NCAA Tournament: Florida’s postgame thoughts

Shortly after the No. 2-seed Florida Gators wiped the floor with the No. 15-seed UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 79-51, a handful of players and head coach Billy Donovan participated in the postgame press conference OGGOA has compiled some of the choice notes and quotes from the media availability.


Florida started hot out of the gate on Thursday, taking a 10-1 advantage in the first few minutes of the game and extending it from there. Donovan noted that it was the team’s pre-game preparation that helped them achieve their goal of winning their first contest and advancing. “We came out and we played well in the first half. We had a lot of balance,” he said. “Our offense was good, but we really did a good job defensively. [...] This is the first time where this is season-ending stuff right now. They came in very focused, and they learned some valuable lessons from the Kentucky game of what they needed to do better. Their focus coming in, and their preparation for the two-or-three days that we had leading into the game, was very good.”

Junior point guard Erving Walker and some of his teammates echoed Donovan’s sentiments. “This is a whole new season,” he said. “We wanted to come out focused, work hard and play hard. We did a good job of that tonight.” Sophomore point guard Kenny Boynton deflected the notion that the Gators were looking to make a statement. “We just came out and we wanted to focus on winning,” he said. We wanted to block out what everyone was saying. We just wanted to come out and play our best game overall – offensively and defensively.”

For senior forward Chandler Parsons, spreading the ball around (he had eight of the team’s 15 first-half assists) was the key. “It was definitely important to get off to a good start. My guards really found me and I was fortunate enough to knock down some shots early,” he said. “We just kept moving the ball great in the first half; I think we had 15 assists in the first half, which is really good. We just wanted to keep pushing the ball, play smart and limit silly turnovers and things that we can control. Just keep playing unselfish like we have been all season long.”

Boynton was also proud of how Florida performed overall to start the game. “This is definitely one of our best first halves. After the Kentucky game, we wanted to come out and start a game off with good team chemistry,” he said. “In the first half, we moved the ball well, we got good shots, we hit open guys. We worked inside-and-out. On defense we also did a great job making it tough for those guys to score.”


Less than a week after one of their worst shooting performances of the year, the Gators found their groove once again, shooting better than 70 percent from the floor most of the first half before tailing off around 58 percent to open the game and 54.7 percent overall. Walker was pleased with how the backcourt performed but recognized that Florida needs to do more than just shoot well. “It always feels good to hit shots, but like coach said, we’re focusing on defense,” he said. “We just want to take good shots; we know it’s not going to go in every night. But as long as we play good defense, we’ll stay in the game.”

Asked if the Gators can play this way against better competition, Parsons noted that it was Florida’s relentlessness that was actually the key. “We didn’t stop. Once we were playing well, hitting shots, playing unselfish, we just kept going. We didn’t let up. We didn’t let them come back in the game and we kept our foot on the gas,” he said. “That’s something we need to have, that killer instinct. When we get leads on teams, we can’t afford to let them come back. We’ve got to keep playing for 40 minutes.”

For Donovan, it was the shot selection of Walker and Boynton that really made the difference. “Erving, in the Kentucky game, really needed to understand that, with some of the length and size that he goes against, that there’s other things he can do to really affect the game,” he said. “Because he was scoring so heavily in the SEC Tournament, when we were struggling to score, he was trying to do too much offensively and not letting the game come to him. [Thursday] he scored but it didn’t look like he took very many shots. Kenny was patient and then all of a sudden there were a couple plays where the ball really moved quickly and next thing you know the ball ends up in his hands.”


Donovan on his team’s mindset moving forward: “These guys understand what’s at stake. They realize that, ‘OK, what happened today margin of victory – that’s not going to be the case the next game.’”

Donovan on if he was frustrated having not won a NCAA Tournament game since 2007: “The one thing that’s hard for me to absorb or take or create a level of peace is… I knew after those national championship teams that we were starting over. It has been very difficult. It has been very challenging. It has also been very rewarding being part of a group of guys and trying to help them understand what it takes to win at this level.”

