hitting five of their first six shots (including eight points from G Terrance Jones) to jump ahead 11-4. However, three-pointers by Walker and junior F Erik Murphy on consecutive possessions were part of a quick 10-2 run that gave Florida their first lead of the game at 14-13.

The Wildcats would not be down long, answering the Gators with a 15-2 scoring stretch that earned UK a 28-16 advantage with 7:41 remaining until the break. Kentucky extended that lead to 16 points with 4:08 left, but Florida cut their deficit to eight, ending the half on a 10-2 run including back-to-back threes by Walker and Boynton.

UF maintained their energy coming out of the break, outscoring UK 12-6 and capping their stretch with a powerful dunk by Young to cut the Wildcats’ lead to two with 16:25 left in the game. However, the Gators found themselves down double digits just minutes later as Kentucky responded yet again by scoring eight-straight points.

Florida quickly found some rhythm again and rebounded with another impressive stretch to get within four, but the Wildcats answered back immediately by using a 9-0 run to jump ahead 13 points with 6:09 left in the game.

UK played strong and maintained their double-digit lead the rest of the way, holding UF to just one field goal over the final 9:03 of the contest.

Kentucky bested Florida scoring from the field (52.5-38.2%), downtown (41.7-27.3%), in the paint (40-28), off turnovers (8-2) and on second-chance opportunities (16-10). The Wildcats also outrebounded the Gators 36-30 and 11-9 on the offensive glass and forced seven turnovers on as many steals.

With the loss, Florida retained their bye but will drop to the No. 4 seed in the upcoming 2012 SEC Tournament, facing the winner of five-seed Alabama and 12-seed South Carolina in second-round action on Friday at 3:30 p.m. The game will air live on SEC Network (check your local listings for availability).

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Florida Gators vs. Kentucky Wildcats Gameday & Honoring Erving Walker on Senior Day

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 12:00 p.m. (ET)

SiriusXM: 91
Online Video:
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 22-8 (10-5) Record: 29-1 (15-0)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +4; O/U TBD


» Kentucky leads the all-time series against Florida 91-33, and the Gators are just 13-21 against the Wildcats since Donovan took over the team.
» UF is 9-6 against UK under Donovan in Gainesville and defeated Sunday’s visitors 70-68 in the last meeting in the O’Dome on Feb. 5, 2001.
» Florida is 0-8 against Kentucky all-time when UK is ranked No. 1 in the country.
» Calipari is one of two coaches (Frank McGuire) to lead three different schools to No. 1 rankings; he has accomplished that feat in five total seasons.
» The Wildcats have a 21-game winning streak including a number of blowout victories.
» All five of the Gators’ normal starters are averaging 9.9 points per game or more.
» Florida has made 10+ three-pointers in 19 of 30 games, a season-high mark under Donovan. UF has also made more treys this season (301) than any other in team history.
» Four Gators shoot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc.
» Florida has made a three in 681 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» The Gators are undefeated (17-0) this year when posting a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and are just 5-8 when the margin is even or negative.
» Florida is 287-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points and 237-38 since 1998-99 when recording 15 or more assists in a game.
» The Gators have won 20+ games for the 14th consecutive season. That mark is currently the longest active streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.
» Kentucky has more wins (2,081) than any other NCAA team – ever.
» The Wildcats have five players averaging double figures.
» Kentucky is 73-1 under Calipari when holding an opponent to 67 points or fewer.
» Florida is ranked No. 1 in three-pointers (10.0 per game) nationally as of March 1. The Gators are also ranked No. 1 in the SEC in assists (14.9 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3) and No. 2 in scoring offense (77.4 points per game).
» Kentucky is ranked No. 1 in scoring margin (19.4 points per game), No. 1 in field goal percentage defense (.364), No. 1 in blocked shots (9.0 per game) and No. 10 in rebounding margin (7.4 per game) nationally as of March 1. The Wildcats are also ranked No. 1 in the SEC in scoring offense (77.8 points per game), free throw percentage (.724), field goal percentage (.489) and rebounding (39.2 per game).


Point guard Erving Walker will be the lone senior participating in Senior Day ceremonies prior to Florida’s tip-off against Kentucky on Sunday at noon. A four-year player who will graduate with a degree in sports management, Walker has made a major mark and lasting imprint on the Gators basketball program despite being undersized for his position. Below are some of the notable accomplishments and distinctions that Walker carries heading into the final home game of his collegiate career along with some highlights to help fans relive some of his most memorable moments in orange and blue.

