No. 7 Florida outclassed by No. 1 Kentucky

Ending a stretch of three games in six days, the No. 7/8 Florida Gators (19-5, 7-2 SEC) fell in their third opportunity to defeat a top-three ranked opponent on the road this season, getting routed 78-58 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY on Tuesday evening by the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats (24-1, 10-0 SEC).

Kentucky extended their home winning streak to 49 games with the blowout of Florida, and the Gators fell to 0-8 all-time against the Wildcats in games when their opponent is ranked as the No. 1 team in the country.

UK outperformed UF on both ends of the court. Kentucky shot 52.7 percent from the field and 60.0 percent from downtown while holding Florida to 34.9 percent on field goals and 22.2 percent on tries from beyond the arc.

Wildcats forwards Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and guard Doron Lamb were dominant throughout the game, scoring 16, 13 and 18 points, respectively. Davis was 8-of-18 from the field with six rebounds, four blocks and two steals, while Kidd-Gilchrist added 13 rebounds and three assists. Lamb dominated the Gators on the perimeter by hitting 4-of-5 of his attempts from beyond the arc.

After three consecutive possessions without a shot being taken by either team, Florida scored six-straight points to open up with an early lead, but Kentucky quickly negated that in part by converting consecutive steals into field goals to even up the score.

The Wildcats started just 3-for-12 from the field but shot much better down the stretch while converting the Gators’ turnovers and miscues into quick points. With the game tied at 17 following a pair of Florida free throws, Kentucky took over and outscored the visitors 21-9 over the final 9:36 of the half to take a 12-point lead into the break thanks in part to a three-pointer by Lamb just before the buzzer.

UK ended the half hitting 12 of their final 17 shots while also going 4-of-8 from downtown compared to just 2-of-9 for UF from beyond the arc.

The Wildcats began the second half in similar fashion, hitting consecutive threes and going on an 11-0 run to pull away from the Gators 49-30 with 15 minutes left.

Florida never recovered from the onslaught, continuing to miss shots and allowing their poor offense to affect their effort and defensive intensity. Kentucky continued making baskets while taking it to the visitors defensively.

Gators junior G Kenny Boynton, who was just 2-for-5 in the first half, finished 6-for-12 (4-of-8 from downtown) with a team-high 18 points. Freshman G Bradley Beal was Florida’s most consistent player throughout the game, but he also struggled hitting just 5-of-15 shots (and 2-of-7 threes) for 14 points with six boards and three dimes.

Senior point guard Erving Walker, though he did his best to hold onto the ball, was irrelevant offensively, going 0-for-7 from the field (0-for-4 from deep) with just one assist and not a single free throw attempted.

The Wildcats registered 18 assists on 29 makes, blocked the Gators six times, scored 38 points in the paint and received 15 points from their bench. Florida only had nine assists on their 22 scores and was also outrebounded 38-31 over the course of the evening.

The Gators will have four days to recover from this difficult loss before hosting one of the four other teams they lost to this season. Florida will take on Tennessee on Saturday at 4 p.m. in a game set to air on SEC Network (check your local listings).

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No. 7 Florida Gators at No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats

Location: Rupp Arena – Lexington, KY [Capacity: 23,500]
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
SiriusXM: 91
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(7) FLORIDA GATORS (1) KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 19-4 (7-1) Record: 23-1 (9-0)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +9; O/U 142.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Kentucky leads the all-time series against Florida 90-33, and the Gators are just 13-20 against the Wildcats since Donovan took over the team.
» Florida is 0-7 against Kentucky all-time when the Wildcats are ranked No. 1 in the country; however, all seven of those games were played before Donovan was coach with UK’s most recent victory in such a matchup coming in 1996. Since then the Gators are 2-0 against top-ranked opponents (both wins under Donovan), defeating Duke in 2000 and Ohio State in 2007 (for the national title).
» Kentucky is 65-2 all-time at home as the No. 1 ranked team in the AP poll.
» Calipari is one of three coaches (Frank McGuire) to lead three different schools to No. 1 rankings; he has accomplished that feat in five total seasons.
» UF’s seven-game winning streak is their longest since 2009-10 (eight games) and lengthiest in-conference streak since 2006-07 (13 games). UK, on the other hand, has a 16-game winning streak including a number of blowout victories.
» All five of Florida’s normal starters are averaging double figures in scoring.
» The Gators have made 10+ three-pointers in 16 of 23 games this year, a season-high mark under Donovan.
» Florida has made a three in 674 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» UF has posted a positive assist-to-turnover margin in 16-of-19 victories but has put forth a negative ratio in that category in all four of their losses.
» The Gators are 284-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» Florida is one victory away from winning 20+ games for the 14th consecutive season, which is currently the longest active streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.
» Kentucky holds a 48-game home winning streak at Rupp Arena, the longest such home winning streak in the nation.
» The Wildcats lead the SEC in rebounding margin (+7.8 per game).
» Kentucky has more wins (2,075) than any other NCAA team – ever.
» The Wildcats also have five players averaging double figures.
» Kentucky is 68-1 under Calipari when holding an opponent to 67 points or fewer.
» The Wildcats’ defense has been outstanding recently as UK has held their last four opponents to an average of 47.5 points per game.
» Florida is ranked No. 9 in scoring offense (80.1 points), No. 8 in scoring margin (14.1 points), No. 1 in three-pointers (10.5 per game), No. 12 in field goal percentage from three (40.2 percent), No. 16 in assists (16.3 per game) and No. 5 in assist/turnover ratio (1.48) nationally as of Feb. 5. The Gators are also 189th (out of 338 teams) in free throw shooting (68.4 percent).
» Kentucky is ranked No. 19 in scoring offense (78.2 points), No. 9 in scoring defense (57.5 points), No. 2 in scoring margin (20.5 points), No. 14 in field goal percentage (48.6 percent), No. 1 in field goal percentage defense (35.8 percent), No. 9 in rebound margin (+7.8) and No. 1 in blocked shots (9.4 per game) nationally as of Feb. 5. The Wildcats are No. 10 in fouling, committing 15.2 per game and No. 225 (out of 338 teams) in three-pointers (5.5 per game).

LAST TIME OUT

After splitting the regular season series 1-1 with each squad winning at home, Kentucky upended Florida 70-54 in the championship game of the 2011 SEC Tournament in the teams’ last meeting. Brandon Knight was one of four Wildcats in double figures and scored a game-high 17 points in the contest, while the Gators struggled offensively (38.6 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from the line) and saw Kenny Boynton lead the way with 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Florida lost both halves and Kentucky’s 42.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc kept UF at a distance the entire contest.

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Senior point guard Erving Walker (#11)…who is the longest tenured player on the team having appeared in 127 consecutive games with 66-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 (3,906) and treys (264) but also ranks second in points (1,620), assists (495), steals (149) and free throws made (400). Walker is No. 6 on the school’s all-time scoring list, No.23 in assists, No. 8 in free throws, No. 4 in threes made, No. 2 in treys attempted (687) and No. 4 in minutes. He is also hitting a team-best 80.9 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe while averaging 12.6 points and an SEC-best 5.1 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 (47.3 percent from the field and 43.8 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 fifth in the SEC among active players in points (1,405) and third in three-pointers (229). 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 is starting at the three for Florida fresh out of high school. Beal was the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year and is arguably the most talented player to sign with the Gators since Donovan took over. He is averaging 14.3 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 74.3 percent from the line while playing a team-high 33.4 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 saw action in all 37 games as a freshman, averaging 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in limited action. He has four double-doubles on the season and scored a career-high 25 points against Arizona. Young is posting averages of 10.7 points, 6.5 boards and 1.0 blocks per game.
» Forwards junior Erik Murphy (#33) and sophomore Will Yeguete (#15)…who are trying to be do-everything players for Florida. Murphy is averaging 10.2 points and 4.2 boards with team-highs of 1.3 blocks and 46.1 percent accuracy from three. Yeguete is netting 4.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 22.9 minutes per game.
» Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (#3)…who is finally playing for Florida after transferring out of Rutgers and sitting out the 2010-11 season. Rosario scored more than 1,000 points in two seasons with his former team and averaged 16.7 points per game during his sophomore year. He is the Gators’ de facto sixth man and is seeing 15.8 minutes of court time each game, averaging 8.2 points while shooting 43.9 percent from the floor and 39.0 percent from beyond the arc.

