Florida ends 2011 season with tough OT loss

Putting together a fantastic run to end the season, the No. 2-seed Florida Gators fell just short in the Southeast Regional Final of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, dropping a heartbreaker 74-71 in overtime to the No. 8-seed Butler Bulldogs. It was the first time in school history that the Gators fell in the Elite Eight and did not advance to the Final Four. The teams’ coaches and players spoke with the media following the contest, and OGGOA has compiled the most important news, notes and quotes for you to peruse below.

SENIORS GO HOME DISAPPOINTED

Saturday’s loss was devastating for the entire Florida program but perhaps no one more so than the team’s trio of seniors – forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus and redshirt center Vernon Macklin.

“Right now it’s tough to end a season like that, especially for me with Chandler, Alex and Vernon,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “They’ve provided so much for our program, and I’m proud of them. The thing I mentioned to them in the locker room after the game was that, when a group of guys decide to come together and try to become a team – a real team – a lot of great things can be accomplished. When you go after trying to accomplish something, there is the other side that the losing is even more painful because you have so much invested in each other. When you have that kind of investment in each other, losing at this time becomes much more difficult. These guys came together as a team, and the losing part hurts, and you want it to hurt because you want to get the opportunity to play for what we played for [Saturday].”

Macklin was the most despondent of the three in the post-game press conference, sitting with his head in his hands looking down at the table. Unlike Tyus, who talked about just moving on, he and Parsons were able to articulate their thoughts. “It’s been a great run. I love my teammates. I love my coaching staff. I’m sad to see it all end right now, but it’s been a great time at Florida,” Macklin said. “I’m glad I came here and got a chance to play with these guys, play under Coach Donovan and with this coaching staff.”

Parsons added that he will likely feel this pain for a while. “It hurts right now. It’s what it was made out to me. It is everything I thought it was,” he said of playing in the Elite Eight. “I had a great career here. I loved every day coming to practice, playing with my teammates. I loved the opportunity that we had tonight. Right now it’s just disappointing because we fell short. We wanted to be out there right now celebrating. It just hurts to end this way. […] I haven’t been in this situation. It hurts right now, so right now I have a terrible feeling. I almost feel sick to my stomach. My career is not over. I plan on playing basketball for a long time, so I can’t dwell on it my whole life. But it’s definitely a disappointing time, a sad time for me, because I wanted to keep playing with these guys.”

DONOVAN OUTCOACHED STEVENS, NOT OTHER WAY AROUND?

Sentiment from Gator Nation following UF’s loss Saturday was that Donovan had been outcoached by Butler’s Brad Stevens because Florida took threes at the end of regulation and overtime. However, according to Stevens himself, Donovan did a number on him the entire game. “[The Bulldogs] carried their coach today in a big way. I got outcoached big-time,” he said. “The last thing that I’m going to do is question [the Gators], because I got outcoached pretty thoroughly today. We’re just lucky that our guys are good players.”

VIDEO: See handshake, final one-fourth of the clip.

What is lost in the rush-to-judgment opinions and extreme calamity about Florida’s final shots are two facts: (1) A team was on the floor defending them so the Gators could not do whatever they wanted, and (2) The execution of each play was not necessarily how Donovan drew it up. To conclude regulation, junior point guard Erving Walker was supposed to try to penetrate and either draw a foul or kick the ball open to someone for a potentially shorter jump shot. At the end of overtime, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton should have taken it to the hoop rather than launched a deep three.

“I don’t try to coach anybody else’s team. [Donovan]’s going to be a Hall of Famer whenever he decides to retire,” Stevens said. “I understand what they were doing at the end of regulation. You don’t want to give us the ball at all. The reason [Walker] didn’t get any penetration is because we trapped the ball screen and stayed up with him. He got a pretty good look for a pretty good player. I know this: I was scared when the shot went up. I wasn’t scared when Boynton’s last shot – that heave from about 80 feet – went up.”

Donovan shared similar sentiments. “You want to put the ball in a guy’s hands that you feel like can make that kind of shot,” he said. “In regulation, we got Erving Walker a great look; he told me he had a great look and was really wide open. He was disappointed he missed that one. […] I probably would have liked to seen Kenny drive the ball when we were down by one, I would have preferred that. But he’s another guy that has made some big shots for us. I would have liked to have seen him drive the ball to try to create some contact. You know what? He’s made some shots in some really big situations for us to even be at this position. It’s hard for me to say it’s a bad shot. I would have liked to have seen him drive the ball. He’s made some huge threes in second halves of games and overtimes for us all year long. If it goes in, we’re talking about how Boynton’s clutch shooting continues. But it didn’t go in, and that’s what happens.”

WHAT HAPPENED TO MACKLIN?

By all accounts, Macklin had a dominant game for the Gators in the post. However, three early fouls and a fourth tacked on exactly two seconds after he returned with 9:02 to play in the second half made him ineffective. His free throw shooting down the stretch also made him a liability that Florida could not gamble on in the clutch.

“I felt like Vernon was going to have the opportunity to play on-on-one from the post. He had a great game, gave us a big-time scoring presence inside,” Donovan said. “We went to Vernon to start overtime, and he was 1-for-2 from the free throw line. Certainly we were trying to go inside, but when Vernon comes off the floor, I don’t know necessarily if we have a low-post offensive presence. I knew at that point in time, they were just not going to allow him to do what he did in the first half. If he was going to get an angle, they were going to foul him. I made a decision to at least pull him out and go with Patric [Young]. Patric probably, as a freshman, is not as seasoned and polished as Vernon is as a senior, so he’s a hard guy to go to. And Alex is not that kind of physical presence.”