Donovan on his team’s ball movement: “Our ball movement was very good, and I thought we had a stretch there where we really moved the ball at a very high level. We were pretty crisp with our passing and our ball movement and we found open people. Guys had their heads up, the vision was there, and we were able to utilize inside-out action and able to get some of our shooters open looks.”

Boynton on his defensive effort: “Coming into the game, my focus was to make [Orlando] Johnson take tough shots.”

Walker on finally winning a NCAA Tournament game: “This is huge just for us to come out and get the loss out of our brains. We just wanted to come out here and play hard and this should lead us into [UCLA].”

Parsons on finally winning a NCAA Tournament game: “It feels good. This is our first one. No one on our team has ever got one, so it definitely feels good to get one. We’re not satisfied. We don’t just want to come here and win one game. We want to make some noise. It feels good right now, we’re going to celebrate, but we can’t get too happy because we’re on a mission and we got another game here coming up Saturday.”

Parsons on the team’s defensive effort: “We did a really good job following the scouting report, knowing what they were going to run and their actions. KB and our guys did a good job on Johnson, not giving him easy looks.”

Parsons on if he knew he was within reach of a triple-double: “I saw it. People were talking about it close to the end of the game. It was more important for our guys to get rest than me to do something like that. They were definitely talking about it, but it really doesn’t matter to me. The win is much more important than anything I can do.”

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(2) Florida Gators outclass (15) UCSB Gauchos 79-51 to open 2011 NCAA Tournament

In a day filled with buzzer-beaters and close calls, the No. 2-seed Florida Gators (27-7) strayed from the norm and smacked down the No. 15-seed UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (18-14) 79-51 in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, FL. with the win, Florida earned its first NCAA Tournament victory since defeating Ohio State for the 2007 national title.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons led the way for the Gators with 10 points, 10 assists and seven boards, while junior point guard Erving Walker was the team’s leading scorer posting 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting (4-for-6 from downtown).

UCSB opened the game by winning the tip-off and hitting a free throw, but it was all Florida the rest of the way. The Gators started their dominance with a 10-0 run including a pair of treys from Parsons and soon after used a 17-2 run to jump ahead 35-13.

Florida took a 25-point lead a few minutes later and outshot Santa Barbara 58.1 percent to 27.3 percent in the first half. The Gators also out-rebounded the Gauchos 19-9 and stole the ball five more times (8-3) to force an extra handful of turnovers (5-10).

UF continued their onslaught after the break, jumping ahead a game-high 34 points midway through the second half. UCSB failed to make any headway in the latter portion of the game as Florida substituted most of their bench and held on for the victory.

Joining Parsons and Walker with impressive outings were sophomore guard Kenny Boynton (13 points) and senior F Alex Tyus (eight points, seven boards). Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin finished with 10 points, and freshman C Patric Young added six points and six rebounds (three offensive).

G/F Orlando Johnson led Santa Barbara with a game-high 21 points, and teammate F James Nunnally contributed 12 points.

The Gators finished the game shooting 54.7 percent from the floor while holding the Gauchos to 36.2 percent efficiency. UF was also 8-for-23 (34.8 percent) from beyond the arc and 13-for-17 from (76.5 percent) from the charity stripe.

Florida will move on to face the winner of No. 7-seed UCLA vs. No. 10-seed Michigan State in round of 32 action on Saturday in Tampa. The game’s start time and television carrier are yet to be determined but will be announced here when available.

Photo Credit: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

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2011 NCAA Tournament: (2) Florida vs. (15) UCSB

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – Second Round
Location: St. Pete Times Forum – Tampa, FL [Capacity: 20,500]
Time: 6:50 p.m. (EST)

Online Video: —->
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Bob Williams
Record: 26-7 Record: 18-13
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -12.5; O/U 127.5