KENTUCKY
» F Anthony Davis (#23)…who is leading his team in scoring (13.9 points) and rebounding (10.1 boards) while shooting a team-best 66.3 percent from the floor (third nationally). He is also the country’s leading defender with a NCAA-best 4.8 blocks per game and a team-high 1.5 steals (eighth in the SEC). Davis has set the SEC freshman blocks record with seven games left to play and is in consideration for a number of top conference and NCAA awards.
» G Doron Lamb (#20)…who is one of the Wildcats’ “veterans” as a sophomore and is the team’s second-leading scorer averaging 13.5 points per game. He shoots 47.0 percent from the field and team-highs of 47.8 percent from three and 82.4 percent from the charity stripe.
» F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (#14)…who is another dazzling freshman, averaging 12.6 points and 7.5 rebounds in 31.0 minutes per game, the second-most on the team.
» F Terrence Jones (#3)…who is the third member of the Wildcats’ big frontcourt, hauling in 12.5 points and 6.4 boards per game. Unlike Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, Jones also has range and is netting 36.7 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc while still averaging 49.5 percent shooting all-around.

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2/6: No. 7 Florida set to face No. 1 Kentucky

Set to play their third game in six days and square off against their third top three-ranked opponent of the season on the road in the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats, the No. 7/8 Florida Gators and head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Monday to discuss a number of topics relevant to the upcoming game.

DIFFICULTIES IN TAKING ON A NO. 1 TEAM KENTUCKY

After Tuesday’s game is over, Florida will have faced all three teams currently ranked in the top three of both the USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls in road games. The Gators are hoping to come away with their first victory in such an environment and will attempt to do that by looking at the Wildcats not as the No. 1 team in the land but rather just another SEC opponent.

“We never really look at it as where a team is ranked or not ranked getting prepared for them. You always look at the team because rankings and things like that are going to change throughout the course of the year,” Donovan said. “Whether they’re ranked No. 1 or No. 5, clearly they’re one of the best teams in the country. There’s no doubt about that. It’s just more getting ready for how we got to defend, what we have to do on offense and what we got to do to prepare for them.”

His mentality has obviously been passed on to Florida’s players. “We don’t really view it as playing a No. 1 team. It’s just Kentucky,” freshman guard Bradley Beal said. “It’s a league game, so we’re just coming in with the mentality that we’re going to play our game and focus in on what we need to do.” Junior G Kenny Boynton added, “It’s just a ranking at the end of the day. We’re just going to go in there to compete and win.”

DON’T GIVE DAVIS ANY EXTRA OPPORTUNITIES
Continue Reading » 2/6: No. 7 Florida set to face No. 1 Kentucky

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SIX BITS: Quinn, Tebow, Crowder, Demps, Green’s new team, Brewer’s dad, Wambach’s idea

1 » According to The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley, Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn interviewed for but turned down the same position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Quinn, who has been at Florida for just one season, was a NFL assistant with four different teams from 2001-10.

2 » The 2011-12 season may now be in the books but that does not mean Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow‘s name is out of the news. Tebow, who sat down for a 30-minute interview with ESPN’s Hannah Storm last week, will be featured on ESPN2 in “SportsCenter Special: Face to Face with Tim Tebow” on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 10:30 p.m. Tebow’s recent ESPN rounds included an interview with Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo, which you can view below.

