11/23: Donovan on Young’s eye, Meyer’s decision

With No. 9/10 Florida Gators basketball set to take on the Jacksonville Dolphins Friday evening in Gainesville, FL, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Wednesday to discuss what preparations have been made for his team’s next non-conference home game.

YOUNG’s EYE NOT A BIG DEAL

Despite sophomore center Patric Young sporting a bruised eye with plenty of swelling after being poked in it during Monday’s game, Donovan said that his big man is fine, practiced in full all week and will be good to go on Friday. Young has a small tear sclera (white part) of his eye and will wear goggles during the game to prevent irritation and potential further injury. He has not had any blurred vision and did not have anything happen to his pupil or retina.

“You don’t know how important your body parts are until you can’t use them, especially your vision,” Young said Wednesday.

UNDERSTANDING URBAN MEYER’s TOUGH SPOT

As a two-time national championship winning coach, Donovan empathized with the situation that former Gators head coach Urban Meyer finds himself in. Donovan commented at length about Meyer and his potential decision to return to coaching.

“He loves football. He’s really evaluating what he wants to do as a coach. Sometimes people look at things maybe a little bit differently than what reality is sometimes. The biggest thing for him right now, that he’s trying to get his arms around, is when you get a chance to win a couple national championships, every coach wants to experience that. There is a perception created that it brings a level of worth and value to your life, and it really doesn’t. […]

“You got to really enjoy the process of dealing with these guys each and every day. Sometimes there’s victories that nobody sees that you got to really look at in terms of helping these guys get better. What happened for Urban – and it happened to me too – is you look at it’s happened twice so why am I coaching? What is my purpose for coaching besides just winning? I don’t think your drive or desire diminishes as far as wanting that to happen, but it doesn’t necessarily make your life complete when it does happen. There are so many coaches out there chasing that, thinking that something is going to change, and when they get it I’m not so sure it does.

“For Urban, it’s that balance now for him of chasing championships, his family, his health, those things. ‘Can I balance all that? Can I make it all work? Can I do it in a way that I can feel good about myself, feel good about my family, feel good about myself as a coach?’ I think he’s evaluating those kind of things and then he’s got to figure out how he can go about enjoying the process.

“My guess would be – and this is not about Ohio State. Do I think he’ll go back and coach? Yeah, I think he will, but I think for himself he’s got to get himself to a place where he feels good about the other aspects of his life that he was missing out on or wasn’t as attentive to as he wanted to be or felt comfortable with himself internally that he was handling the right way. That’s what I think it’s all about for him.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the good and bad things coming out of the Wright State game: “The way we have shot the ball has been good. We’re taking a lot of threes and we’re having a little bit of presence at the basket. […] Rebounding continues to get better. We’ve done a good job on the glass. We’ve got to become more consistent defensively, guarding actions, screens and those kinds of things. We’re not giving up a great percentage statistically, and we look pretty good defensively, but I’m looking at some of the shots that we’re giving up. As we play better and better teams, those are shots that are probably going to be made.”

» On being pleased that the guards are getting plenty of rebounds due to effort and recognition of the importance of giving the team chances to score: “We’ve certainly had a size advantage the last three games we’ve played, but our guards are trying to get in there. That’s something that we can embrace and have to understand. That’s a commitment and mindset each and every game we play. We’ve at least proven that with a good level of focus on that, we should be able to hold our own.”

» On playing redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson more: “The hardest thing for a guy coming off the bench is, ‘When am I going in?’ We’ve got a little bit of that with our bench right now. There’s not a flow of them knowing when they’re coming in. […] We’ve got to get Cody in the rotation and get him in a position where he’s giving us some more depth across our frontline. I do trust him out there, but I just got to get him in a better rotation right now.”

» On how he statistically evaluates defense: “It’s pretty clear when [Mike] Rosario’s guarding a guy and a guy goes right by him. There is no chart for that.”

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Tebowing, Macklin, Young

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow will don the cover of yet another edition of Sports Illustrated. This time it is a far shot of him taking a snap from under center before handing the ball off with the subtitle “Tim Tebow Demands…”

2 » Speaking of Tebow, the “Tebowing” meme that blew up on the Internet a few weeks ago has now reached a new level. According to NFL.com, “Tebowing” is the name of horse from Little Red Feather Racing out of California that is the daughter of a Kentucky Derby winner. “We are so mesmerized by Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and the latest craze ‘Tebowing’ that we decided to rename our Fusaichi Pegasus filly Tebowing,” LRF Racing explained. Also interesting is the fact that LRF Racing is looking for investors in the horse and will give a 5 percent discount if an investor includes a picture of themselves Tebowing with their offer. The filly is not scheduled for any races.

