Donovan’s halftime speech lights fire for Florida

The No. 11/12 Florida Gators started slow but pulled away from the Auburn Tigers in the second half of Tuesday night’s game, eventually routing their visitors 63-47.

Down 30-27 at the break after playing “careless” basketball including committing 12 turnovers and making a number of extremely poor decisions in the first half, the Gators received a stern talking to by head coach Billy Donovan in the locker room.

Senior point guard Erving Walker summed it up in three simple words: “You guys suck.”

Donovan was disappointed in his team not only for the turnovers but also because they played poor three-point defense and did not attack the boards on either end of the court.

“In the first half, there was nobody home mentally. We were slow reacting,” he said. “They beat us to a lot of loose basketballs and we were down by three. I think those guys realized that we got to kind of get going here a little bit.”

The first half ended with a microcosm of how the entire 20 minutes played out.

Rather than either trying to create a play or running the clock out as much as possible, Walker threw up and missed a long three-pointer that was rebounded and driven the entire length of the court for a buzzer-beating layup. Florida headed into the half down three, and Donovan knew he had to do something to help change his team’s fortunes.

“I spoke from my heart just how I felt about the way we played and what we did and what we needed to do,” he explained. “Those guys went out there and did it in the second half. They played very well and were able to get things turned around.”

Check out what Billy Donovan had to say to his team…after the break!
Continue Reading » Donovan’s halftime speech lights fire for Florida

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Will Yeguete out indefinitely with broken foot

Sophomore forward Will Yeguete will miss at least 4-6 weeks and likely the remainder of the season for the Florida Gators after breaking his foot during Tuesday game against Auburn, head coach Billy Donovan confirmed following the contest.

Yeguete, a solid interior defender, efficient rebounder and much-needed spark of energy for the Gators when he is on the court, went down with 11:11 left the second half after landing on his foot awkwardly when returning to the floor after going up for a rebound. He was sent to the locker room for further evaluation did not return.

“I’m worried right now that Yeguete broke his foot; I don’t know that that’s the case,” Donovan said after the game, adding that Yeguete had already been sent off to Shands Hospital for X-rays and that he was awaiting the results.

Donovan later confirmed that Yeguete’s food is indeed broken and a Florida spokesman said after the game that he will miss a minimum of 4-6 weeks but likely the entire season.

Yeguete’s injury is to the fifth metatarsal in his left foot and is likely a Jones fracture, which may require a screw to be inserted in order to help stabilize the bone.

It is the third major ailment the second-year big man has faced this year.

He suffered a concussion against Ohio State on Nov. 15 and was forced to miss the following game, a 91-55 win over North Florida. Yeguete was concussed a second time against Tennessee on Feb. 11 and UF never recovered in the contest, dropping a 75-70 decision at home. He once again sat out one game, which the Gators won 61-52 on the road at Alabama three days later.

Yegeute has averaged 6.3 rebounds, 4.5 points and 1.2 steals in 22.2 minutes per game over 25 contests for Florida this season.

It remains to be seen how the Gators will attempt to replace his production though the team will likely try do so by committee approach. Florida can go small by giving more minutes to sophomores point guard Scottie Wilbekin and guard Casey Prather or keep size in the frontcourt by using redshirt freshman F Cody Larson more often.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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No. 11 Gators use big second half to cage Tigers

What started out as a potential upset bid turned into an absolute rout as the No. 11/12 Florida Gators (22-6, 10-3 SEC) more than doubled up the Auburn Tigers (14-13, 4-9 SEC) in the second half to pull away with a 63-47 victory on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida outscored Auburn 36-17 over the final 20 minutes and was able to shoot their way past an 18-turnover performance that allowed their opponent to take 15 more shot attempts in the first half alone.

Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton led the way for his team with one of the most efficient shooting performances of his career, hitting 7-of-11 shots from the field and 6-of-9 from beyond the arc for a game-high 20 points.

Florida started out a perfect 6-for-6 from the field (and 2-for-2 from downtown), but Auburn was nearly as efficient from beyond the arc, hitting four of their first five shots to keep UF’s lead at 16-14 early in the first half.