Even Macklin agreed that he should have been off the court. “[Being in foul trouble was] frustrating. I wanted to be on the floor,” he said. “[I was pulled for] two different reasons. I’m not that great of a free throw shooter, so I didn’t want to jeopardize my teammates. I think Coach Donvoan made a great decision. I picked up some early fouls and some dumb fouls I shouldn’t have got. That’s on me; I should have been in the right position.”

DIFFERENCE IN THE GAME: GRABBING LOOSE BALLS

Things unraveled for the Gators at about the same time Macklin picked up his fourth foul. The Bulldogs went on a quick run to reduce UF’s 11-point lead, partially because Florida was unable to grab a number of loose balls and defensive rebounds which gave Butler a extra possessions. “The difference in the game was right around the 9:00 mark; there was an enormous amount of loose balls that we did not come down with that they came down with,” Donovan explained. “We had two three-point shots that were blocked; they came down with and scored. We had a couple free throws where they missed – one we actually tipped the ball in – that hurt. The game was won by them on loose balls.”

QUOTES

Donovan on his team’s effort: “They became a team. They gave themselves an opportunity to go to the Final Four, and they fell short of that, but they did everything in their power physically, mentally and emotionally to try to win.”

Donovan on if the players will realize what they did accomplish: “They’ll all get over it. It will take some time. Right now we lost, but there will be a time when they look back on where they were in December and they’ll see a better picture of how far they came. You never want it to end. You want it to keep on going.”

Donovan on a frustration about not getting the ball in the post more at the end: “I was pleased with our balance offensively. I thought we had really good inside-outside action. I would have liked to have utilized Vernon a lot more in the second half, but it was hard because he was in foul trouble. Once we got into overtime and the end of regulation, because of his free throw situation, we had to play Patric.”

Donovan on if Parsons and Walker were not in a groove: “The one thing you have to do in order to be a really good team is you have to have balance. In the BYU game, they sold out on Vernon Macklin on every post catch. They sold out on him. So he had to be a post passer. This was a game where they decided to take our perimeter away. You got to throw the ball to Vernon and you got to let him score. He did a heck of a job tonight when we needed to throw the ball to him.”

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Mack outdoes Macklin as (8) Bulldogs eliminate (2) Gators in overtime, 74-71

Blowing an 11-point second-half lead and missing two three-pointers with the time ticking away in overtime, the (2) Florida Gators (29-8) were eliminated from the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Saturday, falling to the (8) Butler Bulldogs (27-9) 74-71 in the Elite Eight at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA.

Despite redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin posting a career-high 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting, his four fouls proved to be a liability down the stretch. Butler guard Shelvin Mack was quick and elusive all game, scoring a game-high 27 points including his team’s final five in extra time.

Starting the game with gusto, Mack was responsible his team’s first eight points as Macklin countered by contributing 13 of his team’s first 25.

The Gators used a 7-0 run to jump out to a 10-point lead with 7:01 remaining, but the Bulldogs finished the half on a 17-8 run to cut UF’s advantage to just one point.

The Gators frontcourt scored their first 18 points of the game and was responsible for 11-of-12 baskets in the opening half; a fastbreak dunk from sophomore guard Kenny Boynton was the backcourt’s only field goal.

Butler forward Matt Howard began the second half with a bang, hitting a three-pointer out of the gate to give the Bulldogs their first lead since 14:12 remained in the first half.

Leading 37-35, Butler missed 13 of their next 14 field goals as Florida took off on a 14-3 run – including eight points by senior F Alex Tyus and a pair of layups by Boynton – to jump ahead a game-high 11 points, 51-40. Macklin, who sat on the bench for four minutes with three fouls, picked up his fourth two seconds after he returned and immediately left the court with 9:00 to go.

The Bulldogs did not wait long to get back in the game, using a miscue by Tyus and a quick pace to create a 9-2 run that cut the Gators’ lead to four points with 6:35 to play.

After sitting out 7:48 due to his four fouls, Macklin returned to the court for Florida. However, Butler continued to chip away at their deficit, using a 5-0 run to tie the game at 57 apiece with 3:02 remaining in the contest.

With the Gators leading 60-59 and 33.7 seconds left, the Bulldogs inbounded the ball to Howard, who missed a jumper but was fouled with 30.7 seconds still on the clock. He proceeded to hit only one of two free throws, but Walker missed a trey at the buzzer to send the game into overtime tied at 60.

Tied at 62, Butler F Khyle Marshall turned an offensive rebound into a three-point play, putting his team ahead with 3:33 to play. With the Bulldogs back up three, Boynton found himself open at the top of the key and hit a huge three to tie the game at 67 with 2:21 left.

Two free throws by BU later, Walker put the Gators back ahead with his first field goal of the game, a three-pointer from the left elbow. Mack responded in kind, hitting a dagger trey to give Butler a 72-70 lead. On the line for two shots, Walker only hit one and the Bulldogs got the ball back with 52.1 seconds left and a one-point advantage.

Mack missed an open three-pointer on Butler’s next possession, giving the ball back to Florida down one with 29.2 seconds remaining. Quick out of the timeout, Boynton clanked a long but open three-pointer and Howard stole the rebound from Tyus, who fouled Mack on the next inbounds play. Mack hit both free throws, allowing the Gators one last chance to hit a three with 10.6 seconds to go.

Receiving the ball from Boynton, Walker threw up a three-pointer with eight seconds left but hit the front of the rim as the Bulldogs ran on the court to celebrate their second-straight appearance in the Final Four.

Butler hit nine more treys than Florida, a major difference in the game considering how cold UF was from beyond the arc. Howard was the Bulldogs’ only other double-digit scorer, posting 14 points and five rebounds.

Tyus achieved his second-straight double-double for the Gators with 14 points and 10 boards, while Boynton contributed 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Walker, who was a sloppy 1-for-10 from the field and 1-for-7 from three, added eight points (five on free throws).