All-time marks in Florida history:
» No. 1 in minutes played (4,133)
» No. 1 in assists (519)
» No. 1 in three-point field goals attempts (723) and No. 2 in makes (276)
» No. 4 in scoring (1,707 points)
» No. 6 in games played (137) and No. 8 in games started (106)
» No. 7 in free throws made (419) and attempts (528)
» No. 8 in field goal attempts (1,281)

Career honors and awards:
» Two-time All-SEC Second Team (2009-10, 2010-11)
» SEC All-Freshman Team (2008-09)

Career accomplishments:
» Led Florida in points (539) and steals (41) as a junior; assists (166) and steals (45) as a sophomore; and three-point shooting percentage (.419) as a freshman. Currently leading UF in assists (142) and free throw percentage (.820).
» Started 106 of 137 games he has played for the Gators including 100 of 101 over the last three seasons.
» Scored a career-high 31 points this season in his fifth-to-last regular season game.
» Leads the SEC as a senior with a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.
» Current active SEC leader in minutes; second in points, threes, assists and free throws made; third in steals.
» One of three active players nationally with at least 1,700 points and 500 assists.

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Walker’s Senior Day, No. 1 Kentucky in town

Having lost back-to-back games, the No. 13/16 Florida Gators will play their regular season finale on Sunday at noon, hosting the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats on Senior Day for point guard Erving Walker. With Florida looking to bounce back from two tough losses and Walker looking to go out on a high note, he and head coach Billy Donovan spoke on Friday about the upcoming contest.


As the lone senior on the Gators’ basketball team, Walker will be trying to go out with a bang on Sunday against the Wildcats. There would be no greater send-off for him by his teammates than Florida knocking off the top-ranked team in the country on their home court to close out the regular season.

Walker – even with his mother, father and cousin in the stands – said he is not likely to be emotional on Sunday (“I’m not going to cry or anything”) and that the only thing he is thinking about is the match-up. “I just know it’s going to be a pretty tough game against Kentucky, so I’m just trying to get ready for that,” he said.

While speaking with the media on Friday, Donovan recounted a story about Walker’s recruitment, one that he said he will always remember to this day.

“The one thing that impressed me with him when he came here was when we lost Taurean Green to the draft, we didn’t necessarily have a backup point guard,” he said. “When I told Erving that we needed to go after another point guard, and obviously we signed Jai Lucas, a lot of people told Erving that this would be a bad fit, too much depth, too many guards, you need to reopen your recruitment. When he and I had that conversation, he was great, he just basically said, ‘You know what coach? Wherever I go I’m going to have to compete and I have no problem competing. I just want an opportunity.’”

Walker did exactly that with the Gators – he was given an opportunity and made the most of it. As Donovan eloquently summed it up: “He’s had an incredible career for a guy his size. It’s pretty impressive.”

He has played more minutes (4,133), handed out more assists (519) and taken more three-pointers (723) than any other player in school history. Walker is also No. 4 on the all-time scoring list (with the No. 3 spot in reach), No. 2 in threes made (with No. 1 in reach) and No. 6/8, respectively, in games played (137) and started (106). He has the opportunity to play more games than any other UF player except Walter Hodge (151) if Florida performs well in their two upcoming tournaments.

Walker said Friday that he wants to be remembered in a simple manner: “A tough kid that played his heart out for Florida.” Though he said that he would not change anything about his career with the Gators, one game in particular stood out to him as both the high and low point he experienced while wearing orange and blue.

“Actually making it all the way to the Elite Eight was a really high moment,” he said, “and actually losing that game was one of the lowest points in my career.”

He will graduate with a degree in sports management though his immediate future after school remains a mystery. Walker will obviously want to play in the NBA, but the likelihood of that is not necessarily high considering his size. As he put it on Friday, the unexpected is not something that bothers him now, just as it didn’t when he committed to Florida with two point guards in front of him on the roster.

“I really didn’t know what to expect so I just tried to come in and work my hardest and let the chips fall where they may,” he said. “I think it worked out pretty good for me but coming into college I really had no idea what to expect.”