» Florida is making its second-straight and 16th overall NCAA Tournament appearance. The Gators are 29-13 all-time in the event with two national titles, three championship game appearances and four Final Four appearances.
» UF’s No. 2 seed is their second-highest opening position in school history.
» Donovan is 22-8 all-time in the tournament including two national championships and three Final Four appearances. His .733 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 13-3 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 Gauchos are meeting for the first time. Florida will also be facing an opponent from the Big West conference for the first time in school history.
» Florida is 4-3 all-time in the St. Pete Times Forum (1-1 in the NCAA Tournament).
» UF is averaging a +13.7-point margin of victory in 22 tournament wins under Donovan.
» The Gators are 21-2 when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» Florida has won 18 of their last 22 games (and 10 of their last 12) 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 (1,402 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 UC Santa Barbara in three of four major national statistical categories. The Gators lead the Gauchos in points per game 71.5-68.4 (98th-184th), rebounding 37.5-32.6 (49th-284th) and field goal percentage .462-.456 (51st-72nd); however, UCSB dishes more assists 14.5-13.7 (67th-106th). UF also sports a superior defense, forcing opponents to score fewer points per game 63.0-65.4. Florida ranks 10th in RPI (.6353) and seventh in strength of schedule nationally compared to Santa Barbara being 153rd (.5024) and 20th, respectively.


Coming out of the Big West, No. 15-seed UC Santa Barbara awaits Florida in the first round of the tournament. UCSB earned a berth by winning the 2011 Big West Tournament even though they finished the regular season tied for fourth place with an 8-8 league record. The Gauchos defeated Big West-leading Long Beach State in the title game after losing to them by a combined 33 points in two regular season contests. What UCSB does have going for them is guard/forward Orlando Johnson, the Big West’s leading scorer with an average of 21.1 points in 33.2 minutes.


» 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 3.5 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 14.4 points per game while also leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.411) and three-point percentage (.378). Walker also leads Florida in both turnovers (80) and steals (37).
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but was struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is hitting 37.7 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 14.31 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 57.4 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 8.7 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 3.3 points and 3.7 boards.
» UCSB G/F Orlando Johnson…who leads his team in scoring and rebounding by posting averages of 21.1 points and 6.3 boards per game. Johnson plays a team-high 33.2 minutes each contest and shoots 40.1 percent from downtown.
» Gauchos F James Nunnally…who is second to only Johnson on UCSB with averages of 16.4 points and 5.7 rebounds. Nunnally hits 82.9 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe and plays 32.9 minutes per game.

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Billy Donovan’s pre-NCAA Tournament quotes

Prior to the 2011 NCAA Tournament getting underway, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan spoke with the media in Tampa, FL about a number of topics including his team’s mission, the most difficult part of the event and if it is tough not to look ahead. OGGOA has compiled some choice quotes from Wednesday, which you can find below:

On if his team is on a mission: “When you have a chance to go through different experiences throughout your college career, you hopefully learn from some of your experiences. […] Going into this year, they wanted to try to experience more than they did a year ago, and that can be said in our conference schedule, can be said in a conference tournament, and I think going into the NCAA Tournament.

“There’s not a team in this tournament that doesn’t want the feeling or the excitement of moving on and advancing, so I don’t know if their feeling is any different from any other player that’s in the tournament.”

On if too much is made of site location and traveling: “For Santa Barbara certainly traveling across the country, that’s always a difficult travel. When the game starts tomorrow night and the ball is thrown up, all that stuff will be out the window. The fact that we’re in the state of Florida will be thrown out the window because we’re going to have to go out and play. Although we’re in our own state, this is not an arena that we have played in. Maybe last year we played Syracuse here. But it’s not a place that we’re necessarily comfortable with or have played a lot of games here. It’s a new building for both teams. This time of year, with the excitement of the tournament and guys getting the opportunity to play in postseason play, when the ball goes up, you’re just going to have two teams playing and competing against each other.”

On if it is difficult for the team not to look ahead past UC Santa Barbara: “I really don’t think that’s going to be a problem for us. We have a group of players right now that have never, ever won an NCAA Tournament game on our team in a Florida Gator uniform. So we understand what a challenge Santa Barbara is going to be [Thursday].

“I don’t think those guys are even thinking about anything else but Santa Barbara right now. You know, we’ve had a lot to get prepared for because we’re playing against a team that we’re unfamiliar with, they’re unfamiliar with us. There’s a lot both coaching staffs have got to do to familiarize their teams with personnel and schemes, so I’m not really worried about that. Our guys are totally focused on playing [Thursday].”

