FOUR BITS: Black, Horford, Brewer, SEC b-ball

1 » Florida Gators safety Ahmad Black wishes Brian Billick was still a head coach in the NFL. Why? Because Billick, unlike some other scouts and coaches, understands exactly what Black can bring to the table at the next level. Writing a column for WNST AM1570, Billick had this to say about him:

Many NFL scouts and talent evaluator will tell you that Ahmad Black is undersized and doesn’t have elite speed or quickness. […] But what I will tell you, is that despite his lack of size and speed, Black always seems to be around the football. On the field, he plays faster than his 40-time suggests by playing smart and instinctive. You will rarely find him out of position in zone schemes and he reads WRs well in man coverage. […] He displays a smooth and fluid backpedal with an efficient transition into his break on the ball. He is a reliable tackler, but gets in trouble when he leaves his feet in an effort to make a lunging hit. While Ahmad Black may not be physically intimidating, he shows up on the field and makes big plays against the best of competition. […] Black may not be the most gifted athlete, but he is an exceptional football player.

2 » Two former Gators will be squaring off on the hardwood for the third time already in March as the Chicago Bulls travel south to take on the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Atlanta forward/center Al Horford relishes the occasions he gets to take on former teammate and now Chicago center Joakim Noah, something Horford told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday. “It’s going to be a battle, but we’re looking forward to it,” he said. The paper also spoke to Hawks forward Marvin Williams, who said the team can tell that Horford is extra enthusiastic when he gets to face Noah.

3 » Former Florida F Corey Brewer made headlines after the NBA trade deadline came to a close. After being sent from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the New York Knicks, he was waived by the latter team and was quickly snatched up by the Dallas Mavericks as a defensive specialist who is athletic and can play significant minutes. However, as ESPN Dallas’ Jeff Caplan points out, Brewer has had some difficulties in his short tenure with the Mavericks. Caplan reports that Brewer has acquired 19 fouls in 62 minutes of game action (one per 3.26 minutes), much higher than his 2.5 fouls-per-game average with the Timberwolves. The likely reason? He is pressing as he tries to fit in to a new situation and do whatever he can to succeed.

“I felt good about [signing with Dallas], but at the same time I knew it was going to be tough,” Brewer told ESPN. “These guys were playing really good basketball before I got here, one of the best records in the league. I knew coach was comfortable with the guys he already has so I’m just trying to earn some minutes any way I can right now. […] I’m not discouraged. This is a different situation. These guys have been here. They’ve been playing well. I’m just trying to find my way and just trying to get in line, whatever I can do to help right now. I’m not trying to push the issue of ‘I want to play, I need to play.’”

4 » With the Sweet 16 of the 2011 NCAA Tournament finalized over the weekend, there has been plenty of talk about the Big East being overrated while the ACC has been somewhat disrespected – simply because of the number of teams who have advanced to this stage. Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive heard the rumblings and wanted to make sure his league was not overlooked either. Speaking with USA Today, Slive propped up the SEC’s accomplishments in the NCAAs. “For 22 straight years, we have had at least one of our teams make it to the Sweet 16,” noted Slive, “and for the sixth time in the last 10 years, we have had multiple teams in the Sweet 16. With two teams in the Sweet 16 again this year, the SEC’s success in basketball does not take a back seat to anyone.”

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Parsons, Fredette, Larson

1 » With Kyle Orton as a veteran “starter,” and Tim Tebow as a second-year up-and-comer and Brady Quinn as an emergency safety valve, the Denver Broncos will not be drafting a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft…or will they? Denver has been taking a very close look at a number of athletic rookie QBs including Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick…even though they already have one in Tebow on their roster. Asked why they are paying so much attention to the position, Broncos president John Elway said the following to the Denver Post: “We’re always looking for that guy. We may already have the guy who can pull the trigger and win us a championship someday. We may have him. We don’t know. We believe in Tim, but he’s not there yet.” Elway and Denver are also taking a look at defensive tackle, a position they will likely end up drafting – or so Tebow should hope.