Outside of Michael Wilbon making a prediction of Pardon the Interruption, not many analysts are expecting the Gators to pull off an upset victory on Sunday. The Wildcats are undefeated in SEC play this season and their hosts have been finding more problems than solutions recently.

“With our team, our margin for error is not great. With that being said, whether or not perception-wise people feel like we got to make shots, not make shots or how that affects us, there are still a lot of things from a discipline standpoint that we have to be better at,” Donovan explained.

“Our guys need to continue to grow and mature. The effort of how hard [they played Tuesday] in relationship to how it was in Athens was night and day. Same kids, same team, totally different [effort] on a somewhat quick turnaround playing Saturday-Tuesday. That’s only part of it. Then there’s the discipline of doing collectively the right things. Sometimes we’ve done that and sometimes we haven’t.”

Donovan pointed to Florida not boxing out well against Kentucky the last time the teams squared off and failing defensively to contain a team with better size, length and speed than their own. He thinks the Gators have improved in some of those areas, especially recently, but whether or not that will be enough for an upset win remains a big unknown.

“There’s things we’re doing better now than maybe we were doing a week ago, but we still have some growth [to go] and need to learn to play with the personnel we have now,” he said.

Be sure to check OGGOA on Sunday before the contest begins for the Gameday Preview!

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Donovan pleased with Florida’s effort in loss

Three days after head coach Billy Donovan was as disheartened as he had ever been when he and the Florida Gators left the court on Saturday, he had a much better disposition despite the fact that his team had just lost by double digits to the Vanderbilt Commodores on Tuesday in Nashville, TN.

“I was as disappointed as I was as a coach walking off the floor in Athens, Georgia after watching our team perform. I felt totally opposite here [Tuesday night],” he said.

“I thought we competed; I thought we played hard against a very good team. I’m disappointed with the loss [but not in the team’s effort].”

Donovan questioned Florida’s passion and intensity one week ago, pointing to a void in leadership as one reason why the team struggled mightily on the road against Georgia. He said that the Gators never gave themselves a chance to win the game and that it was completely up to the team to turn their season around.

“Some of our mishaps, some of our lack of execution in certain situations was a byproduct of not being really on-edge, locked in [during] practice and utilizing that time to get better,” he said following Tuesday’s contest.

Florida has also been dealing with injuries to more than half of their roster, including sophomore forward Will Yegute who is out for the season with a broken foot. Donovan wants the Gators to use two long periods of upcoming practice time to work out the kinks and get ready for the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament.

“I told our team we got basically Wednesday-Saturday practice and then we have basically from Monday-Friday. If they want to really continue to try to get better, I still think we have growth left in our team,” he explained.

“We obviously have got to play a little bit differently, and we did some of that stuff [Tuesday]. We were spacing it and trying to drive the ball to the basket. The next 11-12 days for our team, because we do have some periods where we can practice and focus on ourselves, we got a little bit of time here right now.

“With one game left, we have to take a day or two and spend some time really working on us and then towards the end of the week we have to get ready and prepared to play Kentucky.”

Senior point guard Erving Walker, who was criticized by Donovan on Monday for not leading the team by his actions, played with fire in his belly on Tuesday, scoring 15 points while dishing three assists and grabbing two steals.

“When he is locked in and he is really focused and applying, it charges our team up. It gives them confidence and it gives them a lot of energy,” Donovan said. “When he is not locked in, our team is looking for direction and there is no direction.”

Though Walker is not a vocal player, his intensity helped lead a strong Florida effort for most of Tuesday’s game. Some of his teammates – including freshman guard Bradley Beal, sophomore center Patric Young and sophomore PG Scottie Wilbekin – visibly huddled the team during critical stretches help clear up some communication issues.

The Gators’ newfound effort will be tested early Sunday when Florida hosts No. 1 Kentucky in both teams’ regular season finale. The game will air live on CBS at noon.

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Vandy shuts door on Florida 77-67 in Nashville

The No. 13/16 Florida Gators entered Memorial Gymnasium on Senior Night in Nashville, TN looking to right the ship after a rough loss to Georgia and pull out a tough road victory. Though Florida (22-8, 10-5 SEC) dropped their second-straight game by double digits in a 77-67 loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores (21-9, 10-5 SEC), the Gators did play with the energy and passion that head coach Billy Donovan was searching high and low for just three days ago.