Florida’s loss was their first in the Elite Eight in school history; previously the Gators were 4-0 in the NCAA Regional Finals, advancing to the Final Four each time and the national title game on three occasions. Butler won its first overtime game of the season on Saturday; they were 0-3 before the victory.

THREE NAMED TO ALL-REGION TEAM

Tyus, Macklin and Boynton were all honored with nominations to the 2011 NCAA All-Southeast Region Team. They were joined by Howard and Mack of Butler, the latter of whom also won the region’s Most Valuable Player award.

Photo Credit: Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

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2011 NCAA Tournament: (2) Florida vs. (8) Butler

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – Elite Eight
Location: New Orleans Arena – New Orleans, LA [Capacity: 18,500]
Time: 4:30 p.m. (EST)

TV: CBS / CBSHD
Online Video: —->
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (8) BUTLER BULLDOGS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Brad Stevens
Record: 29-7 Record: 26-9
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Horizon League
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -4; O/U 132

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is making its second-straight and 16th overall NCAA Tournament appearance. The Gators are 32-13 all-time in the event with two national titles, three championship game appearances and four Final Four appearances.
» UF is playing in the NCAA Regional Final (Elite Eight) for the fifth time in school history; they are 4-0 and have advanced to the Final Four on every such occasion. The No. 2 seed is their second-highest opening position in school history, and their .711 all-time NCAA Tournament winning percentage is the highest in SEC history.
» Butler is making its second consecutive NCAA Regional Final appearance and fourth in the last nine years. The Bulldogs are 16-10 all-time in the event and have earned a postseason berth in 13 of the last 15 seasons.
» The Gators are 3-0 all-time in New Orleans Arena.
» Florida and Butler are meeting for the third time in the history of the two programs. The Gators are 2-0 all-time against the Bulldogs with both games played at neutral sites.
» The two teams share a pair of common opponents this season – Florida State and Xavier. UF defeated FSU 55-51 on Nov. 28 and beat XU 71-67 on Dec. 31, while Butler took down the former 67-64 on Dec. 23 and fell to the later 51-49 on Dec. 9.
» Donovan is 25-8 all-time in the tournament including two national championships and three Final Four appearances. His .758 winning percentage at the Big Dance is fourth among active coaches and second all-time among SEC coaches. He is also the youngest active coach to win a national title (age 40 in 2006).
» The Gators are 16-3 against the 2011 NCAA field and finished the regular season with the third outright SEC championship in school history (1989, 2007). Florida has captured five overall SEC titles including four under Donovan (2000, 2001, 2007, 2011).
» UF averages a +13.8-point margin of victory in 25 NCAA wins under Donovan.
» The Gators are 23-2 when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» Florida has won 21 of their last 25 games (and 13 of their last 15 – only losses coming to Kentucky) including 18 against RPI top 100 teams.
» The Gators are the only NCAA Division I team not to have a player foul out of a game this season. They lead the nation in fewest fouls committed per game (14.5).
» UF is 11-3 when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10+ shots from the field. He has moved into the top 20 in school history in scoring (1,435 points) and is the only active Division I player with over 1,300 points, 800 rebounds, 300 assists and 125 steals. He also became the sixth player in school history with 500+ career field goals.
» Florida bests Butler in three of four major national statistical categories. The Gators lead the Bulldogs in rebounding 37.5-34.9 (49th-177th), assists 13.7-12.5 (106th-190th) and field goal percentage .462-.446 (51st-122nd); however, Butler scores more points than Florida 72.8-71.5 (71st-98th). The Gators also lead the Bulldogs in scoring defense with 63.0-65.6 points per game, opponent field goal percentage .421-.430, rebound margin +5.6 to +3.9 and shot blocking 3.6-1.6. UF ranks 10th in RPI (.6353) and sixth in strength of schedule nationally compared to BU being 38th (.5853) and 77th, respectively.

LAST TIME OUT…

Florida and Butler first met in the opening round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament, when the Gators used a buzzer-beating runner (video) from guard Mike Miller in overtime to defeat the Bulldogs 69-68. Trying to defend the school’s first national championship, UF also went head-to-head with BU in the Sweet 16 of the 2007 NCAA Tournament, taking them down 65-57 on their way to a second-straight NCAA title.

KNOW THE OPPONENT

No. 8-seed Butler is the regular season and tournament champions out of the Horizon League. After putting together their sixth-straight 20-win season. The Bulldogs are 16-3 in the month of March in the last four years under Stevens and are currently on a 12-game winning streak. BU won its first two games of the tournament – against Old Dominion and Pittsburgh – in exciting fashion with game-winning shots to end the respective contests. Butler then beat up on Wisconsin 61-54 in the Sweet 16 to earn a match-up against Florida. The Bulldogs are 3-3 against teams ranked in the RPI top 25 with all three victories coming during the tournament.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Parsons…the 2011 SEC Player of the Year and a unanimous All-SEC First Team selection…who is averaging double-digit points (11.5) while leading the Gators with 7.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. He is sporting a 22:8 assist-to-turnover ratio in the NCAA Tournament, which is much improved compared to his season average.
» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who was marred in a shooting slump but has rebounded and is still leading his team in scoring with 14.8 points per game while also leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.420) and three-point percentage (.394). Walker also leads Florida in both turnovers (85) and steals (40). He is shooting 51.7 percent (15-of-29) from the field and 55.5 percent (10-of-18) from downtown in the NCAA Tournament. Walker is averaging a team-best 18.3 points in those games while also hitting 71.4 percent (15-of-21) of his attempts from the line.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but struggles with consistency. Boynton is shooting 38.1 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from beyond the arc; he is second in scoring with 14.1 points per game and makes a team-high 82.1 percent of his free throws. He has scored in double figures in 15-straight games and has made at least one three-pointer in each of those contests.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage and is the only starter who does not score in double digits. He is averaging 8.9 points and 6.1 boards for the season but has stepped his game up in the tournament with averages of 11.7 points and 12 rebounds.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 58.4 percent from the floor as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.2 points and 5.4 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging approximately 17.5 minutes per game. Wilbekin leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.33:1), while Young averages 3.4 points and 3.8 boards.
» Butler F Matt Howard…who averages team-highs in points (16.8) and rebounds (7.8) while playing 30.6 minutes each game. Howard also hits 44.0 percent of his threes and shoots at a 49.2 percent clip from the floor while connecting on 78.9 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe.
» Bulldogs G Shelvin Mack…who plays a team-most 31.7 minutes per game, averages 14.6 points each contest and dishes a team-high 3.6 assists per game.