Four more BITS on Crowder, Demps, the Oh Fours and Wambach after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Quinn, Tebow, Crowder, Demps, Green’s new team, Brewer’s dad, Wambach’s idea

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Florida Gators return to top 10 in new rankings

The 13th editions of the 2011-12 regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Kentucky Wildcats (23-1, 9-0 SEC) held on to the No. 1 spot in both rankings, receiving the vast majority of votes as the top team in the country.

The Florida Gators reentered the top 10 for the first time since Dec. 26, 2011, falling in at No. 7 and No. 8 in the respective polls on the heels of consecutive victories at home against South Carolina (74-66) on Thursday evening and then-No. 25 Vanderbilt (73-65) on Saturday afternoon. Florida is one of three Southeastern Conference teams listed in both rankings.

Gators guard Bradley Beal picked up SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the second-straight week and fifth time this season on Monday after averaging 16.5 points, nine rebounds and two assists in consecutive wins for Florida over South Carolina and Vanderbilt. He notched a double-double on Thursday and followed it up with an impressive second half performance on Saturday.

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: Kentucky (31), Syracuse, Ohio State, Missouri, North Carolina
6-10: Baylor, Florida/Murray State, Duke, Kansas
11-15: Georgetown, Michigan State, St. Mary’s, San Diego State, Creighton
16-20: UNLV, Florida State, Mississippi State, Marquette, Virginia
21-25: Harvard, Wisconsin, Indiana/Louisville, Michigan

Last Week 1-5: Kentucky (31), Syracuse, Ohio State, Missouri, Duke
6-10: Baylor/North Carolina, Kansas, Murray State, Michigan State
11-15: Florida, Creighton, UNLV, Georgetown, Marquette
16-20: St. Mary’s, San Diego State, Virginia, Mississippi State, Indiana/Wisconsin
22-25: Michigan, Harvard, Florida State, Louisville

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: Kentucky (63), Syracuse (2), Ohio State, Missouri, North Carolina
6-10: Baylor, Kansas, Florida, Murray State, Duke
11-15: Michigan State, Georgetown, San Diego State, UNLV, Florida State
16-20: St. Mary’s, Creighton, Marquette, Virginia, Mississippi State
21-25: Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Louisville, Harvard

Last Week 1-5: Kentucky (63), Syracuse (2), Ohio State, Missouri, North Carolina
6-10: Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, Murray State
11-15: UNLV, Florida, Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette
16-20: Virginia, San Diego State, St. Mary’s, Wisconsin, Indiana
21-25: Florida State, Mississippi State, Michigan, Gonzaga, Vanderbilt

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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2/4: Florida vs. Vanderbilt post-game notes

The No. 11/12 Florida Gators earned their 19th consecutive home victory Saturday by defeating the No. 25 Vanderbilt Commodores 73-65 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The second of three games in six days, Florida’s victory left head coach Billy Donovan with plenty to talk about heading into the next contest on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

FIGHTING THROUGH FOUL TROUBLE

Florida at one point in the first half had a game-high 10-point lead but improved offensive play combined with major foul trouble to the Gators’ frontcourt sent the team reeling. Sophomore center Patric Young, junior forward Erik Murphy and even freshman guard Bradley Beal each picked up two fouls and UF played the last third of the first half with an extremely small lineup.

“We got put in a tough situation … and we really got caught playing the last 6-7 minutes of the half with [Scottie] Wilbekin at the power forward spot. To be up three going into the half, I was really pleased,” Donovan explained.

“Our energy was waning a little bit. It is tough when you go Thursday-to-Saturday like we’ve got to do. I thought we were teetering to start the second half. […] I tried to just encourage those guys to keep battling and fighting, and I thought we did that. The thing that helped was trying to rotate guys in and out and keep them in for short bursts because I really thought [in] a lot of ways we were gassed.”