Despite Florida’s renewed intensity, Vanderbilt’s three-point shooting was too much for their visitors to handle. The Commodores shot 12-of-24 from beyond the arc and were led by an impressive performance from guard John Jenkins, who finished 6-of-9 from long range and netted the first five treys he attempted.

Jenkins’s 22 points were a team-high for Vanderbilt, which also got double-digit scoring efforts from forward Jeffery Taylor (18 points) and center Festus Ezeli (11 points). The Commodores had 14 assists on 23 baskets and made 19 free throws, while the Gators had just seven dimes and hit just seven shots from the charity stripe.

Senior point guard Erving Walker scored 15 points with some impressive plays in the paint for the Gators, but freshman G Bradley Beal led the way with 16 points.

Junior G Kenny Boynton scored 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting from downtown, and sophomore C Patric Young had a team-high eight rebounds with four points coming from put-backs on two offensive boards.

Vanderbilt started hot by scoring the first seven points of the game and leading 10-2 as Florida shot a paltry 1-for-6 from the field. The Commodores extended their lead to a game-high 12 points as the Gators continued to struggle by hitting just 3-of-12 shots and committing four early turnovers.

Seven-straight points from Florida cut their deficit to five midway through the half as Vanderbilt went on a scoring drought that lasted nearly five full minutes. The Gators then used an 11-2 run including eight points from Walker (a four-point play and two dazzling layups) and a corner trey by sophomore PG Scottie Wilbekin to knot the game at 27 with 1:04 remaining until the break.

Taylor nailed a long triple for the Commodores with 35 seconds left in the half, spotting his team a three-point lead as the squads headed into the locker rooms.

Beginning the second half the same way they did the first, Vanderbilt scored five-straight points and increased their lead to eight. Florida was quick to answer this time, however, using a three-point play by Walker off of a steal as part of a 9-3 run that cut the home team’s advantage to three with 14:30 left.

The Gators kept the pressure on the Commodores and used a 5-0 scoring stretch including a three by Boynton and a dunk by sophomore F Casey Prather to take their first lead of the game at 50-49 with 10:34 remaining.

Vanderbilt refused to relent though, continuing to drain threes and quickly taking back the lead from Florida. The Commodores used a 9-3 run to go up seven points as the Gators missed five-of-six attempts from downtown over a two-minute stretch.

Another three from Boynton cut Florida’s deficit to four with 4:01 to play, but it was too late for the visitors as the home crowd and an energetic Vanderbilt team pulled away for the decisive victory.

The Gators outscored the Commodores 34-20 in the paint but could not match their host’s efforts from three. Florida also scored 17 points off of 12 forced turnovers and had 12 bench points, neither of which was enough to beat Vanderbilt in the end.

UF will look to put a halt to their two-game skid on Sunday when they host No. 1 Kentucky on Senior Day in Gainesville, FL. The game will air live on CBS at noon.

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Florida Gators at Vanderbilt Gameday Preview

Location: Memorial Gym – Nashville, TN [Capacity: 14,316]
Time: 9:00 p.m. (ET)

Pre-game chat: OGGOA
SiriusXM: 91
Online Video:
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Stallings
Record: 22-7 (10-4) Record: 20-9 (9-5)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +3.5; O/U 139.5


» Vanderbilt leads the all-time series against Florida 63-60, but the Gators are 22-11 against the Commodores under Donovan and have won four-straight games including three in 2011. VU is also 8-7 against UF at home since Donovan.
» All five of Florida’s normal starters are averaging at least 9.9 points per game.
» The Gators have made 10+ three-pointers in 19 of 29 games this year, a season-high mark under Donovan.
» Florida has made a three in 680 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» Vanderbilt is the league’s most accurate team from beyond the arc, hitting 39.8 percent of their long-range attempts.
» The Commodores are hosting Senior Night on Tuesday and come into the game having won four of their last five contests with their sole loss coming to Kentucky.
» The Gators are 287-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points and 237-38 since 1998-99 when recording 15 or more assists in a game.
» Florida has won 20+ games for the 14th consecutive season after defeating Alabama. That mark is currently the longest active streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.
» The Gators are undefeated (17-0) this year when posting a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and just 5-7 when that margin is even or negative.
» Struggling from the line in nonconference action, Florida is shooting a league-best 76.0 percent from the charity stripe.
» The Gators, which have already secured a top-four seed and a first-round bye in the 2012 SEC Tournament, can clinch the No. 2 seed with a victory on Tuesday.