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Florida ready for Elite Eight game vs. Butler

With the 2011 NCAA Tournament Southeast Regional Final between the No. 2-seed Florida Gators (29-7) and No. 8-seed Butler Bulldogs (26-9) just hours away from getting underway, there are a number of storylines being discussed going into the contest. OGGOA has compiled some of the latest news and notes surrounding the Florida-Butler game airing live on CBS Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m.

DEFENSIVE EFFORT DIDN’T HURT BOYNTON

Coming into the game with questions about a now week-old sprained ankle, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton silenced any worry right away, explaining that he feels healthy and is ready to go again on Saturday. “It feels great. I did some icing last night to help it out a little more, and when we get back to the hotel, I’m going to ice it some more,” he said. “My playing level is good. I got tired a little bit last night because I hadn’t practiced a lot this week. But I think it’s going to come back to me with more running.”

BUTLER IS NO “CINDERELLA”

Carrying a No. 8-seed with nine losses coming out of the Horizon League, Butler has been dealing with the “Cinderella” tag for quite some time. However, as Florida head coach Billy Donovan points out, that tag no longer fits the 2010 NCAA Tournament finalists. “Last year you had Butler making it to the national championship game. I think Butler has proven that they’re as good as any program in the country,” he said. “And you don’t get to a national championship game or the amount of Sweet 16s that they’ve gotten to by just being a Cinderella story. That doesn’t happen year after year.”

BUYING IN TO DONOVAN’s SYSTEM

After a rough start to the season including some dumbfounding losses, the Gators made a concerted effort to buy into what Donovan and his coaching staff were preaching as 2010 came to an end and 2011 began. The players understand now, more than ever, that playing together as a team yields better results than looking for individual glory.

“We relied on [the coaches] a lot. We’ve got all the trust in the world in [Donovan] and he’s done a great job,” junior point guard Erving Walker said. “Out of all of us, he’s the only one who’s been in these situations and moving forward, and we just trust him and the whole coaching staff.” Senior forward Chandler Parsons shared similar sentiments. “Our whole team has totally bought into what they’re saying and what they’re preaching to us,” he added. “We’re just trying to do exactly what they say because they’ve obviously had success and they obviously know what they’re talking about.

Part of accepting Donovan’s plan for the team was relinquishing the potential for high-scoring individual efforts. “We all understand that we’re willing to do whatever it takes for us to win. Any given night, anybody can score,” Parsons said. “I don’t think there’s any selfishness and we just love playing with each other and our chemistry on and off the court is great. We play very unselfish and it doesn’t matter who’s scoring, just whoever is open gets the ball, and we’re not worried about that stuff, we’re just worried about winning.”

PREVAILING IN CLOSE GAMES

One of the main ways Florida has improved in 2011 compared to 2010 is in their ability to pull out tough victories and come through in the clutch. Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin explained in detail how the team has changed their mentality in those situations. “For the most part, we come together and we grind it out in the huddles. Chandler does a lot of talking,” he said. “After Coach Donovan and the coaching staff speak, we just get in the huddle again and talk amongst each other. We want to go out there and play as hard as we can and fight until the horn go off.”

Parsons detailed what he talks about at that time. “Just maintaining a level of focus throughout the whole game and understanding that anything can happen on any given play,” he said. “You can’t take anything for granted and play until the buzzer stops.” He also discussed the difference in the team’s mentality. “We were confident last year, but I think this year we’re doing a better job of staying focused and keeping our composure and understanding what’s there on offense and not forcing anything,” Parsons said. “And we understand that when we need to get a stop, we have to step up and get a stop together. We’re just very confident at the end of games and very comfortable in those situations.”

QUOTES

Donovan’s opening statement: “Well, we’re playing against a team that is extremely physical, don’t think there’s any question about that, a team that has got a lot of players that know about success in this tournament from last year. […] They’re a hard team to guard offensively, and I think our guys understand that we’re playing against a terrific team that is very talented, physical and gifted and playing terrific basketball right now.”

Donovan on Mike Miller’s buzzer-beater vs. Butler in 2000: “In order to experience something like that, you’ve got to be in the NCAA Tournament. And that group before that experienced a very devastating loss to Gonzaga at the buzzer to go to the Elite Eight. If you look at the best programs in the country and you look at the amount of years and how many times they’ve been to the NCAA Tournament, that’s where you have a chance to do something really special. You’ve got to get there often enough to make a run at it, and certainly Mike’s shot and play gave us the opportunity to play another game. And that was the first-round game, but it gave us an opportunity to continue on and move on and advance. When you get a chance to advance and move on in this tournament, it’s always very exciting for your program and for your players.”