On the most difficult part of his job coaching this team in the tournament: “This is different right now than any time in the year. We normally don’t have a media press conference. We normally don’t have an open locker room. We normally don’t have an open practice. There are things that go on that are totally different that your normal daily routine that you would have in your non-conference schedule and your conference schedule. The understanding of how to deal with and manage all that.

“But this is really a time of year that’s exciting. There’s a lot more national attention, so to speak, at this point in time than maybe there was before. It’s exciting. But as you mentioned, it also can be distracting and how your players can handle and manage that, I think, is very, very important.”

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Florida players’ pre-NCAA Tournament quotes

Prior to the 2011 NCAA Tournament getting underway, the Florida Gators spoke with members of the media in Tampa, FL about a number of topics including their recent slow starts, opening game opponent, expectations and preparation. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important quotes over the last two days, which you can find below:

Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin on Florida starting slow the last few games: “I think we’ve got to come out more aggressive, looking to attack and looking to pass the ball to each other, just play harder in the first half than we do the second half. We’re going to carry it over to the second half like we always do and play 40 minutes of basketball. We just got to be more aggressive going to the hole and making more plays and extra passes.”

Senior forward Chandler Parsons on the expectations of making a deep run: “I think the biggest thing with us, we can’t worry about expectations. In the beginning of the season, we were preseason Top 10 and people put all these expectations. It’s about what you make of that. As a 2 seed, I think we had a great year and I think we’re very deserving of a 2 seed. The thing is all a 2 seed gives you is just what you’ve done up until now. Basically whatever we’ve done until now is over with and it starts all over again Thursday. We’ve just got to go one game at a time and no matter if we’re a 2 seed or a 10 seed or a 14 seed, we’ve just got to play one game at a time. This is it. When we lose, our three careers are over. So we’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”

Macklin on Santa Barbara: “We know, like Coach [Billy] Donovan said, they have a shooting guard, a small forward that’s pretty aggressive and they know how to put the ball in the hole and win the tournament. In their tournament, their shooting guard averaged 28 points a game for three games and their small forward is putting up 17, and their center was at 12. So that’s an offensively aggressive team and they play great defense, also. We got to go in and play hard against those guys and play hard every single possession.”

Senior F Alex Tyus on having Donovan as a coach: “I think it’s a huge advantage, just knowing that we have a coach that has gotten to a championship game multiple times on this stage, we just really have to take his experience, take what he says and believe in him and follow him and help each other, and we’ll be okay.”

Parsons on losing meaning the end of his Gators career: “It’s huge. Being a senior, this is it for us. And it’s been a great run for us and we’ve had a blast. When we’re out there, we’re going to leave it all out there because we know if we lose a game, that’s it. So we don’t want to have that feeling we had in the locker room after the SEC Tournament against Kentucky. We want to finish our career as a winner. We’re just going to play extremely hard and keep executing our stuff and trying to defend really hard and just do all the things that Coach Donovan has been talking about all year and keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”

Parsons on the four-year journey coming to an end: “I think it’s really special. Being a four-year player, I’ve experienced so much here. I’ve been through many ups and downs and it’s been a great season this year for all we’ve accomplished and all the close games and just the way we’ve all played and battled. Last year I felt like we got a taste of getting back to the NCAA Tournament, and I think that’s really helped us with all the close games we had this year, us being a mature and humble team to come back and that’s really helped us for the tournament run we’re going to make this year. We want to go out a winner.”

Parsons on not having won a NCAA Tournament game yet: “I think positively that we’re hungry. We want to win, we want to win big, and we want to go as far as we possibly can in this tournament. Like I said, last year going into double overtime of BYU, we got a taste of what it’s like and how hard you have to compete just to get a win. Because like I said, it came down to the last possession three times last year and we fell short. But I think it really gave us a good experience getting there, and we have a lot better understanding of it this year.”

Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton on preparation this season: “We’re much better prepared this year. We know what to expect this year. Last year we were so focused on being in the tournament that we got complacent. This year we’re forced more on us.”