Defeating Vanderbilt all three times the teams squared off in 2011, Florida extended their winning streak to four games with a 73-65 victory at home on Feb. 4. The Gators never gave up the lead the final 11 minutes of the game, forcing 17 Commodores turnovers thanks in part to a defensive press that kept them off-balance all afternoon. Florida also shot 45.8 percent from beyond the arc, and the Gators’ four primary guards each scored in double digits with Kenny Boynton (18 points) leading the way.


» Senior point guard Erving Walker (#11)…who is the longest tenured player on the team having appeared in 136 consecutive games with 75-straight starts. A shoot-first player much of his career, Walker has been tasked with distributing the ball and managing the game this year. He is the SEC’s active leader in minutes (4,099) and ranks second in points (1,692), treys (275), assists (516), steals (150) and free throws made (417). Walker is No. 4 on the school’s all-time scoring list, No. 1 in assists, No. 7 in free throws, No. 2 in threes made, No. 1 in treys attempted (718) and No. 2 in minutes. He is also hitting a team-best 81.7 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe while averaging 12.5 points and an SEC-best 4.8 assists per game.
» Junior guard Kenny Boynton (#1)…who is a dynamic scorer and just the second starter returning from a year ago. Boynton is working on his consistency this season and is already shooting better than he has throughout his career (46.7 percent from the field and 44.1 percent from downtown). He is the best defender on the Gators and is often put on the opponent’s best backcourt playmaker. Boynton currently ranks sixth in the SEC among active players in points (1,504) and third in three-pointers (250). He had hit a trey in 34-straight games and is the SEC’s second-leading scorer averaging 17.6 points per game. Boynton is No. 6 on UF’s list for threes made.
» Freshman G Bradley Beal (#23)…who was the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year and is one of the most talented players to sign with the Gators since Donovan took over the team. He is averaging 14.7 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds while shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 77.8 percent from the line, playing a team-high 34.1 minutes per game.
» Sophomore center Patric Young (#4)…who joined the starting lineup this year after being the primary frontcourt reserve as a freshman. Young averaging 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in limited action in 2011. He has four double-doubles on the season and scored a career-high 25 points against Arizona. Young is posting averages of 10.3 points, 6.4 boards and 1.0 blocks per game while hobbled with ankle tendinitis.
» Junior forward Erik Murphy (#33)…who is trying to add a post game and solid rebounding to his efficient shooting stroke. Murphy is averaging 9.9 points and 4.1 rebounds with a team-high 1.1 blocks. He is one of three regular shooters on the team averaging better than 40 percent from three, hitting 42.9 percent of his attempts.
» Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (#3)…who scored more than 1,000 points in two seasons at Rutgers and averaged 16.7 points per game his sophomore year. He is the Gators’ sixth man and is seeing 15.4 minutes of court time each game, averaging 7.5 points while shooting 42.8 percent from the floor and 36.6 percent from beyond the arc.

» G John Jenkins (#23)…who is leading his team in scoring (20.0 points) and minutes (33.7 per game) while shooting an efficient 46.0 percent from three. He also hits a team-high 84.7 percent of his free throw attempts and is considered one of the most dangerous scorers in the SEC every time he is on the court.
» F Jeffrey Taylor (#44)…who is one of four seniors looking to make their final home game a special victory. Taylor is the Commodores’ second leading scorer at 17.3 points per game and is also averaging 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 52.3 percent from the field and a team-high 46.2 percent from downtown.
» C Festus Ezeli (#3)…who is another senior playing his last game in the Memorial Gym and hopes to dominate a thin Gators’ frontcourt. Ezeli averages 10.3 points, 5.4 boards and a team-high 2.2 blocks per game.
» F Lance Goulbourne (#5)…who is yet another senior Vanderbilt player that will give Florida fits in the frontcourt. Goulbourne averages a team-high 6.9 boards per game and can also hit threes at a 31.4 percent clip. He scores 8.9 points per game in 28.6 minutes each contest.