In addition to having Wilbekin at the four, Donovan also thrust redshirt junior G Mike Rosario into the three role. Both players did their best but no one had a bigger task than sophomore F Will Yeguete, who was tasked with controlling Vanderbilt C Festus Ezeli in the post while the big man was on the floor.

“It was a little confusing because Scottie was there playing the four. I was a little lost,” he admitted. “We had to just battle through because Pat and Erik had two fouls, so we just had to wait for the second half and do our best. We did a good job.”

BEAL GOT THE GLORY BUT YEGUETE DID THE DIRTY WORK

If two players were to be singled out for their respective performances on Saturday, Beal and Yeguete would undoubtedly get those honors. After struggling in the first half, Beal hit two big threes in the second half, took a ball coast-to-coast for an impressive lay-in and netted four free throws down the stretch to help Florida offensively.

“I was really proud of Brad,” Donovan said. “He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well … in the first half. He didn’t have a great first half and didn’t do a whole lot but then he knocked down a big three for us that gave us the lead. He had a great transition drive; he got fouled one time going to the rim. He made a lot of really good plays that really impacted the game. The last 10 minutes of the game he really made some big plays.”

Still trying to improve his offensive game, Yeguete factored in mostly on the defensive end. He was the main cog causing the Gators’ press to be successful and gave the team a major boost while on the court for 29 minutes.

“He was great. He was really good in the press, disruptive, steals, deflections. He really exerted a lot of energy. He was a difference maker in the press for us,” Donovan said. “The thing with him that he’s great at – and he’s probably the best guy since Brent Wright who was here up there – there’s a lot of decisions he has to make in the press of when to go trap, when not to go trap, understanding how the floor is starting to move and look. He’s got a really high IQ of understanding hat. When he’s in that mode there where he can kind of freelance around, he can cause some problems. He was really disruptive.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on deciding to start Young after five-straight games on the bench: “Patric is too critical to our team and too valuable that I just forced him right back into the starting lineup. And that was a great decision because he played three minutes in the first half with two fouls. [Smiling] I’m not so sure if that was a good decision or not. […] It was nothing that he did or didn’t do.”

» Junior G Kenny Boynton on trying to end Kentucky’s home winning streak: “I’m very excited. We got the team to do it.”

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Beal leads No. 11/12 Florida past No. 25 Vanderbilt

An impressive all-around performance by freshman guard Bradley Beal – including 16 points on 50 percent shooting and seven rebounds in 30 minutes – led the No. 11/12 Florida Gators (19-4, 7-1 SEC) past the No. 25 Vanderbilt Commodores (16-7, 5-3 SEC) 73-65 Saturday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

It was Florida’s seventh-straight victory and second in the last three days. UF has won 19 consecutive games in the O’Dome and four-in-a-row against Vanderbilt.

Though Beal was all over the court for the Gators, it was junior G Kenny Boynton who posted a team-high 18 points. Commodores’ forward Jeffery Taylor led all scorers with 26 points on 7-of-12 shooting (4-of-7 from downtown, 7-of-8 from the line).

Down 11-9 early in the contest, Florida exploded on a 10-0 run capped by five-straight points by Boynton to take an 19-11 lead with 9:33 left in the first half. Vanderbilt answered back with a 6-1 scoring stretch, but the Gators followed by notching seven points – a four-point play by Boynton and a trey from redshirt junior G Mike Rosario – to take a game-high 10-point lead on the Commodores with 5:36 remaining.

Florida, however, found themselves with three starters on the bench for the remainder of the half with Beal, sophomore center Patric Young and junior F Erik Murphy all sitting after each picked up two early fouls. Vanderbilt used this to their advantage, outscoring the Gators 11-5 down the stretch to reduce their deficit to three points at the break.