3 » Former Florida Gators center Vernon Macklin is still waiting to step on the court for his first game with the Detroit Pistons. In the meantime, he and future teammate Ben Gordon handed out donated turkeys to underprivileged families at the Volunteers of America facility in Detroit, MI on Tuesday. “I was once one of those families,” Macklin told the Detroit Free Press. “My family had times when we were in need and to be in a position to help out, it feels great to do it.”

4 » Gators sophomore center Patric Young was poked in the eye Monday night while playing Wright State in Tampa, FL. Young’s right eye swelled up a bit and was half shut most of the remainder of the game. For protective purposes, Young will be wearing a pair of goggles Friday when Florida takes on Jacksonville. Teammate and redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario snapped a photo of Young, which you can check out below.

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11/21: Florida vs. Wright State post-game notes

The No. 9/10 Florida Gators defeated the Wright State Raiders 78-65 in a neutral site game to close the Global Sports Shootout Monday night in Tampa, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan provided his thoughts on the contest his team just played.

FAILING TO CAPITALIZE AND RECOGNIZE OPPORTUNITIES

Florida had numerous opportunities to step on the collective throats of Wright State on Monday but never did so, allowing their game-high 16-point lead to be reduced to single digits before pulling it back up and closing out the game. Donovan said that, going forward, the Gators are going to have to change their mentality and recognize some opportunities they have in certain matchups.

“Believe me, I’m all for the three-point shot, but our team awareness of what has [gone on during the game is poor],” he said. Donovan wants Florida to put the ball on the floor more when the three isn’t following and, when up double-digits, add to it with high-percentage shots and free throws rather than taking long ones from downtown.

Speaking of free throws, Donovan noted that the Gators were in the bonus/double bonus early in each half, but UF failed to capitalize on either opportunity.

“There was not really an understanding of how do we put this team away,” he said. “Part of the way we needed to do that was understanding that we were shooting the double bonus with about 12 minutes to go. Getting stops in key situations, not fouling in key situations, not breaking down like we did. We could have put the team away.”

Though not as big of an issue as the past few games, Florida’s foul shooting (20-of-30, 66.7 percent) remains a bit of a concern. “It’s something we’re going to get better at. I think we have a chance to be a good free throw shooting team; we just haven’t showed it up to this point in time. Certainly 67 percent is a lot better than 55, so maybe we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan said that sophomore center Patric Young had “pretty significant blurred vision in the locker room” after being poked in the eye late in the first half. The doctors cleared him to play once his vision was 100 percent clear, which happened approximately nine minutes into the second half.

» On freshman guard Brad Beal’s versatility: “Brad was the one guy I thought – he was 1/6 from the three-point line – but you would really have never noticed it with the way he was playing because he had some drives to the basket, he got to the free throw line, he did some different things.”

» On Beal and junior G Kenny Boynton working through shooting woes: “The encouraging thing about some of our three-point shooting now is that Erving [Walker] and Brad Beal did not shoot the ball particularly well from behind the line. Those two guys combined were 2-for-11. Kenny at least making some of those shots has kept him in the game mentally, but he’s got to work himself through when he’s having one of those nights when he’s not shooting it well. Brad did a pretty good job tonight working through that. Going 1-for-5, he worked himself through it. Kenny’s done that.”

» On what he is the most pleased about with Florida: “I can’t tell you there was one thing that I was really pleased with from start to finish. I thought we were ok. I thought we showed signs at rebounding the ball, shooting the ball well. If there’s one thing I would say I was really pleased with – that I maintained a level of pleasure with – I really think they’re trying to move and pass the ball. That part of it I’ve been very pleased with.

» On the team’s chemistry/cohesiveness: “I do think there’s a lot of room for improvement, and I do think we can get better.”

» On redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson’s rough showing: “I put him in a tough spot tonight. It’s more me. He didn’t really get in the first half. I throw him in there with 10-12 minutes. The guy has been sitting on the bench. It’s freezing in there. There’s ice on the floor. Who knows what he’s doing right now? I think he had a heating blanket on and he’s trying to get out there and play. It was not his fault. I noticed that he looked like me running up and down the floor getting out of bed in the morning. That was more my fault. I have confidence in Cody, and I do think he can help us. He can be a good player and a solid player for us.”