2 » Speaking with Chris Dortch for an article posted on NBA.com, Florida Gators forward Chandler Parsons praised the game of former Boston Celtics star F Larry Bird, someone who the writer brought up in conversation because of the way he impacted games as a facilitator. “Oh, I’m a big Larry Bird fan,” Parsons said of the player’s NBA spread. “I always thought Larry Bird played basketball the way it ought to be played.” Dortch put Parsons up against his “Bill Russell Test” to determine if he has the chance to be successful playing at the next level. He also spoke with NBA director of scouting Ryan Blake about Parsons. “One of his advantage is that he has a number of skills he does well,” Blake said. “He shoots the ball. He’s got size. He passes very well. He’s a rebounder. And he’s a hard worker and has a professional approach.”

3 » Though BYU Cougars guard Jimmer Fredette had his way with Florida in 2010 – especially in the two overtime periods – he is well-aware that the Gators are a much improved team this time around. “They’re just better because they’re more experienced and have played together for two years,” he told the Associated Press. “They won two games in the NCAA Tournament together as a team and they’re used to winning.” He also discussed how Florida might guard him. “I think they’re just going to be really tenacious…run at my ball screens hard, maybe double them and try to get the bal out of my hands,” Fredette said.

4 » Freshman F Cody Larson will be redshirting this season and has spent every game from the bench watching his teammates achieve great success. Donovan praised Larson’s contributions during a media availability at the beginning of March, but assistant Larry Shyatt expanded on those comments to The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. “He’s been terrific,” Shyatt said. “He’s helped our frontline get better this year. Great work ethic, improved offensively, inside and out. We’re excited he’s going to be eligible next season.” Though Larson himself says sitting is “tough,” he understands the reasoning. “I’m looking at it like I’m not going to play if I don’t get better,” he said. “I just need to keep improving.”

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3/21: Donovan on Boynton’s ankle, facing BYU

Two days after his team advanced to the Southeast Regional Semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Tournament after defeating the No. 7-seed UCLA Bruins 73-65, No. 2-seed Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to discuss his team and its upcoming game against the No. 3-seed BYU Cougars on Thursday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the press conference.

SIGNS POINTING TO “GO” FOR BOYNTON

As sophomore guard Kenny Boynton laid on the court in agony Saturday with the game up for grabs, Florida’s chances of advancing looked to have suffered a setback. Just minutes later, Boynton returned from getting his sprained ankle taped up by the trainers and continued to play as UF took down UCLA. Immediately after the game, Donovan noted the Boynton had suffered a mild sprain and would likely miss practice this week but be good-to-go on Thursday against BYU. He reinforced that opinion on Monday.

“We fully expect him to play. He’s not going to do anything [Monday] in practice,” he said. “He definitely has some discomfort there, but I don’t feel like it’s a discomfort that will prevent him from playing. […] I’m still a little bit cautious of where he’s at because I haven’t seen him sprint, cut, change direction, do those kind of things. Kenny has had some ankle problems during his career. He has sprained that ankle quite a bit; he’s had to deal with it at different times during his career. I also think there’s probably a mental hurdle for him that he’s going to need to get over.”

Boynton, who is neither wearing a walking boot nor utilizing crutches, has already seen the swelling go down. Like in the 2010 match-up, he would have been tasked with defending Cougars star G Jimmer Fredette the majority of the time on Saturday. With a tender ankle, Boynton will probably have some help in that endeavor this time around.

“There’s going to be a lot of guys on [Fredette],” Donovan said. “Last year, because of our lack of depth, Boynton was having such a good offensive night he got worn out as we got into the first overtime, second overtime. I don’t think it can be one guy. Whoever’s going to be on him, they’re going to be on an island by themselves.”

That being said, Donovan does believe Boynton is the team’s best on-the-ball defender, comparing him to Corey Brewer and Justin Hamilton in terms of athleticism and ability to avoid screens. “What makes him good is he’s got great, great feet and he’s got great lateral movement. He can play close enough to people and keep people out of the lane,” he said. “He can really spread himself out, and athletically he can really move his feet. Because of his feet and his speed, he’s a guy that can get off and around screens.”

FIGURING OUT FREDETTE

Donovan had a chance to see Fredette last year, months before the hype machine surrounding him really got underway. Since then, he has been enthusiastic about what Fredette has been able to accomplish. “It’s pretty impressive what he has been able to do coming out of last year, taking his game and his team to a different level than they were a year ago,” he said. “I always have great admiration and respect when somebody can do what he did last year, have the publicity and exposure that he had last year, and then do it even better this year.”