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Florida looking for leadership, passion at Vandy

On a three-game winning streak before being embarrassed by rival Georgia on Saturday, the No. 13/16 Florida Gators travel to Nashville, TN to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday. Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Monday to discuss his team heading into the upcoming game.


The Gators were visibly struggling on Saturday against a less talented and less successful UGA team, something that Donovan attribute to the fact that their opponents played “with very good passion and energy,” were physical and willing to battle and would not allow UF to come in and walk over them on reputation alone.

“I don’t know if we had that kind of energy, passion that we needed to [have in order] to play with them,” he said. “You don’t really give yourself a chance at all against any team in this league if your effort is not where it needs to be. Obviously that starts with me and trying to get those guys [ready]. We just didn’t play at the level that I would have liked to have seen us play at.”

Donovan, as much as he preaches to the team in practice and during timeouts, cannot also be a leader on the court for the team, a role that a player must step into. He had hoped that senior point guard Erving Walker would take that job but has learned over the course of the season that is not likely to happen any time soon.

“Erving is a really good player and he’s done a lot of great things here,” he said. [But] he’s a pretty even-keeled guy. There are some times that your team can reflect the personality of the guy in charge. With him being in charge, when things are not going well for our team, there are times where we need some more fire out of him.

“We have guys that are out there playing that are left to their own thoughts. There is not enough communication going on. With that being said, I think the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. He’s got to just worry about himself and playing with energy and passion and emotion. I’ve got to stop trying to put him into a situation where he’s trying to [do too much]. I got to get someone else to do it because that needs to happen, especially when you’re playing on the road where it’s hostile and it’s loud. Someone’s got to get in there and grab each other and [direct]. There’s not a lot of that.”

Donovan had hoped that Walker would be the heir apparent to Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin, players who stepped up as leaders their senior year. Though Walker does everything Donovan asks from him from a playing perspective, he has not become the leader he expected (both vocally or consistently through his actions).

“Some of the stuff that can take our team to a different level, I’m not so sure he’s capable or wants to,” he said. “Sometimes with him, because he is a very internally deep-rooted thinking kid, sometimes when you make a player start worrying about other players, it becomes too much for them.

“When Erving is really locked in as your point guard and as a senior, he plays with a n energy and passion that effects our entire team whether he says a word or not. But when he’s not doing well and he’s not talking, we don’t have somebody grabbing somebody by the shirt, pulling guys in here and having one clear voice on the court all the time. When we’re playing well, it kind of all flows together. But when we’re not, when we’re in those battles and those struggles and those challenges, we need some of that.

“To be in that role, you’ve got to be a consistent guy every single day. I don’t know if there’s necessarily one person I would say that would fall onto.”

Because the Gators are “starving” for leadership, as Donovan put it, he has looked to three younger players – freshman guard Bradley Beal, sophomore center Patric Young and sophomore PG Scottie Wilbekin – to fill in.

Beal said he is ready and raring to go. “Coach addressed it yesterday in practice. He addressed me and Scottie to be more vocal leaders on the floor, in terms of huddling guys up and making sure everybody is on the same page. I told him that I was more than willing to do that,” he said.

Young noted that becoming a leader is a process and “you can’t just throw a guy in there and tell him to lead.” He would like to fill that void as well but knows that he has to first work on his own mental makeup.

“I definitely would love to eventually come in to that role. That’s something I think I need to work on,” he said. “I think I need to learn how to lead myself as far as moving on to the next play, not being frustrated, saying focused in on what the team is trying to do. I can’t just claim myself to be that leader right away. These guys have to have confidence in me. I have to come in to practice and work hard every day and be consistent.”


» Donovan on sharing the game of basketball with his father: “[Florida has] allowed him to kind of be a part of it. My dad loves basketball. The one thing I really appreciate more than anything else is how great the coaches around the league have been to him. He loves the game. He loves watching games. He DVRs every game. He watches every single game. He loves basketball. Like anything else, when you’re a parent and your kid is growing up, there is always a level of sacrifice that goes into raising kids. For me to be able to enrich his life, and for him to be able to share in some of that stuff, has in a lot of ways meant a lot to me because I know he really enjoys it. At his age it has given him something that he’s really passionate about that he can really share in.”