Junior point guard Erving Walker on being more experienced: “That’s huge but that doesn’t necessarily automatically you’ll win games. But that should help us out – just being older and being through different situations and knowing what to expect.”

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Florida assistant Pitino up for Gulf Coast job

Less than one year go, OGGOA learned that Florida Gators assistant basketball coach Richard Pitino interviewed with Iona for their head coaching vacancy. Just under 12 months later, head coach Billy Donovan revealed that the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have contacted Pitino about filling their opening.

“They’ve contacted him,” Donovan told Florida Today. “I think they have definite interest in him. In my conversation with their AD it’s probably at a point right now where they are probably going to go through a process of looking at three or four different people and I think Richard is in that mix of people and I think there will be a point where Richard will really get a chance to sit down and talk and find out a little bit more one, his interest, and I think two, his interest. But there has been some contact made there.”

With Donovan’s coaching tree branching out at a Rick Pitino- and Dean Smith-like pace, it should be no surprise that another one of his assistants is garnering this type of attention. Six of Donovan’s former assistants (and one ex-player) were on college coaching staffs during the 2010-11 season.

“He’s definitely interested in the job,” Donovan said of Pitino. “He’s excited about the potential in the program, being relatively new, the school relatively new… he just wants to find out more. […] The other thing too is that he’s one of three, four or five people. I don’t think he knows where he’s at because they are going to kind of go through the process.”

Another Donovan assistant who may also have an opportunity elsewhere is Larry Shyatt. Rumored to be a candidate to return to coach at Wyoming over the last few months, Shyatt did not discount the possibility when The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway reached out to him about it.

“That’s a question I wouldn’t be able to answer unless we visited some. […] Had a great year there [1997-98]. Loved it.”

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3/14: Gators discuss 2011 NCAA Tournament

Three members of the Florida Gators‘ (26-7) starting five met with the media on Monday to discuss their new task of competing in the 2011 NCAA Tournament beginning Thursday against the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in Tampa, FL. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the players.


Like with head coach Billy Donovan, the first question asked to the players was whether or not they were pleased with and felt deserving of a No. 2 seed in the tournament. It appears that, like with most fans, the positioning came as a bit of a shocker but is certainly appreciated. ”I had a feeling we were going to be a No. 3 seed, honestly. The two-seed kind of shocked me,” senior forward Chandler Parsons said. “We deserve it. I’m happy with it. I like our draw.”

Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton agreed. “I was happy to see we had a two-seed. We were deserving. We worked hard this season,” he said. “Whether we were a two-seed or a six-seed, it really doesn’t mean anything. Every game we just got to come out and play.” Asked specifically about the comments by analyst Charles Barkley, junior point guard Erving Walker made a pointed statement. “Charles Barkley’s not playing for us. We just have to focus on ourselves and keep working hard as a team,” he said.


For Parsons, Thursday – and any subsequent games – could be the last time he plays in the orange and blue. He, for one, does not plan for that to be the case. “It’s all-or-nothing from here on out. It’s flown by; time has gone by very fast,” he said. “As soon as we lose, we’re done, so I don’t want that to come down for another three weeks.”

In order to stay afloat, Parsons says what Donovan has been preaching – Florida has to play with more consistency. “We definitely have some ups and downs. We’ve had trouble not being consistent this year. We just got to keep playing – no matter if we play bad in the first half, second half – we just got to put it all together for 40 minutes,” he said.

Boynton is able to differentiate the team’s mindset this year compared to that in 2010. “Last year we got complacent that we were in the tournament. We didn’t know exactly how good BYU was or how good Jimmer Fredette was,” he said. “When we got in the game, we played hard, but we didn’t prepare the right way. This year, we’ve been there before. This year, we’re going to prepare to go deep into the tournament.”


Leading a tall starting lineup for Santa Barbara is G/F Orlando Johnson Standing at 6’5”, he is likely too athletic for Parsons to defend; Boynton will most likely be charged with the task and said Monday that he is ready for it. “I try to pressure as much as I can so [taller guards] don’t get a shot off. I’m going to do my best to disrupt what he has going on,” he said.