Parsons on defending Bulldogs star F Matt Howard: “He’s very difficult to guard. He’s one of the most physical players in the country and he plays smart and just relentless and he doesn’t stop and he’s got a really good motor. So a guy like him, he just battles for 40 minutes and you’re not going to get anything easy with him just because his effort is off the charts.“

Boynton on Donovan recruiting him in high school: “When he was recruiting me in high school, he showed a lot of, I’m going to say — he kept coming at me. He came to all my games in the summer, and I heard that he played at Providence. I watched some tapes on him, and I knew he was a guard, and he let his guards play. I watched Erving Walker his freshman year playing. He just lets his guards play freely and he had great success with the 2006 and 2007 national championship.”

Tyus on if he thinks about pulling his name from the 2010 NBA Draft: “No, I really don’t think about it too much. You know, I just try to stay in the moment, concentrate on what I have to do at that time. I’m really happy about where we’re at right now, and I just want everything to just keep going on.”

Donovan on recruiting Walker: “I kind of followed him because I knew Erving had a strong interest, and then all of a sudden I started to watch the guy and he’s playing against Rice, Kemba Walker, playing against a lot of really good players in New York City and saw him on the AAU circuit and there was something about him that he learned to overcome his size, and then he obviously had a huge growth spurt and he went from about 5’4″ to about 5’8″. [Laughing] But he ended up — I think it’s the internal things that make up Erving Walker. It’s not the physical attributes, it’s the internal things, his mind, his understanding, his competitiveness. He’s had to overcome to be a good player.”

Donovan on Stevens taking “his” title of best young coach: “I’ve never looked at it that way as it relates to age. A lot of times it’s what you’re exposed to and what you have a chance to experience. And Brad has been around a lot of terrific people, a lot of terrific coaches, and he’s a terrific coach himself. And I think a lot of times people can label somebody based on their age, and I don’t think that that’s fair to Brad. Brad has been a terrific coach, you know, before he made it to the national championship game a year ago. And he was a terrific coach before last year started. I think the one thing I respect and admire about Brad in getting to know him is he’s got a great passion and enthusiasm for the game and for coaching, and I also think he has a tireless and relentless attitude to try to get better and improve. And he loves the game. But a lot of times people look at someone’s age and at what point are you past young? Are you calling me old now, because I don’t feel like I’m that old, you know? (Laughter).”

Donovan on Stevens consulting with him in the offseason: “Brad was just talking to me just about his team, and he just wanted to know maybe some experiences. I’ve known Brad for a long time and I would consider him a good friend. He comes down to our clinic every summer, he’s on our campus and we’ve spent a lot of time together. So it was one of those things where he was just reaching out looking to share ideas, and you know what, he shares ideas with me, too. We bounce different things off each other, and it’s great when you get a chance to be able to talk to someone like that.”

Donovan on scouting Butler: “What ends up happening is – and I’m sure this is no different for Butler. Coming to New Orleans on Wednesday or Tuesday night, our staff had basically divided up. We had obviously somebody that was scouting BYU, but our staff had started watching Butler and Wisconsin right after we played UCLA. So the first that these guys really heard anything in depth about Butler was really this morning because it was a late game by the time we got back from the arena and had those guys get some rest and get up this morning. So most of what they started to hear in depth and in detail really started this morning and then obviously continued on at practice today.”

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NCAA Sweet 16: Florida’s post-game thoughts

Shortly after the No. 2-seed Florida Gators got a measure of revenge with a thrilling 83-74 overtime victory against the No. 3-seed Brigham Young Cougars in the Southeast Regional Semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Thursday, a handful of players and head coach Billy Donovan participated in the postgame press conference. OGGOA has compiled some choice notes and quotes from the media availabilities.

TYUS A ONE-MAN WRECKING CREW

There are a lot of spur-of-the-moment proclamations that can be made after a game or a single player’s performance, but there is no doubt that senior forward Alex Tyus turned in a career-best effort for Florida on Thursday. Scoring 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting to go along with a career-high 17 rebounds, Tyus did it all for the Gators. He even hit his second three-pointer of the season (first since the opening game on Nov. 12) and added a block that made it to No. 2 on ESPN Sportscenter’s Top Plays of the night.

“It means a lot, just being able to come out and play to the best of my abilities tonight and help the team win in many different ways,” he said after the game. “[I was concerned with] just mainly coming out and trying to make an impact during the game to help the team win: offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds and playing good defense.”

Donovan was certainly a fan of his upperclassman’s effort. “The one thing with Alex is a lot of times he never really gets fazed in the moment of what’s going on. One of the things I’ve tried to pull out of him and get him to see is when he has a lot of activity, he has a great ability to impact the game,” he said. “When they were double-teaming the low post, they were leaving Alex to get Vernon [Macklin]. So when Vernon was throwing the ball back out, Alex’s man had to go from a double team to try and find him. He was freed up in a lot of instances to get to the glass. He didn’t grab a whole lot of offensive rebounds, but he was great on the glass. He did a great job defensive rebounding and limiting them at times to second shots. He was just really athletically very active and that helped. He really played a terrific game. I’m happy for him. Being a senior, he’s really been a great kid. It’s great when you can have a senior like that on a stage like it was today be able to really impact the game.”

BYU head coach Dave Rose was also complimentary of Tyus following the contest. “Somebody on every team always steps up, especially in big games,” he said. “Tyus is a really good player – athletic, long. He’s a guy who can hit shots from the perimeter, but I thought that the Florida coaching staff did a good job isolating him in space and giving him a good chance to have some pretty good match-ups.”

FATIGUING FREDETTE

Forget the tight calf muscle or the cut below the chin, Cougars star guard Jimmer Fredette was noticeably exhausted in the second half mostly due to the stout defense of Gators sophomore G Kenny Boynton. With assistance from freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin, Boynton was all over Fredette, forcing him to take tough shots and work hard for any jumper he chose to throw up.