Due to his experience coaching against Fredette, Donovan knows that there is no stopping him – but it is possible to contain him. “I really thought we did a pretty nice job defending Fredette last year. In regulation he had 23 points and then he exploded in the overtimes and ended up with 37,” he said. “If you look at the stat sheet, it was really the other players. They made 10 three-point shots in the game a year ago, and Fredette made three of them. There were other guys on that stat sheet that played well.”

That being said, Donovan also realizes that there is no underestimating or overlooking what Fredette brings to the table. “He’s going to make some very difficult shots,” he said. “Every game that he’s played, everybody’s trying to stop him, everybody’s trying to slow him down. He still averages 28 a game; he still does it regardless.”

TYUS THE UNSUNG HERO

With a career-high 13 rebounds on Saturday, senior forward Alex Tyus’s contributions against UCLA were certainly overlooked by the majority of fans and analysts. What Tyus was able to do throughout the game did not get past Donovan, who provided him with plenty of praise on Monday. “The one thing that got lost on the game that no one really talked about was Alex Tyus’s rebounding the last two minutes of the game – where we limited them to one shot and at least we closed the gap on the rebounding margin,” he said before discussing Tyus’s performance as a whole this season.

“I am really proud of him. People hear me talk about Chandler [Parsons], and there’s been a lot of talk about Chandler just because he was [SEC] Player of the Year and there was a lot more attention on Chandler and the way Chandler was playing the last eight games of the year. But I have an enormous amount of respect for Alex, just his attitude and the way he’s approached this year.

“He has been all about the team. He has been all about winning. The one thing we’ve tried to explain to Alex is, because of his athleticism, he can have an impact on the game regardless of if he gets the ball or doesn’t get the ball. His impact on the game was huge; we were getting killed on the backboard. We had 10 rebounds in the first half; Alex had six of them. And then he got seven in the second half.

Erving Walker’s points overshadowed really a big part [of the win]. Those plays kind of get lost. Alex has had a great year. His points may not be what they were, but he’s given up very similar to what [Joakim] Noah, [Al] Horford and Brewer have done for the betterment of our team. He could score more points, but I’m not so sure our team would be where it could be. I do have confidence that, on any given night, Alex could get 20 points. We do need his energy, we do need his rebounding, and we do need his defense. When he does that, it really adds a dimension to our frontcourt.”

QUOTES

On the game being a rematch from 2010: “We could play better than we played last year in the NCAA Tournament and still not beat these guys. […] For us to even think about last year, we have our hands filled just worrying about this BYU team this year. Because this year, they’re better than they were a year ago. We could play better than we did a year ago and still not beat this team.”

On whether or not Florida has improved as well: “We are better as a team, but that does not necessarily mean we are going to play better in the game. […] We’re a little bit of a deeper team than maybe we were a year ago.”

On BYU as a team: “They’re a better team than they were a year ago. Jimmer certainly gets a lot of publicity and a lot of exposure, but it’s really their whole team. He’s certainly a hard guy to defend and stop, but they’ve also got some other good players.”

On Walker controlling the game: “What Erving’s got to understand is, he can’t just think at the end of the game, ‘OK, I’m just going to go right now,’ because he’s got to make the right decision. He can’t allow his competitiveness put our team at a disadvantage.”

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TWO BITS: Boynton’s ankle, Tebow and Fredette

1 » Injuring his ankle after coming down awkwardly on a three-point attempt, Florida Gators sophomore guard Kenny Boynton is expected to be fine for Thursday’s Sweet 16 match-up with the BYU Cougars. “There’s a bit of swelling at this point,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “We do not expect him to be in a position where he shouldn’t be able to play. [He] should be fine, should be ready to play.” Donovan also mentioned that Boynton may miss some practice this week while rehabbing the ankle and making sure it is strong enough to play starter’s minutes in the Southeast Regional Semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Tournament in New Orleans, LA. When Florida and BYU squared off just one year ago, Boynton posted a career-high 26 points on 8-of-17 shooting (5-of-10 from downtown). However, he fouled out with 3:57 remaining in the second overtime and the Cougars, fueled by star G Jimmer Fredette’s 37 points, went on to win 99-92.