Asked what it is like to often be forced to defend taller players, Walker sympathized with the situation. “That’s been my whole life – facing a bigger guard. That’s nothing I’m afraid of at this point in my life,” he said. “I’m always the smallest player, so for somebody to be taller than me is not really a big deal to me.”


Parsons on being like a former Florida starter: “I’d love to have Lee Humphrey’s shot.”

Walker on his relationship with Boynton: “He’s like a brother to me. Since he first got here we’ve been real cool. We’ve just grown together.”

Boynton on a potential rematch with BYU: “Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I’ve definitely seen that. They’re a good team. If we do meet up, we both got to come and play.”

Boynton on losing to Kentucky: “We didn’t want to lose, but it’s a good thing. After our losses, we watch a lot of film and we see the things we need to get better at. The next game we come out stronger.”

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3/14: Donovan discusses 2011 NCAA Tournament

Just a day after earning a No. 2 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Florida Gators (26-7) head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to discuss the season behind him and the heavy task of competition for a national title that lays ahead. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the press conference.


Donovan’s media availability opened up with a question that has been on the mind of many fans and members of the press for the last 24 hours: Do the Gators actually deserve a No. 2 seed in the tournament? For Florida’s head coach, questioning the decision does not make much sense, though he does lend credence to UF earning it seed by a variable margin.

“I’m not surprised the all. Did I think we were going to get a two-seed? I didn’t know. I thought we were right in the middle of a two or a three,” he said. “If we would have gotten a three, we probably would have been very close to a two. We got a two, and we’re probably on the higher end of being a two. We’re probably right in the middle there. But I wasn’t necessarily surprised by it. We probably got rewarded for the whole body of work of what happened during the course of the season.”

He continued: “If you look at our whole body of work, we this year probably had as many wins against the RPI top 50 as any school in the country. Then you look at the fact of where you play on the road and what we did on the road and what we did in our non conference schedule and who we played. I wasn’t surprised if you look at the whole entire season. Then, obviously, get together championship game yesterday and then winning the league outright, I think that they looked at the whole season.”


Coming out of the Big West, the No. 15-seed UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (18-13) await Florida in the first round of the tournament. UCSB earned a berth by winning the 2011 Big West Tournament even though they finished the regular season tied for fourth place with an 8-8 league record. The Gauchos defeated Big West-leading Long Beach State in the title game after losing to them by a combined 33 points in two regular season contests. What UCSB does have going for them is guard/forward Orlando Johnson, the Big West’s leading scorer with an average of 21.1 points in 33.2 minutes.

“They’ve got the leading scorer in the league who is a very, very good player,” Donovan said of the Gauchos. “[James] Nunnally‘s a terrific shooter. But we’re in the infant stages now of trying to gather all information.

“This is a pretty quick turn around for us playing yesterday and having to play Thursday, so there is a lot to get prepared for. We’re not going to do anything physically today having three games in three days. This will be a day where we’ll meet later this afternoon and talk about Santa Barbara. We’ll talk about the SEC Tournament, and then try to get prepared to get some work done tomorrow physically.”


The entire Gators team had a down day Sunday, but junior point guard Erving Walker and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin both struggled mightily. Walker, who was often careless with the ball and had some poor shots blocked because of his height, seemed to revert to his old form…something that Donovan certainly noticed.

“We’ve got Walker outside with weights on his ankle hanging from the monkey bars right now to see if we can stretch him a little bit,” he said jokingly. “This could be a great learning experience for Erving. He needs to watch film from yesterday because he did some things that put our team and himself in bad situations where there were other options and things open for him. He’s not going to grow. He is what he is. He can still impact the game, but he’s got to understand how.”

Macklin, though he gave good effort at times, put the ball on the floor too much in the post. As a result, he turned it over five times and brought the frontcourt to a halt.

“I was somewhat disappointed [in] the way Vernon handled the ball when we got it to him. He needs to do a better job,” Donovan said. “Because the five turnovers he had, there are guys open that he’s got to make the play if teams are going to come down and try to take him away. And those are the plays that can free up [Kenny] Boynton and Walker. […] He was way, way too soft and loose with the ball when he put it on the floor.”