Though the Gators shot well, they turned the ball over 12 times in the first 20 minutes and allowed the Tigers to score 10 points off of those miscues. Auburn took 15 more shots than Florida did in the opening half and had a bench that outscored their opponent’s 16-2 as they held a 30-27 lead heading into the break.

The Gators hit a pair of three-pointers to retake the lead at the beginning of the second half, but the Tigers answered back and kept things interesting for the next seven minutes. Florida then found their stride in a big way, hitting three more treys as part of a 15-2 run to take a 51-39 lead with 6:51 to play.

UF continued to pile on AU, extending their scoring stretch to 25-4 and their lead to a game-high 20 points with less than two minutes to go. The Gators played quality defense down the stretch and took good care of the ball for the duration of the contest.

Florida slowed down in the second half, only turning the ball over six times (compared to twice as often in the first 20 minutes) and getting better looks from beyond the arc.

The Gators shot 52.4 percent (11-of-21) from three for the game and went 7-for-12 from beyond the arc is the second half alone. Florida had 13 assists on 23 baskets and outrebounded Auburn 39-24 over the course of the evening.

After turning the ball over four times in the first half, freshman G Bradley Beal was much more controlled after the break and did not cough it up once in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 13 points (on 5-of-9 shooting) with six rebounds, a block and a steal.

Senior point guard Erving Walker led the Gators with seven boards and five assists but also chipped in 13 points of his own by hitting 3-of-7 attempts from three.

Florida hopes to add to their three-game winning streak when they travel to Georgia on Saturday. The game will air live at 4 p.m. on SEC Network (check your local listings).

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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2/20: Donovan on Walker’s game, Rosario’s return

Coming off a pair of significant road victories, the newly-minted No. 11/12 Florida Gators are looking to continue their positive momentum Tuesday when they host the Auburn Tigers. Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Monday to discuss his program heading into the upcoming game.


Struggling with his stroke for the entire month of February (until Saturday), senior point guard Erving Walker broke out with a career-high 31 points against Arkansas on 9-of-12 shooting (5-of-6 from downtown) with five assists and no turnovers.

Donovan said Monday that a lot of Walker’s issues may have been his fault since he put so much on the veteran’s plate including leading the team on and off the court, corralling some of his tendencies, taking extra care of the ball and recognizing offensive and defensive occurrences during the game.

“Some of it was a lot of things that were built up on him – me being one of them. With him being our only senior and with the ball in his hands, I do think he’s trying to without question please me,” he said. “He hasn’t shot the ball well. He’s trying to run our team. He’s trying to do a lot of different things that maybe over the last couple of years he didn’t have to do.

“I’m trying to get him to think at a different level than maybe he’s had to in the past. The combination of all that stuff probably took away a little bit of him being focused on what he needs to do. In the game he’s done a better job of managing and handling all of that. I’ve also tried to take him to a different level in terms of his thought process and also take him to a different level in what it really means to be a point guard because some of those things are not natural for him. There is a balance between how much I do put on him and how much I take away from him. I do feel like in the game he played with a free mind. He was really focused.”

Junior guard Kenny Boynton was equally supportive of Walker, saying he played a great game and is doing his best to lead UF on the court. “He’s done a great job at it,” he said. “Erv’s not really a talkative guy on the court. He’s done a better job trying to be a leader on this team.”

Donovan added that though Walker may make mistakes or look out of control sometimes, he knows that it is not on purpose. “He really tries to do what I ask him to do,” he said. “He really goes out of his way to do that. I’m never worried about his intentions.”


Sidelined with a hip pointer for the last three games, redshirt junior G Mike Rosario originally got the injury by bumping into redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson in practice after the Tennessee game but returned to practice in full on Sunday. He tried to practice late last week but could not and was left in Gainesville, FL over the weekend to get additional treatment.

“When he’s running or cutting and moving, he’s got a lot of discomfort. He’s really favoring it to the point where he’s very leery of cutting and moving in certain ways. You can notice it just on plays where he’s got to push off or change direction,” Donovan explained.