2 » Speaking of Fredette, the comparisons drawn between him and former Gators now Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow over the past week have been plenty. Both team leaders who have strong convictions, the players have each received their share of praise and criticism. Asked about having a lot in common with Tebow last Wednesday, Fredette was pleased with the comparison. “I think Tim Tebow is a great guy, a great football player and a great leader,” he told The Denver Post. “I think that one of his greatest qualities is that he knows how to get his team to play the best [it] possibly can. That’s what I try to do, go out there and lead by example, try to say some things, try to get my team motivated to go out and play. He’s been a great story, similar in that people have doubted us throughout our careers. But one thing about both of us I think is that we’re very mentally tough. And we want to show these people that we can do these things, we can go out there and be successful at any level.”

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Florida vs. BYU start time set for Thursday

The No. 2-seed Florida Gators (28-7) will face the No. 3-seed BYU Cougars (32-4) in the Southeast Regional Semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Thursday at 7:27 p.m., the NCAA announced Sunday evening. The game will air live on TBS with Gus Johnson doing play-by-play and Len Elmore providing color commentary.

Florida and BYU will square off in a rematch of the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The Cougars defeated the Gators 99-92 in double overtime with BYU star guard Jimmer Fredette scoring a game-high 37 points on 50 percent shooting. Florida, a No. 10-seed to their opponent’s No. 7-seed, had opportunities to win the game at the end of regulation and at the conclusion of the first overtime but failed on both occasions.

Gators head coach Billy Donovan will speak to the media on Monday as the team begins practice for the Sweet 16 contest in New Orleans, LA.

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NCAA Tournament: Gators’ postgame thoughts

Shortly after the No. 2-seed Florida Gators completed a hard-fought 73-65 victory over the No. 7-seed UCLA Bruins, 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.

LOCKER ROOM VIDEO

MR. BIG SHOT

Scoring 10 of Florida’s final 12 points including the last seven with 1:15 to go in the game, the only word to describe junior point guard Erving Walker on Saturday is “clutch.” However, Walker’s triumphant second half actually began with four minutes to go earlier when he drove into UCLA center Joshua Smith in an attempt to force his fifth foul but instead bounced off the 6’10” 323-pound freshman and hit an awe-inspiring bank shot to put UF up five. Though Donovan and his teammates were all pleased with his performance, not a single one of them were surprised by his heroics.

“Erv’s fearless. Anytime that guy shoots the ball, I think it’s going in,” senior forward Chandler Parsons said. “He’s got a knack for hitting big shots. This one [over Smith] definitely ranks up there. He was just trying to draw contact; it was a crazy shot and just went in. He’s been doing that for us all year long, so it really doesn’t surprise me because he’s a gutsy player who is willing and wants to take the last shot like that.”

Freshman PG Scottie Wilbekin is similarly not fazed by his teammate’s accomplishments. “I’m not surprised no more. I’m like, ‘That’s just Erv,’” he said. “When he shoots it, I always get excited, because I know there’s a high probability it’s going in.”

Donovan also praised Walker’s evening. “He really played well. He was out of sorts a little bit in the first half,” he said. “He had a couple plays where he took a bad three and he had a drive that got blocked; both of those plays led to free throws and fouls for our frontcourt. I was pretty hard on him during the game and at halftime because I felt like he was going to need to step up. Not so much making shots but just… When he’s got his engine running and he’s got that fire and that passion, it changes the complexion of our team and opens up things for other guys on our team. He is a great competitor.

“When you’re that small, and you’re always having to fight for respect, he’s adopted that kind of thing that he knows he’s got to earn it. He’s got that mentality that he realizes he’s going to be evaluated and judged on winning and losing on a point guard and as a player. With his size, he really takes on those challenges.”

Equally complimentary of Walker was Bruins head coach Ben Howland. “He’s so quick. He’s very fast, athletic, and he’s very skilled. He can really shoot it. He’s a fearless little guy,” he said, before discussing Walker’s shot over Smith. “It was a big play. He just kind of bounced off him and hung in the air. That was a very big play.”