While he tries to reign in his upperclassmen, Donovan gushed about the production that freshmen C Patric Young and PG Scottie Wilbekin have provided down the stretch.

“The one thing with Patric [and Scottie] that we desperately need is they can provide a jolt of energy with our team, just with their energy. Both players are physical, they’re tough,” he said. “We just need his energy. That’s what we need. We need his presence out there. When he’s playing hard with a high energy level, there is no question it impacts our team. It takes pressure off Vernon and Alex a little bit when he can come in there because he can affect the game without scoring.”

The manner in which Wilbekin has been contributing has surprised everyone including his head coach. Still only 17-year-sold, he is quickly coming into his own while concentrating on a few particulars.

“He has two things as a young kid that I didn’t know if he would have,” Donovan said. “He has great feet. He can really move and defend and keep people in front. And we’ve put him on some pretty good offensive players in this league. The other thing, too, he’s got a very strong body for a guy that young. He’s also not afraid to put his body in there and make physical plays, loose balls, long rebounds; he can get in there.

“I don’t think Scottie’s coming in there thinking, ‘I’m going to be a scorer.’ But he knows athletically and physically he can go out there and compete. He also can impact the game with his defense, and making an open jump shot, and doing some of the things he’s done.”


Donovan on learning how to schedule: “Three years ago when we really only had two teams going into the SEC Tournament as lock NCAA tournament teams that were going to get at-large bids, and then Mississippi State won the conference tournament so we got three teams in. There was really a huge emphasis among the athletic directors and the commissioner about the non conference scheduling and what we all needed to do. With the commissioner being on the selection committee, he really talked to us about what goes on inside that room and what they’re looking at. And that they really put a large emphasis on, not so much your league because those 16 games are already penciled in you’ve got to play them, but what are you doing with the games that you can schedule?”

Donovan on Florida’s losses: “I know there’s been a lot of talk about it. Maybe teams look at the Jacksonville game, the Central Florida game as being tough losses, but those are two games. But there were other games, Xavier, Florida State, Kansas State, what we did on the road inside the league. We had some very, very good quality wins. Then we played the second game of the year, the number one overall seed in the entire tournament in Ohio State. If you look at our RPI and our strength of schedule, it’s all inside the top 10. So our RPI and our strength of schedule kind of matched up. I’ve always said this to you; you can play a great, great schedule. But if you don’t win those games, it really doesn’t make a difference. We were fortunate that we were able to win some of those games on the road or at home.”

Donovan on mental motivation for his team: “What our guys have done in a non conference schedule and winning an SEC Championship, coming up a little short yesterday against Kentucky. These guys have earned the right to play in the NCAA Tournament. Now it’s a different season all together. This group, none of these guys has won a game in the NCAA Tournament, and I hope that in itself is motivation and fuel for them to really be focused and understand the importance of going from one game to the next.”

Donovan on what dismayed him about the Kentucky game: “The most disappointing thing to me even yesterday was just they’ve got to understand that when you get to this point in time in the season, it is all about grinding. You cannot get emotionally and mentally frustrated. You’ve got to be able to deal with things not going your way. What didn’t go our way yesterday was really we missed a lot of shots that maybe those first two days we had made. And I thought our offensive lack of productivity, and the ball not going in the basket, it bled into us having a level of being frustrated. We need to be tougher fighting through those things.”

Donovan on playing the first round in Tampa, FL: “Any time you can play close to home in a tournament it’s always a great thing. Our fans have always been good when we’ve traveled even in the non conference schedule when we’ve traveled to Orlando or Tampa or Jacksonville, we’ve always had a good turnout. I hope we can have a good turnout Thursday night, and our fans are good about doing that.”

Donovan on one way Wilbekin is more mature than Walker: Erving yesterday really, really struggled because he didn’t get any clean looks and he tried to drive it to the basket and nothing was going for him there. So he’s trying to figure out how do I impact the game? Where Scottie knows I can impact the game by playing defense. I can impact the team by getting the ball where it needs to go.

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