“When those guys get hurt like that, we try to at least push them to a point where we’re not putting them in harm’s way. I don’t think he’s going to put himself in a position where he’s going to reinjure it or he’s going to hurt it any more severely than it’s been hurt. I do think he has a lack of confidence in the injury in terms of working through it because it just does not feel comfortable when he’s cutting and moving.”

Donovan said that, should Rosario practice in full once again on Monday, he will be available to play on Tuesday and going forward.


» Donovan on sophomore center Patric Young’s recent foul trouble: “His foul trouble this last game was not his fault. It was more our guards’ fault. Our guards go to do a better job containing the ball on the perimeter. Because when our guards are getting beat off the dribble, it’s putting a lot of pressure on him at the basket. A couple of his fouls – I think two or three of them – came from dribble penetration by guards. We’ve got to do a better job in zone and/or man of containing the ball and guarding it.”

» Donovan on the team’s recent improvements: “You never want to stay where you’re at. You always want to try and continually get better. […] Our team has gotten better and has improved and has taken on some of the challenges we’ve had with these two road games this week.”

» Walker on almost being done with his senior year: “I know it’s only a certain amount of games, but I haven’t really thought about that. I’m actually thinking that it’s close to tournament time and we got to win once we get there.”

» Walker on if the team looks at bracket projections: “Sometimes…but Joe Lunardi is wrong sometimes.”

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Gators up a couple spots in new top 25 rankings

The 15th editions of the 2011-12 regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Kentucky Wildcats (26-1, 12-0 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 rose again in the rankings after a pair of impressive road wins this past week. Florida went up to No. 11 and No. 12 in the respective polls on the heels of consecutive victories against Alabama (61-52) on Tuesday evening and Arkansas (98-68) on Saturday evening. The Gators are one of two Southeastern Conference teams listed in the rankings this week.

Florida guard Bradley Beal picked up SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the sixth time this season on Monday after averaging 17.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in back-to-back victories for the Gators.

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, 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

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

This 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

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

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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Walker, No. 12 Gators outclass Razorbacks 98-68

The Arkansas Razorbacks were undefeated at home heading into Saturday game, a showdown with the No. 12/14 Florida Gators at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, AR. Florida (21-6, 9-3 SEC) put an end to that 17-game winning streak by demolishing Arkansas (17-10, 5-7 SEC) 98-68 and put a major dent in their NCAA Tournament chances behind a career-best performance from senior point guard Erving Walker,

Walker led the Gators on Saturday with a career-high 31 points on 9-of-12 shooting (5-for-6 from downtown, 8-for-8 from the line) and game-high five assists.

UF utilized exceptional shooting and efficient offensive rhythm by the entire team to silence a raucous crowd that had previously helped the Razorbacks defeat a pair of top-20 opponents this season.

Florida held an early 8-7 advantage before exploding on a 19-4 run (and 25-6 scoring stretch) that included three-pointers on four-straight possessions and vaulted them ahead of Arkansas 33-13 with 8:47 to play in the first half.

Walker started the game 4-of-4 from beyond the arc and led the Gators to a hot 9-of-14 start from downtown. His fourth trey doubled up the Razorbacks, and UF continued their first half onslaught to jump ahead by 26 points at the break.

Florida began the second half by taking a 28-point lead on a three by freshman G Bradley Beal with 17 minutes to play. At one point, the Gators had hit nine-straight treys and 20 consecutive field goals over a 16:05 stretch spanning the half. Florida started 11-for-16 from beyond the arc and 21-of-31 from the floor with 12 assists.

The Gators found themselves ahead 30 points in the second half and took a game-high 32-point lead on Walker’s final trey of the game with 1:36 remaining.

Florida as a team shot 58.3 percent (28-of-48) from the field, 56.5 percent (13-of-23) from beyond the arc and 85.3 percent (29-of-34) from the charity stripe. The Gators had 14 assists on 28 baskets and outrebounded the Razorbacks 39-21.