Donovan explained after the game that UF’s defensive game plan was relatively simple: ensure that none of Fredette’s teammates scored double figures while making certain every shot he took was heavily contested. The result was an inefficient 32-point performance compiled on 11-of-29 shooting; Fredette only made 3-of-15 attempts from beyond the arc and turned the ball over six times.

“I know there’s a lot made of Jimmer Fredette, and he’s certainly a great player, but we felt coming into the game that the key was going to be trying to shut down the other four guys that were going to be on the floor with him,” Donovan said. “Because a lot of times you cannot dictate when he’s going to shoot the ball and where he’s going to shoot the ball from. Kenny did a terrific job defending him. One of the things we just tried to do was keep our shoulders parallel to half court and not get on the side of him.

“It’s like I said before, he’s going to take a lot of shots. The thing you want him to do is to take a lot of shots and you hope you’re not in a situation where he scores 52. He almost took as many shots as points he made. When I look at the stat sheet, the 32 points is misleading because of the number of shots it took him to get to 32. The key for us defending him [Thursday] was nobody left the floor. We all stayed down and nobody jumped. The first 13 minutes, he was trying to get us in the air to react to shots – and we never reacted. But he’s such a good scorer that, after that first 13 minutes, he started to kind of figure out some different ways to score – and he did.”

Senior F Chandler Parsons was especially complimentary of Boynton’s defense and noted that Fredette got frustrated because of the extra effort. “He did an unbelievable job just limiting his open looks. If you look back, pretty much every shot he took was off-balance,” he said. “Kenny was right there with him, staying down on him. If you look, he had 32 points, but it was a great job defensively we did on him making him take tough, long shots. Everyone gets frustrated out there. He’s seen pretty much every defense all year long. He’s been effective basically against everybody. You could definitely tell he was getting a little frustrated, and that’s just credit to our guys that were guarding him, especially Kenny Boynton.”

FRESH LEGS PROVIDE OVERTIME BOOST

Heading into overtime for a second-straight season against BYU, Florida started hot out of the gate and outscored their opponent by nine points in the final five minutes of the game. In addition to being more focused, mature and composed than 2010, the Gators were also fresher while the Cougars appeared quite winded.

“We just know how to stay focused and stay in the moment,” junior point guard Erving Walker said when asked why UF played so well in extra time. “They made a run to come back at the end of the second half, but we stayed together. We’re conditioned pretty good, and we got a lot of energy left in us.”

Fredette also noticed how well Florida handled playing an extra handful of minutes after a hard-fought game in regulation. “They definitely had fresh legs and were ready to go in that overtime,” he said.

That being noted, the Gators did have two opportunities to win the game in regulation and missed on both. First up was Boynton, who missed a nice look from beyond the arc but was bailed out by Walker, who chased down a rebound to give his team a second chance. “I was actually kind of lucky because I was supposed to get back after Kenny’s shot, but I just hung around a little bit and I saw the ball go to the corner, so I just made a hustle play and was able to come up with the ball,” Walker said of his extra effort.

Then Donovan drew up a play that was not likely to wind up in Parsons’s hands but did anyway. With less than five seconds to go, Parsons drove to the hoop but was met with four defenders and was unable to make the shot or draw a foul. “I was coming off a double screen, and I saw that the guy guarding me kind of jumped over,” Parsons said. I just wanted to make sure we got the last shot to not give them a “chance to get the ball back. I just went up and three-or-four guys jumped at me, so I really just tried to draw a foul and throw it up there. It didn’t slip or anything; it was just a forced shot.”

Ironically, it was the third time in two games against BYU that Parsons missed the final shot – he also failed to connect at the end of regulation and at the conclusion of the first overtime during the opening game of the NCAA Tournament in 2010.

QUOTES

Donovan’s opening statement (truncated): “I was really proud of our guys. Coming into the game, these guys prepared really hard. I thought they prepared well. […] Alex, on the glass, did a tremendous job. He was great tonight. He made shots, but he really was aggressive; he was active. Chandler really contributed and gave us what he normally gives us, an all-around game where he rebounded, gave assists and scored some. We were able to hold all their guys under double-figure points besides Fredette.”

Donovan on the perception that the team is about offense and how much the defense has improved: “Our [championship teams were] really underrated defensively. We were a great defensive team. This year’s team has gotten better. A couple things have happened. One, we’ve got some older guys that understand schemes, scouting reports and changing of defenses – changing coverages inside of a game. They’re pretty cerebral and they’re older so you can do that a little bit more with them. With the addition [of the freshmen], they give us a different defensive dimension.”

Donovan on Fredette’s ability to transition to the NBA: “There’s no question that he has the offensive capability to be a terrific NBA player. His biggest challenge is going to be: What kind of defensive player can he be? I know he’ll work hard at it, because he’s worked hard at every other part of his game, but the biggest question is going to be: What kind of effort he will really put in to defending?”

Walker on why it is tough to defend Fredette: “It was difficult because he’s a great player. He’s got a lot of combination moves. He can shoot from long distance and he can shoot at any time. We did a good job as a team, especially Kenny, defending him the whole game.”

Fredette on Boynton: “He did a pretty good job. He just contested shots. He’s athletic, a good defender.”

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Elite Eight: Florida vs. Butler tip set for Saturday

The No. 2-seed Florida Gators (29-7) will face the No. 8-seed Butler Bulldogs (26-9) in the Southeast Regional Finals of the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Saturday at 4:30 p.m., the NCAA announced Thursday evening. The game will air live on CBS with Gus Johnson doing play-by-play and both Len Elmore and Reggie Miller providing color commentary.

Florida and Butler will square off for the third time in the NCAA Tournament. The Gators are 2-0 all-time against the Bulldogs in the event, defeating them 69-68 in overtime in 2000 and 65-57 in a Sweet 16 game in 2007.