Walker took his two clutch shots in stride. “I tried to get past him and I thought he fouled me,” he said of his shot over Smith. “I felt a lot of contact so I tried to just get the ball up on the rim and I was expecting a call, but I didn’t get it and it luckily went in.” Walker also discussed his big three with 1:15 remaining. “We was having a little trouble getting the ball in bounds so Scottie threw it long to me. Malcom Lee went for the steal and I check just to make sure I had time to get the shot off. It was a good look and I felt that would have been a good shot for me to take. I was able to knock the shot down.”

TAKING BACK THE GLASS

Out-rebounded 20-10 in the first half, Donovan wanted to make sure the Gators made a conscious effort to reverse that disparity coming out of the break. That is exactly what they did, out-rebounding their opponent by the same margin to finish the games with each team grabbing 30 apiece.

“We just wanted to stop them from getting second-chance shots. They were really going hard on the offensive glass in the first half,” said senior F Alex Tyus, who brought down a career-high 13 rebounds in the contest. “We answered that in the second half. Alex did a great job on the glass,” Donovan said. “A big key in the game was both frontcourts were battling foul trouble back-and-forth. People can see why I made some of the comments about Smith the other day, because he’s certainly a load. He’s a terrific player, has great hands.”

Donovan also praised Tyus’s efforts. “When he’s playing active like that, even against front lines that are big and strong, he’s so athletic that when he plays with that kind of motor, he’s really a hard guy to block out,” he said.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Florida’s trip to the Sweet 16 is a huge step up from how they have finished the past three seasons. That being said, no one on the team is content with the multiple accomplishments the Gators have already obtained. “We’re not satisfied. We want to keep going,” Parsons said after the game. “We’re excited to see who we play, and we’re excited to get back to work tomorrow and keep taking it one game at a time.”

Freshmen Wilbekin and C Patric Young agreed. “I knew coming in we had a chance to go deep in the tournament with this team. That’s part of the reason I chose to come early, because I knew we had a great team, great starting five returning,” Wilbekin said. “We’re happy for this win but we can’t celebrate it too much. We have more games to go. We’re trying to get to the Final Four and win the championship.” Young shared a similar sentiment on the team’s goals. “You want to make it all the way. We all have our dreams of winning a national championship,” he said.

TWO OTHER BIG MOMENTS

In addition to Walker’s athletic bank shot and dynamic three-pointer, a number of other memorable plays were made down the stretch. Walker and Parsons discuss two game-changing plays they were involved in near the end of the game.

Walker on the trap turnover he and Wilbekin forced: “We were just trying to force the tempo the whole game and they did a good job handling our pressure. Scottie got him in a speed dribble when I came from behind and we got a huge turnover. I think that just changed the momentum for us.”

Parsons on his athletic block of the much-bigger Smith: “There were multiple plays in the game that were big, like Erving’s shot and different defensive stops we made. It was actually my fault on the block because I was late rotating there, so I just tried to get a hand on the ball. That guy’s really strong. It was just a big play.”

QUOTES

Donovan on UCLA as a quality opponent: “UCLA was as good as any team we’ve played all year long. […] We were as tested by them as any team we’ve played all year.”

Donovan on coaching Walker: “I love coaching him just because he’s highly competitive. When you’re dealing with a guy that’s highly competitive, you can always do things to get that competitiveness to come out. It is pretty remarkable what he has been able to do at his size. Six-seven years ago, when his high school coach called me about him, he visited our campus when he was a sophomore in high school and he’s telling me how good he is. I’m like, ‘Listen, you got to be kidding me. This guy is like 5’2”. He’s got no chance.’ Erving’s one of those guys that kind of bides his time during the game and I want to see his engine running a little bit earlier. What you saw the last six minutes of the game, I want that for 40 minutes when he’s out there. I’m always pulling and grabbing for more time to play like that.”

Donovan on how the team will be viewed after this win: “If we would have lost today, my dealing with them every single day would not change at all just because we made it to the Sweet 16. I understand how fragile winning and losing is in this tournament – and even during the year. It has been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling to see where these guys have gotten to at this point in time. Because we’ve won and gotten to the Sweet 16, people now want to talk about the interesting story of where these guys have come [from] to get to that point.”

Parsons on beating UCLA three-straight times: “Any game that has take place before our team is really irrelevant to us. It’s definitely exciting to beat a team of that caliber, because they’re very good.”

Parsons on the team having experience in close games: “Our schedule all year long has really prepared us for teams we’re going to face this late into March. Our freshmen have been great all year long just asking questions and being listeners. They understand their role perfectly and they’ve been providing us good minutes all year long.”