Joining Walker with an impressive performance was junior G Kenny Boynton, who scored 25 points, hitting 10-of-11 free throws and grabbing five rebounds while dishing three dimes. Beal posted 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting with nine boards and three assists, and junior forward Erik Murphy chipped in 13 points while going 3-of-5 from downtown with four boards.

Returning from a concussion that forced him to miss Florida’s game on Tuesday, sophomore F Will Yeguete recorded a game-high 12 rebounds.

Since starting the season 0-4 on the road, the Gators have gone 4-1 away from home over their last five games. Florida will return to Gainesville, FL to host Auburn on Tuesday. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.

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Florida hoping to pull off a big win at Arkansas

Looking to continue their winning ways after a decisive victory on Tuesday at Alabama, the No. 12/14 Florida Gators travel to Fayetteville, AR to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday. Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Friday to discuss his team heading into the upcoming game.


Both still recovering from injuries, sophomore forward Will Yeguete (concussion) and redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario (hip pointer) returned to practice on Friday before the team left for Arkansas. However, despite Yeguete passing all five necessary concussion tests and Rosario practicing for the first time in over a week, Donovan was unsure if either would be available on Saturday.

“As it relates to me playing or not playing him, that will always be predicated on what the medical team says and how they feel,” he said of Yeguete. “When you’re out of practice and out of games for over a week, there probably is a level of rust, there probably is a level of timing that needs to get back,” he added when speaking about Rosario.

The Gators announced just under two hours before game time that Yeguete has been cleared to play; Rosario, on the other hand, did not travel with the team and will miss his sixth game (third-straight) this season.


Now back with Florida as an assistant, former Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey will return to Fayetteville for the first time since the team fired him one year ago. Though he is still close with many of the players he recruited on the team, Donovan suspects that he will certainly feel something when he steps into the arena on Saturday.

“I’m sure internally there’s probably a lot of emotions there for him,” he said. “Any time there is a change like that, it’s always difficult. […] I’m sure for him there will be some emotions and some feelings going back there.”


» Florida leads the all-time series against Arkansas 14-10; the Gators hold a 14-5 advantage over the Razorbacks since Donovan took over UF’s program and is on a four-game winning streak against Saturday’s opponent.
» The Gators are 4-0 against traditional SEC West opponents this season.
» All five of Florida’s normal starters are averaging double figures in scoring.
» The Gators have made 10+ three-pointers in 17 of 26 games this year, a season-high mark under Donovan.
» Florida has made a three in 677 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» The Gators are 285-38 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» 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.
» Arkansas is 17-0 at home this season and 0-9 in away and neutral site games.


Senior point guard Erving Walker is steadily making his way up a number of Florida’s career lists, moving into No. 1 all-time in assists against Alabama (505) and already holding the top mark for career three-point attempts. Below are some of the achievements he is about to make in UF’s record books.

» Minutes: Walker (4,002) can move into No. 1 all-time in time on the court by playing 99 more minutes, passing Eugene McDowell (4,100).
» Three-pointers made: Walker (265) can move into No. 3 all-time with three treys, passing Anthony Roberson (267).
» Scoring: Walker (1,634) can move into No. 4 all-time with 45 points, passing Stacey Poole (1,678).
» Free throws made: Walker (403) can move into No. 7 all-time with 9 makes from the charity stripe, passing Dan Cross (411).
» Free throws attempted: Walker (512) can move into No. 9 all-time with three foul shots, passing David Lee (514).
» Walker is near the top 10 all-time in games started (two away) and steals (six away).


» Donovan if recruiting “bench” players is difficult: “Assembling a team in college basketball in a lot of respects is challenging and a lot different than it was when I first got here. You always have the opportunity with good players where they have an opportunity to make a decision at the end of the year. Teams’ dynamics and personalities can alter and get changed pretty quickly with departures.”