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Florida tops Wright State 78-65 in Tampa

Meeting in Tampa, FL for their fourth Global Sports Shootout game, the No. 9/10 Florida Gators (3-1) took down the Wright State Raiders (2-2) 78-65 behind a season-high 22 points from guards junior Kenny Boynton and freshman Brad Beal.

Boynton’s hot shooting from the start of season continued Monday as he made 7-of-11 attempts from the field and 6-of-9 shots from downtown. Beal, who also grabbed five rebounds, was 6-for-11 from the floor but just 1-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Florida maintained a double-digit lead on Wright State through most of the first half and increased their advantage to 15 points just before the break.

Gators sophomore center Patric Young was poked in his right eye while going up for a rebound just before the break and sat out for the first nine minutes of the second half while holding ice to his head on the bench.

By the time he returned, Florida led 58-43 following an 8-2 run including a three-pointer and dunk by Boynton within a minute of each other. The Gators held a 16-point advantage twice in the second half but never expanded their lead, allowing the Raiders to continuously cut down their deficit.

A deep three by Wright State G Julius Mays concluded an 8-2 run that reduced Florida’s lead to nine points with just five minutes to play, and WSU also found itself down just 10 points with 2:23 left in the game.

However, the Gators kept up with the Raiders shot-for-shot down the stretch and held on for the 13-point victory.

Florida outrebounded Wright State 35-23 and dished 11 more assists (17-6) but turned the ball over four more times (15-11). The Gators shot 45 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc but continued to struggle at the charity stripe, hitting just 20-of-31 shots (64 percent).

Mays led the Raiders with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting (3-for-4 from downtown).

UF redshirt junior G Mike Rosario scored 11 points while hitting on 4-of-5 shots and added seven boards. Five Florida players notched five or more rebounds on the evening including senior point guard Erving Walker (nine points, seven assists, five turnovers) and junior forward Erik Murphy (seven points, four turnovers).

The Gators return home to Gainesville, FL to host Jacksonville on Friday. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on Sun Sports (check your local listings).

Photo Credit: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

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Florida drops a few spots after Ohio State loss

The second edition of the regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the North Carolina Tar Heels remained slotted as the overwhelming No. 1 team in the country with a combined 92 of 96 first-place votes. The Florida Gators dropped slightly in each poll and are one of four/five Southeastern Conference teams listed in the respective rankings.

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)-

USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: North Carolina (30), Kentucky (1), Ohio State, Connecticut, Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Louisville, Memphis, Florida, Baylor
11-15: Wisconsin, Xavier, Alabama, Kansas, Michigan
16-20: Pittsburgh, Marquette, California, Gonzaga, Florida State
21-25: Missouri, Vanderbilt, Arizona, Texas A&M, Creighton

Last Week 1-5: North Carolina (30), Kentucky (1), Ohio State, Connecticut, Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Louisville, Florida, Pittsburgh, Memphis
11-15: Kansas, Baylor, Wisconsin, Xavier, Alabama
16-20: Arizona, Michigan, Texas A&M, Marquette
21-25: Cincinnati/Vanderbilt, California, Gonzaga, Florida State, Missouri

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: North Carolina (62), Kentucky, Ohio State (1), UConn (2), Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Louisville, Memphis, Baylor, Florida
11-15: Wisconsin, Xavier, Alabama, Kansas, Michigan
16-20: Marquette, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, Gonzaga, California
21-25: Missouri, Florida State, Arizona, Mississippi State, Texas A&M

Last Week 1-5: North Carolina (62), Kentucky, Ohio State (1), UConn (2), Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Florida, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Memphis
11-15: Baylor, Kansas, Xavier, Wisconsin, Arizona
16-20: Alabama, Michigan, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Cincinnati
21-25: Marquette, Gonzaga, California, Missouri, Florida State

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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11/17: Florida vs. North Florida post-game

The No. 7/8 Florida Gators returned home after being defeated by Ohio State and upended the North Florida Ospreys 91-55 Thursday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some Florida players discussed the contest they just played.

CHARITY STRIPE NOT BEING VERY CHARITABLE

The Gators have shot well as a team through the first three games of the 2011-12 season, but the squad has noticeably continued to struggle from the free throw line. Florida is shooting 56.9 percent from the charity stripe this year, which is about 20 percent lower than the level the team should be at, according to Donovan.