Walker on the team’s toughness: “We try to do everything in a total team effort. All five of our starters are basically averaging double figures, and if one person is down, we try to pick each other up. Coach does a good job of keeping us connected and all on the same page.”

Walker on if he has/had a nickname: “I had a couple, but we can just go with what Kenny [Boynton] said [Big Shot Erv], I like that one.”

Young on the team’s balance: “Any given night one of our guys can just go off and have whatever amount of points. If someone’s not having a good game [scoring], they can still affect the game in another way and help our team out.”

Murphy on Walker’s big shot ability: “I’ve seen him hit some ridiculous shots. The Georgia game? That was unbelievable. I inbounded him the ball on that play when he hit that three to send it to double overtime. He told me as I inbounded it to him, he told me he was going to hit it. He just makes crazy plays.”

Murphy on Walker: “He’s got that New York swagger to him.”

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Gators claw past Bruins 73-65 to reach Sweet 16

Fighting for a berth in the Sweet 16, the No. 2-seed Florida Gators had to deal with a familiar postseason foe in the No. 7-seed UCLA Bruins. Utilizing a spectacularly clutch three-pointer by junior point guard Erving Walker as part of a 7-0 run over the final 1:15, the Gators (28-7) defeated the Bruins (23-11) 73-65 in the third round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, FL on Saturday.

Walker scored a team-high 21 points – on 5-of-8 shooting (3-for-5 from downtown) with eight free throws in 10 attempts – to give UF their third-straight victory over UCLA in the NCAA Tournament and a 3-0 all-time record against the Bruins. The Gators improved to 20-1 on the season when leading at the half and 23-2 when holding an opponent under 70 points while reaching the Sweet 16 for the seventh time in school history.

Florida and UCLA each achieved four-point leads in the first half, which was filled with plenty of back-and-forth action including four ties and eight lead changes. The Bruins started with a 20-10 rebounding advantage (9-0 on the offensive glass), but the Gators outscored them 7-4 to close the half and took a 35-33 lead going into the break.

The give-and-take action continued in the second half with either the score being tied or Florida holding a slight advantage through most of the latter period. With the contest coming to a conclusion and 6:34 left to play, the Gators stepped up their efforts.

UF senior forward Chandler Parsons registered an athletic rejection on UCLA center Joshua Smith with the game tied at 55, an action that jump-started his team to a 6-0 run via a pair of threes from sophomores guard Kenny Boynton and F Erik Murphy.

Bruins F Tyler Honeycutt immediately cut the Gators’ lead in half with a big trey and Florida held on to their three-point advantage until Smith hit a layup to reduce UCLA’s deficit to one with 1:33 remaining in the game.

Back on offense, Gators redshirt senior C Vernon Macklin missed a layup; UF got the ball back and inbounded it near half court to Walker, who drained a triple from beyond the arc. With Florida up four and the clock ticking down, all UCLA could do is foul. Walker hit four free throws down the stretch and scored 10 of his team’s final 12 points to give the Gators a game-high eight-point lead, which also ended up as the margin of victory.

Florida utilized a total team effort to take down Los Angeles. Macklin finished the game with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting and three boards (two offensive), and freshman C Patric Young posted eight points, four rebounds and a pair of blocks in reserve minutes behind him. Senior F Alex Tyus contributed eight points as well as a career- and team-high 13 rebounds, and Murphy scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting.

Walker and Boynton were responsible for all of the backcourt production, with Boynton scoring 12 points even though he was limited toward the end of the game after injuring his ankle coming down from a three-pointer. Parsons and Boynton each posted a team-high five assists with Parsons also adding seven points and five boards.

The Bruins saw four players score in double figures with Smith and F Reeves Nelson each contributing a team-high 16 points; Nelson also notched a team-high 11 rebounds. Honeycutt scored 13 and hit three of his six attempts from downtown, while G Malcom Lee added 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting.

Though the differential was two-to-one in the first half, UF and UCLA each grabbed 30 rebounds. The Gators outshot the Bruins 50.0 percent to 41.8 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent to 23.1 percent from downtown. Florida was also faced with a 5-15 free throw disparity early but saw a 12-10 advantage in the second half.