The Commodores started the second half equally as hot, scoring nine-straight points including eight by Taylor to take a 43-40 lead. Young picked up his third foul quickly and Florida started the half 1-for-10 from the field, giving Vanderbilt room to make their run.

The Gators would not relent, battling to keep the game close before putting together an impressive 12-0 run including a pair of dagger treys from Beal to take a 58-49 lead. The Commodores fought back, keeping their deficit in the low single digits the rest of the way.

Up just four and trying to close out the contest, Florida took a seven-point lead with 1:03 to go thanks to a dagger three by Boynton, but Taylor answered immediately giving Vanderbilt yet another glimmer of hope. The Gators would hold on for the victory though, hitting all 14 of their second half free throws including four in the final 39 seconds.

Florida was nearly perfect from the line, netting a season-best 16-of-17 attempts. The Gators only shot 38.3 percent from the field but nailed 45.8 percent of their attempts from downtown. UF outrebounded VU 39-34 (14-10 offensively) and forced the Commodores to commit 17 turnovers thanks to a strong press in the second half.

Vanderbilt outscored Florida 26-16 in the paint, but the Gators used 18 points off the bench – 10 of them from Rosario on 4-of-8 shooting – to pull out the win.

Senior point guard Erving Walker joined the backcourt trio as the fourth Florida player with double-digit points, posting 11 on a paltry 3-of-11 shooting performance. His game-high five assists thrust him past Eddie Shannon (493) into No. 2 on UF’s all-time list, giving Walker 495 dimes for his career.

He also passed Ronnie Williams (3,898) for No. 4 on the Gators’ career minutes list (3,906) and tied Tony Miller (1,212) for eighth in field goal attempts with 11 on Saturday.

Sophomore F Will Yeguete, playing major minutes with Young and Murphy on the bench in foul trouble, grabbed team-highs of eight boards and three steals. He was pesky on defense throughout the game and the main cog in UF’s successful press.

Taylor added a game-high four steals to his total for Vanderbilt and was supported by G John Jenkins (15 points), C Festus Ezeli (11 pointss) and F Lance Goulbourne (game-high 11 rebounds).

Florida will look to continue their hot streak when they travel to face No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday evening. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on ESPN and marks the third time this season the Gators will face a top-three ranked opponent.

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2/3: Donovan talks recruiting, prep for Vanderbilt

Set to play their second of three games in six days, No. 11/12 Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Friday to discuss a number of topics including the Vanderbilt Commodores, basketball recruiting and senior point guard Erving Walker‘s improved play in his final season.

GATORS KEEPING TABS ON THE UPPERCLASSMEN

When it comes to Vanderbilt, guard John Jenkins has been a thorn in Florida’s side each of the last three years. Leading the Commodores in minutes (33.2), points (19.9) and free throw shooting (85.7 percent), Jenkins is the consummate shooter and someone Donovan will obviously have the Gators’ defense focused on.

“He’s a great player. The three best guys I’ve seen shoot the ball – and I won’t say Lee Humphrey because I’ve coached him – that we’ve gone against in this league have been Rotnei Clark, Chris Lofton and Jenkins,” he said. “He is one of the best shooters that I’ve seen in this league. A guy that can really knock shots down. Guys that can do it under pressure with a lot of defense on them and people challenge shots are really phenomenal.”

However, Jenkins is not the only player Florida will have to deal with. Forward Jeffrey Taylor is also playing lights out, averaging 17.4 points and 5.8 boards while shooting 53.1 percent from the field and a team-high 46.3 percent from three. And 6’11” center Festus Ezeli, though he’s missed 10 games, is also dangerous in the frontcourt.

“He’s an incredible space eater. He’s a great shot blocker. He has great presence. Where he was as a freshman to where he is now, he’s really made some incredible growth in terms of his offensive game,” Donovan said of Ezeli. “He has developed offensively. He has learned how to seal and post up and create angles.”