“It irritates me because we’ve got a good shooting team. I see it more as a mechanical problem right now. I don’t think our guys are using their legs like they need to,” he said. “A lot of our free throws are short. They got to dip into their legs a little bit more. We’re in the mid-50s for the year and that should not be the case. We’ve spent some time shooting them, but we’ve got to do a better job. There has to be more focus and discipline there.”

Donovan said he tries to create pressure situations in practice but no matter how well the Gators shoot in the gym, he knows it does not always translate equally to the court.

“They start missing them and then they’re all thinking about it right now. We’ve got to get enough reps in right now where they get more comfortable there,” he said.

YOUNG NEEDS TO GET INVOLVED

Unlike two days prior, Florida really concentrated on moving the ball and making the extra pass against North Florida. Part of that concentration was supposed to be ensuring that sophomore center Patric Young got more touches around the basket.

“We felt like in the Ohio State game, in the first half, Pat didn’t get touches. In the second half we felt like when he got the ball good things happened. Overall we just wanted to work on moving the ball and team chemistry,” junior guard Kenny Boynton said.

As it turned out, Young scored a season-low seven points and took just seven shots. Donovan was obviously displeased with his big man getting so few looks.

“We got to find ways, when we’re spaced out like that and the defense has to come out, we got a pretty big, physical guy isolated in the post one-on-one. We got to find ways to incorporate him more into what we’re doing,” he said.

BOYNTON NO LONGER RELYING ON THE THREE

A scoring machine coming out of high school, Boynton spent most of his first two years with Florida standing beyond the arc hoping to get the ball so he could jack up three-pointers. Donovan has been trying to get Boynton to work on his penetration for a while now and may have finally seen it come full circle on Thursday.

”I’m really pleased with him. He’s really made some great steps, and I’ve seen improvement every year since he’s been here,” Donovan said of Boynton. “He came in as a prolific scorer and that’s what he knew. Last year he had a better understanding of shot selection and extra passing. Right now he’s really done a nice job of assist-to-turnover ratio, driving it and not just relying on a three, getting in the lane, mid-range jumpers. He’s starting to add some different things to his game.

“He’s just got to understand that there’s going to be a night where he doesn’t shoot typically well, but his game has evolved as such that he can still have a great impact on it because he’s just not relying so much on the three. That’s been the biggest thing – he’s driven, pulled up, made extra passes and done a lot of different things. And clearly he’s one of our better perimeter defenders.”

Boynton agreed with Donovan’s assessment after the game Thursday. Just 2-of-8 from downtown, Boynton began taking it to the hole and finished 7-of-14 from the field for a game-high 20 points.

“I felt like I was relying on my outside shot a lot. It was falling [in the first two games], but I definitely want to work on everything,” he said. “It was the reverse tonight. My outside shot wasn’t falling, so I started going to the hole.”

PLAYER EVALUATIONS

Senior point guard Erving Walker (and his recent struggles): “The thing that bothered me with Walker at Ohio State and a little bit [against North Florida] is I think you can get into a little bit of senioritis where you’re a senior and you kind of want everything to go well and you want it to be a real good year. You’ve paid your dues and you’ve worked hard and then when it’s not going well there’s almost this, ‘Why me.’ Erving Walker, his whole entire life, has been a fighter. I don’t think that because he’s a senior he can stop fighting. I really challenged him in the second half in the locker room, and I thought in the second half he competed and went back to having that fight in him. We need him to have that fight because it impacts the rest of our team.”

Freshman G Brad Beal (and his basketball IQ): “NBA players are not only the most talented and gifted, they’re the smartest. Sometimes that gets lost when you see some of these guys play and they’ve played so many games. The basketball intellect is really high. The ones up at that level, the really good ones have it. Brad’s got that. He understands it; he gets it. I’m actually trying to extract more out of him verbally because I think he can lead. He knows he’s a competitor. He can shift it into a different gear. But he also doesn’t want to step on anybody’s toes or come across as selfish. That’s a good thing, too; it’s a good quality for him to have.

“[Al] Horford had it. [Udonis] Haslem had it. Corey Brewer had it. Mike Miller had it. There’s certain guys that learn as the game evolves. Erving Walker had it as a freshman. There’s certain guys that come into a game as a freshman, and it doesn’t look like they’re a freshman. They can play inside the flow of the game because they understand little things or can think ahead. Certain guys got to go thorough experiences to go through it to figure out what not to do. Do they all have it? No. Is it rare? It’s probably somewhat rare, but the really good players eventually get that.”

Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (and his lack of defense): “He has proven that he can score. Again he comes out and gets 15 points in 20 minutes. The thing he’s losing sight of sometimes [is] that he needs to get better at is that he’s not defending like he needs to defend. He was in the wrong spots in the press. It’s all a little bit different for him and moving faster. He’s probably coming from a situation at Rutgers where everything was built around him and getting him shots. Now he’s incorporating himself where there’s a lot of different pieces. ‘How do I now get involved?’ The biggest thing he needs to do is be much more of a consistent defender. He’s capable, he just needs to be committed to it.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan said sophomore forward Will Yeguete saw the doctor Thursday after beginning to experience some post-concussion symptoms. He was set to take tests on Friday and will hopefully be back Saturday if everything checks out OK. “In the Ohio State game, he felt comfortable to go back in there and he went back in there. The next day he was complaining of some headaches and didn’t feel great. It was probably some concussion-like symptoms,” Donovan said.

» Rosario on the team’s quick turnaround: “It was tough. We went out there and lost to a good team. A lot of praise to those guys; those guys did a great job out there at Ohio State. We told ourselves we had to come back, do a one day turnover and be ready to go.”

» Beal on some of his miscues: “I’m a freshman so I still have a long way to go. I’m going to make mistakes but at the same time I know that I can learn from them and just try to improve them down the road.”

» Beal on his turnovers: “It’s just being careless, thinking too much instead of just playing basketball.”

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Gators place No. 1, No. 2 on ESPN’s Top Plays

Each night ESPN compiles a Top 10 plays of the day and airs the segment on SportsCenter. Thursday evening, a pair of plays made by Florida Gators held the top two spots. The No. 2 play featured is an alley-oop from senior point guard Erving Walker to sophomore center Patric Young in the Florida-North Florida basketball game. The No. 1 play, of course, was Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow‘s 20-yard, game-winning touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.

Tebow’s touchdown was also SportsCenter‘s Highlight of the Night:

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Gators ground Ospreys in 91-55 blowout

The game may not have started at the pace that No. 7/8 Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan may have preferred, but his team pulled away early in the second half and cruised to an easy victory in a Global Sports Shootout game.

Florida (2-1) routed the North Florida Ospreys (1-2) 91-55 Thursday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL behind a 20-point performance on 7-of-14 shooting by junior guard Kenny Boynton.

Five Gators scored in double figures, including freshman G Brad Beal, who registered his first career double-double with 12 points (5-for-10) and 10 rebounds.

UF began and ended the first half moving a bit on the slow side. In between, the Gators used a pair of 8-0 runs as well as a 10-2 run to take a 28-11 lead. Florida stretched their advantage out to 20 before missing their final four shots of the half and heading to the back locker room up 39-22.

The Gators opened the second half with an impressive and game-changing 21-6 run that included a pair of threes by senior point guard Erving Walker, another from junior forward Erik Murphy, a dunk by Boynton and a crowd-pleasing alley-oop from Walker to sophomore center Patric Young.

Florida continued to put the pressure on from there, jumping ahead 37 points with about nine minutes to play and hanging on for the impressive victory.

Outrebounding their opponent in all three games so far this season, the Gators had a 36-31 advantage Thursday night. Florida turned the ball over 10 times (compared to 16 at Ohio State) but registered 11 steals and dished 18 assists.

UF shot 49.2 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from downtown but only hit 16-of-29 attempts (55.2 percent) from the charity stripe. The Gators were an unimpressive 5-for-13 from the line at the end of the first half but went 11-for-16 to end the game.

North Florida G Parker Smith scored a team-high 17 points and hit all seven of his tries from the charity stripe. As a team, the Ospreys made 13-of-16 shots from the line.

Walker scored 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting (3-for-7 from beyond the arc) with six boards, four dimes and a team-high three turnovers. Boynton added four rebounds and five assists to his 20 points and also hit all four of his free throws.

Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario chimed in with 15 points while hitting 4-of-6 attempts from three, Murphy was 5-for-8 for 13 points and four boards, and Young finished with just seven points and four rebounds.

Florida will play its fourth and final GSS game in a neutral-site game against Wright State on Monday in Tampa, FL. The contest will air live at 8 p.m. on FOX Sports Florida (check your local listings).

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