UF will face the winner of BYU/Gonzaga (to be contested Saturday at 7:55 p.m.) in regional semifinals action on March 24. Additional information forthcoming.

Photo Credit: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

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2011 NCAA Tournament: (2) Florida vs. (7) UCLA

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – Round of 32
Location: St. Pete Times Forum – Tampa, FL [Capacity: 20,500]
Time: 2:45 p.m. (EST)

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

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (7) UCLA BRUINS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Ben Howland
Record: 27-7 Record: 23-10
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Pac-10
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -5; O/U 135

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is making its second-straight and 16th overall NCAA Tournament appearance. The Gators are 30-13 all-time in the event with two national titles, three championship game appearances and four Final Four appearances.
» UCLA is making its 44th NCAA Tournament appearance. The Bruins are 99-46 all-time in the event and have the third-most wins behind North Carolina and Kentucky.
» UF’s No. 2 seed is their second-highest opening position in school history.
» Donovan is 23-8 all-time in the tournament including two national championships and three Final Four appearances. His .742 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).
» Florida is 14-3 against the 2011 NCAA field and finished the regular season with the third outright SEC championship in school history (1989, 2007). The Gators have captured five overall SEC titles including four under Donovan (2000, 2001, 2007, 2011).
» The Gators and Bruins are meeting for just the third time in the history of the two programs. Florida is 2-0 in those match-ups, defeating UCLA in back-to-back seasons, first for the national championship in 2006 and then in the 2007 Final Four to eventually go on and win a second-straight title.
» Florida is 5-3 all-time in the St. Pete Times Forum (2-1 in the NCAA Tournament).
» UF is averaging a +14.3-point margin of victory in 23 tournament wins under Donovan.
» The Gators are 22-2 when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» Florida has won 19 of their last 23 games (and 11 of their last 13) including 16 against RPI top 100 teams. The Gators have not lost back-to-back contests since Feb. 2010.
» 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 (1,412 points) and is one of only two active Division I players with over 1,300 points, 800 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals. He also became the sixth player in school history with 500+ career field goals.
» Florida bests UCLA in in three of four major national statistical categories. The Gators lead the Bruins in points per game 71.5-70.0 (98th-137th), rebounding 37.5-37.3 (49th-61st) and field goal percentage .462-.456 (51st-74nd); however, UCLA dishes more assists 14.6-13.7 (57th-106th). UF also sports a superior defense, holding opponents fewer points per game 62.6-65.8 while they grab more steals 6.0-5.5 and force more turnovers 12.7-12.1. Florida ranks 10th in RPI (.6353) and sixth in strength of schedule nationally compared to Los Angeles being 43rd (.5785) and 60th, respectively.

KNOW THE OPPONENT

Coming out of the Pac-10, No. 7-seed UCLA defeated No. 10-seed Michigan State 78-76 for the right to face Florida in the round of 32. The Bruins blew a 23-point lead by missing a ton of free throws towards the end of the game but were able to hold on for the victory. They finished second in their conference, just one game behind leader Arizona, with a 13-5 record. Prior to taking down MSU, the Bruins fell 76-59 to Oregon in the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 Tournament. UCLA is 2-2 vs. top 25 opponents, defeating BYU and Arizona but falling to Villanova and Kansas.

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 3.7 assists per game.
» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who was marred in a shooting slump but has rebounded and is still leading his team in scoring with 14.5 points per game while also leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.416) and three-point percentage (.387). Walker also leads Florida in both turnovers (81) and steals (38).
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but was struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is hitting 38.3 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 14.1 points per game and makes a team-high 81.7 percent of his free throws.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.8 percent from the floor as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.3 points and 5.5 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 5.5 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 3.4 points and 3.8 boards.
» UCLA F Reeves Nelson…who leads his team in scoring (13.9 points) and rebounding (9.0 boards) average this season. Nelson also shoots a team-high 57.3 percent from the floor and is second on the team in turnovers with 81 on the year.
» Bruins F Tyler Honeycutt…who averages 12.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in a team-high 34.9 minutes.
» UCLA C Joshua Smith…who scores 10.7 points and grabs 6.3 boards as a true freshman for the Bruins. Standing 6’10″ and weighing 323 lbs., he will be the largest player on the court Saturday.

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