WALKER ECLIPSES 1,600 POINTS AT FLORIDA

Climbing his way up a number of all-time lists at Florida, Walker passed 1,200 career points Thursday and is just 15 points away from moving into No. 5 on the school’s scoring list. He is also three assists away from the No. 2 spot in that category, four three-pointers away from No. 3 on the list, 24 minutes away from No. 4 in court time and six trey attempts shy of No. 1 all-time at UF.

“It’s pretty amazing what he’s done at his size, a guy that came off the bench as a freshman and then moved into the starting position as a sophomore. In terms of his assists, three-point shooting, the scoring, it’s amazing a guy his size has been able to score at the level he’s been able to score at,” Donovan said.

“Any time you are able to score over 1,000 points in a career, that’s always a pretty good career offensively. I think he’ll go down as one of the better guards to play here just based on statistics and someone being here for four years.”

Walker has been concentrating on something other than scoring this season – taking care of the ball. His season-long assist/turnover ratio is 2.46, and he is first in the SEC in assists averaging 5.1 per game.

“He tries to do everything I ask him to do. We’ve talked about trying to lead the league in assists, and he’s right up there,” Donovan said. “He’s keeping his turnovers down. He’s starting to see and understand where his shots are coming from, when he needs to shoot and when he needs to pass. He’s getting better at it.”

A “GENTLEMEN’S AGREEMENT” IN RECRUITING?

Donovan was asked if there is a “gentlemen’s agreement” in college basketball when it comes to recruiting. In other words that a coach will not actively recruit a player committed to another school. A common practice in college football, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was accused of doing so by Wisconsin this week. He admitted as such and stated it was an aggressive action but not illegal and that many other schools do it as well. Below are Donovan’s thoughts:

“Yeah. I’ve always been amazed at football. There used to be a basketball coach – I’m not going to say his name – years ago he’s no longer coaching, when I first got in the business and a guy would commit, he would say, ‘Great now it’s down to two – me and you.’ I would say in basketball there is no question a gentlemen’s whatever. I will not recruit anybody who is committed. Never ever ever. That’s kind of a thing that goes on in basketball. And I have the right to recruit, but I think it’s kind of an unwritten or an unspoken law in basketball that once a guy is committed, that’s it.

“I have not done this but I know coaches will do this. If a guy is committed to a school and there is another school trying to change or break that commitment, the school he’s committed to will call up the coach and say, ‘What are you doing? This guy has made a decision. He’s already coming to our school.’ […] I’ve always been amazed in football that a guy is verbally committed somewhere and he’s taking official visits to other places. That makes no sense to me. He shouldn’t commit anywhere if he’s not really sure. It just seems that’s what goes on.

“Al Horford is a perfect example. Al Horford committed to Michigan. I had a person very close to Al in the recruitment who said that he felt like he made a mistake and he would like to come to Florida. I said, ‘I’m not going to recruit him. The only way that I would recruit him is if he calls up the coach at Michigan and tells him that he has decided to open up his recruitment. But I’m not going to talk to you about Florida, and I’m not going to talk to you about anything. It’s got to be his decision.’ Al obviously did that. I’m not going to pick up the phone and talk to a kid that’s already committed somewhere and tell him why he shouldn’t go there and that he’s making a mistake there.

“There’s kids that decommit all the time. Austin Rivers decommited last year and he decided to open up his recruitment. […] I don’t know if other schools were tampering with Austin or not or talking to him. It’s one of those things where I just don’t do that. I would say that most of college basketball coaches don’t do that once a guy is committed. That’s like an across the board consensus.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On if he “ripped into the team” following their victory on Thursday: “I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that sometimes you’re better off watching the film. I would say most of the time my assessment just sitting there is accurate but there are times where you look at something and you think something was the problem and it’s not.”

» On the quick turnaround: “There’s no question the stretch that we have coming up is going to be very demanding, very tough playing against a lot of good teams. […] What you have to do is put all of your focus and energy into what is in front of you right now. They’ll eventually all play themselves out.”

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