» Donovan on if the team should shoot fewer three-pointers: “We don’t want to take bad three-point shots. That’s not what we want to do. But we do have a good shooting team, and when we’re open we do need to shoot the ball. Any team, whether it’s behind the line or inside the line, can have a good or bad offensive game shooting the ball.”

» Donovan on UF’s defensive breakdowns: “Any time you watch film, there’s a couple questions you always ask your team. One – do you know what you’re doing? Two – is that player physically capable of doing what you’re asking them to do? And then if those questions are answered “Yes,” then why not? I don’t think there was anything in the game – Georgia’s been basically running the same offense and doing the same things. I just didn’t think that we were alert enough, aggressive enough, on edge, urgency, whatever it may be. We did not defend like we needed to defend. I don’t know if it is any more complicated than that.”

» Donovan on overcoming a bad shooting night: “It’s always a lot easier playing a game when shots are going down. Really I think your resiliency as a team, your competitiveness as a team, your competitiveness in terms of playing to win has a lot to do with competing when the game is not going well for you. […] Our team has got enough games under their belt that they understand, if they’re not shooting the ball well, there’s got to be an internal resiliency to battle and fight in the game to put yourself in a position to win.”

» Donovan on dealing with a roster that may lose players to the draft: “It’s the day and age and every coach is dealing with it. My feeling right now is that I think it would be hypocritical on my part where I’m all excited when a guy signs to come here and then they make a decision to leave [and] I’m not supportive. All of the guys I’ve had here over the years that have had the opportunity to leave early have been really good about focusing on what’s in front of them with the season and addressing [the NBA] after the year is over with. There’s no question, things can really change and it can really become challenging in recruiting because you may be recruiting a player [worried about another undecided player].”

» Donovan on playing without sophomore forward Will Yeguete: “We need to play at a high-intensity level, especially with Will being out because Will was a guy for us who played with a lot of emotion and a lot of passion. I wouldn’t classify Will as a leader, but his play on the floor, in the press, rebounding, doing those things, you take him away right now and who’s the guy that does that on the team? Who is that? Who does it consistently? Will was kind of like that lunch pail, dirty work guy where he did it.”

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Gators knocked back in latest top 25 rankings

The 16th editions of the 2011-12 regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Kentucky Wildcats (28-1, 14-0 SEC) held on to the No. 1 spot in both rankings, receiving 94 of 96 combined votes as the near-unanimous top team in the country.

The Florida Gators fell in the rankings after dropping their second of two games played last week. Florida went down two and four spots to No. 13 and No. 16 in the respective polls on the heels of a blowout victory at home against Auburn (63-47) on Tuesday evening and a tough upset loss on the road against Georgia (76-2) on Saturday afternoon. The Gators are one of just two Southeastern Conference teams listed in the rankings this week.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

This Week 1-5: Kentucky (31), Syracuse, Duke, Kansas, Michigan State
6-10: North Carolina, Marquette, Missouri, Murray State, Baylor
11-15: Ohio State, Georgetown, Florida, Wichita State, Wisconsin
16-20: Michigan, UNLV, Louisville, Notre Dame, Indiana
21-25: Saint Mary’s, Florida State, San Diego State, Creighton, Temple

Last Week 1-5: Kentucky (31), Syracuse, Missouri, Duke, Kansas
6-10: Michigan State, North Carolina, Georgetown, Ohio State, Marquette
11-15: Florida, Murray State, Michigan, Baylor, Wisconsin
16-20: Florida State, Louisville, Notre Dame, Wichita State, UNLV
21-25: New Mexico, Temple, Saint Mary’s, Indiana, San Diego State

This Week 1-5: Kentucky (63), Syracuse (2), Kansas, Duke, Michigan State
6-10: North Carolina, Missouri, Marquette, Baylor, Ohio State
11-15: Georgetown, Murray State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Wichita State
16-20: Florida, UNLV, Indiana, Louisville, Notre Dame
21-25: San Diego State, Florida State, Temple, Virginia, Creighton

Last Week 1-5: Kentucky (63), Syracuse (2), Missouri, Kansas, Duke
6-10: Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Georgetown, Marquette
11-15: Michigan, Florida, Baylor, Murray State, Florida State
16-20: Wisconsin, Louisville, New Mexico, Wichita State, Notre Dame
21-25: UNLV, Temple, Indiana, San Diego State, Virginia

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.


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