UF earned its spot in the Elite Eight by defeating the No. 3-seed Brigham Young Cougars (32-5) 83-74 in an overtime thriller early Thursday night. BU earned their second-straight appearance in the round with a tremendous 61-54 win against the No. 4-seed Wisconsin Badgers (25-9) later that evening.

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Forget Fredette, Tyus proves Gators are elite as Florida tops BYU 83-74 in overtime

Trying to avoid comparisons to a match-up between the same two teams in the opening game of the 2010 NCAA Tournament all week, the Florida Gators found themselves in the same spot they were one year ago – tied with the Brigham Young Cougars at the end of regulation. However, No. 2-seed Florida (29-7) proved they are a more mature and composed team than they were last season, outscoring No. 3-seed BYU (32-5) by nine points in overtime to win the Southeast Regional Semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Tournament 83-74 at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA on Thursday night.

Senior forward Alex Tyus led the Gators with the best game of his career, scoring 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting to go along with 17 rebounds in an all-around effort that kept Florida in the game and helped them prevail in the end. UF’s guards were relentless on BYU star G Jimmer Fredette, who scored a game-high 32 points but did so on 11-of-29 shooting (3-for-15 from downtown) with six costly turnovers.

The Gators started out hot, hitting eight of their first nine shots from the field to take a 20-10 lead. A trio of three-pointers from Cougars G Jackson Emery kept the score close as Florida missed five-consecutive treys after starting 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.

Fredette, who started out 0-for-6 and was blocked three times in first half, hit his first shot of the game with 6:17 left before the break. As he heated up, BYU took off on a 16-5 run to and jumped ahead 32-30 on UF. With under three minutes to play before halftime, Fredette hit two layups while senior F Chandler Parsons and junior point guard Erving Walker each dropped in a three for the Gators. Walker went to the line for a one-and-one at the end of the half but missed the front end to send the game into halftime tied at 36.

The Gators came out of the break with an 8-0 run to take a 44-39 lead. Fredette quickly responded with five-straight points – including his first trey after starting 0-for-5 from downtown – to bring his team within two with 15:12 remaining. A 6-0 run by the Cougars a few minutes later jumped them ahead 50-49, but Florida answered back with a 12-5 scoring streak to quickly retake the lead.

Down six, Brigham Young looked to Fredette to get them back in the contest; he answered the call, capping an 8-2 run with a 30-foot three-pointer to tie the game at 63 with 4:59 to play. He would go on to score 32 of his team’s final 47 points in regulation.

UF and BYU traded field goals and free throws from there, and the Gators led by one with under a minute left and the clock winding down.

Suddenly, after a missed triple by Walker, Tyus was called for a questionable over-the-back foul, which sent Cougars F Kyle Collinsworth to the line with a chance for his team to take the lead. Collinsworth proceeded to make his first free throw but missed his second to leave the game tied at 68 and the ball in the Gators’ hands.

UF head coach Billy Donovan immediately called a timeout to draw up a play for sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, who missed a three with 25 seconds left. Walker rushed across the court to get the long rebound, allowing Donovan to call a second timeout and create another play. Parsons got the ball, drove down the right side and missed a short jumper to send the contest into overtime. It was the third time in as many tries that Parsons missed a potential game-winner against BYU in regulation or extra time.

Florida started hot out of the gate in the final five minutes, knocking down four-straight points and concluding the game by outscoring Brigham Young 15-6 in overtime while holding Fredette scoreless.

Three other Gators starters scored in double figures to complement Tyus’s career-best performance. Boynton dropped in 17 points on a relatively poor shooting night (5-of-14 from the floor, 4-of-13 from downtown), though he did hit 3-for-4 from the line and scored five-straight in overtime. Walker and Parsons each finished with 16; Walker added six rebounds and five assists, while Parsons contributed nine boards and seven dimes.

Florida redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, who saw double teams in the post most of the night, was 4-for-5 from the field for nine points with five rebounds.

Fredette did not get much help from his squad offensively as none of his teammates posted double-digit points. Emery and F Noah Hartsock each contributed nine points, but it was Collinsworth came up big for Brigham Young with a team-high 15 boards.

UF was more efficient than BYU overall, hitting a better percentage of their shots both from the floor (.477-.352) and from beyond the arc (.324-.270). However, the Cougars kept it close by making the most of their chances from the charity stripe, connecting on 14-of-16 attempts (87.5 percent) compared to the Gators only hitting on 10-of-22 tries (45.5 percent). Florida outrebounded BYU 42-39, dished 10 more assists (23-13), smacked four more blocks (5-1) and committed seven fewer fouls (12-19).

The teams set a NCAA Tournament record by combining for 71 three-point attempts.

With the victory, the Gators advance from the Sweet 16 to the Elite Eight for the fifth time in school history (1994, 2000, 2006-07). Florida has never in the Elite Eight, advancing to the Final Four on all four occasions.

UF will face No. 8-seed Butler on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The game will air live on CBS.

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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2011 NCAA Tournament: (2) Florida vs. (3) BYU

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16
Location: New Orleans Arena – New Orleans, LA [Capacity: 18,500]
Time: 7:27 p.m. (EST)

TV: TBS/ TBSHD
Online Video: —->
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (3) BYU COUGARS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Dave Rose
Record: 28-7 Record: 32-4
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Mountain West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -3; O/U 149
Note: The line has fluctuated slightly since it was initially released, dropping as low as -2 but as high as -4. You can bet on College Basketball at BetUS! The Gators are currently the second-most wagered-on team of the day and could cover for the spread for the third-straight game in the tournament.