» Asked what injuries he had suffered as a basketball player, Donovan disclosed that he had broken his ankles, dislocated a knee cap and even broken some ribs when he fell onto an opponent’s knee. He also made a joke when discussing Yeguete’s concussions and how in years prior they may have gone undiagnosed. “Sometimes with the way I think, I think I’ve had a few concussions in my day,” he said.

» Sophomore center Patric Young on freshman G Bradley Beal’s dunk and technical foul against Alabama: “It’s kind of my fault on the technical. I kind of made him do it. I like when he dunks on guys. Of course we need that kind of energy. It gets me fired up, and it got him fired up as well. He doesn’t need to stare the guy down like he did, that was kind of a little much. We need each one of our guys to bring some energy like that.”

» Young on the picture of him floating around from the Alabama game: “I’m kind of annoyed because people keep Tweeting me as if I haven’t seen it yet.”

» Junior F Erik Murphy on Walker’s recent struggles: “I’m always confident in Erv no matter what. He’s been great in practice lately. His attitude and stuff is fine. He’s mentally there. I think he’ll break out of this slump pretty soon.”

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, NBA, Tebow

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (1-0) played like the top team in the country during their season opener on Friday, fighting back every time they were down and eventually toppling the No. 16 Cal State Fullerton Titans (0-1) 7-3 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Down a run after a throwing error in the top of the second, the Gators tied the game when freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1-4) turned on his first collegiate pitch and belted a homer to left field. Behind 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Florida used another solo shot – this time from senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3) – to even things up again. The Gators’ clutch hitting continued as a four-run seventh inning – including to pair of RBI singles by juniors catcher Mike Zunino (1-4) and first baseman Brian Johnson (2-4) – to jump ahead 7-3 and hold on for the victory. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the start for UF but gave up three earned runs on five hits with only one strikeout in 5.2 innings for the no decision. Coming on in relief with his team down a run, junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (1-0) struck out three and gave up just one hit in 2.1 innings before senior RHP Greg Larson tossed the final inning to clinch the victory. Florida’s series with Cal State Fullerton continues Saturday and Sunday though neither game is being televised.

2 » No. 1 Florida softball (7-0) continued its hot start to the 2012 season with yet another run-rule victory as the Gators shut out the Michigan State Spartans (1-5) 8-0 in five innings Friday night at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. Florida took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth but crossed the plate five times in the inning to take a 7-0 lead. A RBI single by sophomore left fielder Kasey Fagan (1-2) in the bottom of the fifth wound up being a walk-off hit as it became the game-deciding run. Freshman 1B Lauren Haeger (2-2) led the way for the Gators with four RBIs, and junior C Brittany Schutte supported her with a 3-3 performance and a RBI of her own. Freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-3) also plated two runs and crossed home once herself. Continuing to prove her dominance on the mound, sophomore pitcher Hannah Rogers (5-0) tossed a complete game one-hitter with four strikeouts and a walk in 5.0 innings. UF will take on Michigan State twice more before the weekend concludes.

3 » It was a big night in the NBA for four former Gators stars. Friday night’s standout performance came from Denver Nuggets guard/forward Corey Brewer, who scored a team-high 26 points (10-of-14 shooting) with five rebounds, a steal and a block in 32 minutes. Joining him at the top of their team’s respective box scores were Golden State Warriors forward/center David Lee with a team-high 23 points (8-of-17 shooting) and eight boards in a team-high 30 minutes; Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons with a team-high 18 points (8-of-15 shooting), a team-high six rebounds and three assists in a team-high 40 minutes; and Memphis Grizzlies C Marreese Speights with a double-double of 12 points (5-of-8 shooting) and 10 boards with two blocks in 35 minutes.

Parsons also learned Friday that he will be participating in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend as one of three players representing Houston in the Shooting Stars competition.

4 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has officially scheduled his “experience” event at the new D1 Sports Training and Therapy facility in Citrus Park, FL. Tebow will hold a special training session at D1 on March 10 where members and special guests will have the opportunity to train alongside him while checking out the new workout center. For more information on D1 and Tebow’s involvement with the company (he’s a part-owner of two facilities), check out OGGOA‘s post from Jan. 17.

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