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is making its second-straight and 16th overall NCAA Tournament appearance. The Gators are 31-13 all-time in the event with two national titles, three championship game appearances and four Final Four appearances.
» UF has advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinal for the seventh time in school history. The No. 2 seed is their second-highest opening position in school history, and their .705 all-time NCAA Tournament winning percentage is the highest in SEC history in front of Kentucky (.695) and Auburn (.600).
» BYU is making its 26th NCAA Tournament appearance. The Cougars are 14-28 all-time in the event and have earned a berth in eight of the last 11 seasons. The No. 3 seed is their highest in school history; they earned the same rank in 1980.
» Florida and BYU are meeting for the fourth time in the history of the two programs. The Cougars are 3-0 all-time against the Gators with all games being played at neutral sites. Before squaring off in 2010, the teams had not met since 1991 and prior to that 1959. BYU’s win last year in the tournament was their first since 1993.
» The two teams share the UCLA Bruins as a common opponent during the season. Florida defeated UCLA 73-65 on Saturday, and BYU lost to them 86-79 back on Dec. 18.
» Donovan is 24-8 all-time in the tournament including two national championships and three Final Four appearances. His .750 winning percentage at the Big Dance is fourth among active coaches and second all-time among SEC coaches. He is also the youngest active coach to win a national title (age 40 in 2006).
» The Gators are 15-3 against the 2011 NCAA field and finished the regular season with the third outright SEC championship in school history (1989, 2007). Florida has captured five overall SEC titles including four under Donovan (2000, 2001, 2007, 2011).
» UF averages a +14.0-point margin of victory in 24 NCAA wins under Donovan. They have not allowed a team to connect on more than six threes in the last seven games.
» The Gators are 23-2 when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» Florida has won 20 of their last 24 games (and 12 of their last 14 – only losses coming to Kentucky) including 17 against RPI top 100 teams.
» The Gators are the only NCAA Division I team not to have a player foul out of a game this season. They lead the nation in fewest fouls committed per game (14.5).
» UF is 10-3 when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10+ shots from the field. He has moved into the top 20 in school history in scoring (1,419 points) and is the only active Division I player with over 1,300 points, 800 rebounds, 300 assists and 125 steals. He also became the sixth player in school history with 500+ career field goals.
» Brigham Young senior guard Jimmer Fredette holds the school’s career, single-season and single-game scoring records.
» BYU bests Florida in three of four major national statistical categories. The Cougars lead the Gators in points per game 81.6-71.5 (8th-98th), rebounding 38.7-37.5 (16th-49th) and assists per contest 14.5-13.7 (65th-106th); however, Florida shoots better as a team from the field .462-.452 (51st-91st). The Gators also lead the Cougars in scoring defense with 62.7-67.4 points per game and rebound margin +5.9 to +3.0. Brigham Young, on the other hand, turns the ball over less per game 10.9-12.3 and forces more miscues 14.4-12.5. UF ranks 10th in RPI (.6353) and sixth in strength of schedule nationally compared to BYU being fifth (.6462) and 22nd, respectively.

LAST TIME OUT…

Florida and BYU met in the opening game in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The Gators had opportunities to win the contest at the end of regulation and conclusion of the first overtime, but Parsons missed both shots and the Cougars pulled away during the second overtime to earn a hard-fought 99-92 victory. Fredette led the way for his squad with 37 points including two treys in the second OT (he only hit one the rest of the game), helping his team outscore UF 18-11 in the final five minutes.

KNOW THE OPPONENT

Coming out of the MWC, No. 3-seed BYU defeated No. 14-seed Wofford 74-66 in first round action before thrashing No. 11-seed Gonzaga 89-67 in the round of 32. Fredette finished 7-for-12 from downtown and 11-of-23 from the floor; though he had trouble in the first half, he found his stride later in the game. The Cougars finished the regular season as a top-10 team and co-MWC regular season champions, splitting the honor with San Diego State. BYU is 9-2 against teams ranked in the RPI top 50.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Parsons…the 2011 SEC Player of the Year and a unanimous All-SEC First Team selection…who is averaging double-digit points (11.4) while leading the Gators with 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He is sporting a 15:4 assist-to-turnover ratio in the NCAA Tournament, which is much improved compared to his season average.
» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who was marred in a shooting slump but has rebounded and is still leading his team in scoring with 14.7 points per game while also leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.421) and three-point percentage (.393). Walker also leads Florida in both turnovers (82) and steals (39). He is shooting 62.5 percent (10-of-16) from the field and 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from downtown in the NCAA Tournament. Walker is averaging a team-best 19.5 points in those games while also hitting 80 percent (12-of-15) of his attempts from the line.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but was struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is shooting 38.2 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 14.0 points per game and makes a team-high 82.4 percent of his free throws. He has scored in double figures in 14-straight games and has made at least one three-pointer in each of those contests.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 58.1 percent from the floor as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.3 points and 5.4 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage and is the only starter who does not score in double digits. He averages just 8.6 points and 5.7 boards each game.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging approximately 17.5 minutes per game. Wilbekin leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.33:1), while Young averages 3.5 points and 3.8 boards.
» BYU’s Fredette…the 2011 MWC Player of the Year and a unanimous All-MWC First Team selection…who is averaging a team-high 28.8 points in 35.5 minutes per game while also leading his squad with 4.3 assists each contest. Fredette shoots 45.5 percent from the field, an astounding 40.6 percent from beyond the arc and also hits 89.1 percent of his free throw attempts.
» Cougars G Jackson Emery…who is second on the team to Fredette in points (12.6), assists (2.7) and free throw shooting (82.9 percent). He averages 32.5 minutes each game and hits 35.9 percent from downtown.
» BYU F Noah Hartsock…who is the team’s leading rebounder with Brandon Davies on suspension. Hartsock grabs 5.9 boards per contest and is the team’s best three-point shooter on average with 44.6 percent accuracy. He scores 8.6 points per game, shoots 50.4 percent from the field and makes 82.1 percent of his shots from the charity stripe.

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