Florida advances with 85-74 win over Tennessee

Fast out of the gate but down six at halftime, the No. 12 Florida Gators (25-6) outscored the Tennessee Volunteers (19-14) 56-40 in the second half on their way to a 85-74 victory in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Georgia Dome on Friday evening in Atlanta, GA.

Gators sophomore guard Kenny Boynton led the way for his squad with a team-high 22 points. Junior point guard Erving Walker and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin were dynamite in the second half, adding 17 and 15 points, respectively.

Florida started hot, using an early 12-4 run to go up 21-20. Senior forward Alex Tyus hit his first four shots of the game and the Gators started 9-for-12 from the field.

After taking a 12-point lead, 25-13, Florida allowed Tennessee to take off on a ridiculous 21-4 run to end the half. The Volunteers forced eight turnovers and held the Gators scoreless the final 6:22 of the half, outscoring them 9-0 during that period.

UF started the second half with plenty of aggression, using a 13-4 run including six points from Boynton to take a 49-46 lead. Minutes later, tied at 50, Florida scored seven-straight to jump ahead 57-50 with 10 minutes remaining in the game.

The Gators extended their lead to a game-high 15, 80-65, on two free throws from freshman C Patric Young with 2:25 left.

However, a quick turnover by Young while being pressed in the backcourt led to a three from Volunteers G Scotty Hopson and a 6-1 run that brought Tennessee’s deficit down to nine. In the double bonus for most of the second half, Florida took foul shots the rest of the way to hold on to the victory.

Boynton capitalized on some fastbreak opportunities to go 5-for-11 from the field; he also hit all 10 of his free throws and dished a team-high four assists. Walker went 3-for-4 from downtown, and Macklin added four rebounds to his 6-for-10 shooting performance.

Senior F Chandler Parsons proved to be the glue the Gators needed, scoring 12 points while grabbing seven boards, dishing four assists, snatching two steals and blocking a pair of shots. Tyus and Young each added five rebounds with the latter playing top-notch defense in the second half.

Tennessee F Tobias Harris flexed his muscles down low all game, going 10-for-17 for a game-high 25 points. Volunteers C Brian Williams brought down a game-high 12 rebounds, and Hopson finished 6-for-14 from the floor for 19 points.

Early in the first half, Parsons got his 500th career field goal – only the sixth player under head coach Billy Donovan to reach that mark – and Walker hit his 198th career three-pointer, good for fifth all-time in school history.

Florida awaits the outcome of Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi State late Friday to determine who they face on Saturday. The game will air live on ABC at 3:30 p.m.


 

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SEC Tournament: No. 12 Florida vs. Tennessee

Event: 2011 SEC Tournament – Quarterfinals
Location: Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA [Capacity: 26,000]
Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET)

TV: SEC Network (Local listings)
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 12 FLORIDA GATORS TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Bruce Pearl
Record: 24-6 (13-3 SEC) Record: 19-13 (8-8 SEC)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -4; O/U 130

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Tennessee leads the all-time series against Florida 69-51 and has won 10 out of the last 15 contests; however, the Gators have defeated the Volunteers in the teams’ last three meetings including twice in 2011. Florida is 2-4 all-time against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament; the teams have not faced-off in the event since 1989.
» Donovan is now 15-16 all-time against UT, while Pearl is 8-3 all-time against UF.
» Since 2004, Florida has won the most SEC Tournament titles (three – 2005-07) and SEC Tournament games (13) in the league. Among the six major conferences, UF ranks only behind Duke (4-15) and Kansas (4-14) since 2004 in conference tournament titles and league tournament wins.
» The Gators are 10-2 in their last five trips to the Georgia Dome (16-7 since 1992).
» Florida has won 16 of their last 19 games (and eight of their last nine) with 14 victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» UF enters the game having won the 2011 SEC regular season title and as a No. 1-seed in the tournament. UT is a No. 4-seed.
» The current Gators team is the fourth in school history to win 24+ regular season games. They also captured the third outright SEC title in school history (1989, 2007).
» Florida is 20-1 (9-0 SEC) when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» The Gators, struggling all season from the line, are hitting 72.6 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe over the last eight games.
» Florida is 10-2 when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10+ shots from the field. He has moved into the top 20 in school history in scoring (1,377 points) and is one of only two active players in Division I college basketball with over 1,300 points, 800 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals.
» Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, with 197 three-pointers, is sixth all-time at UF. He is one trey away from moving into the top five.
» UF has reached 20+ wins for the 13th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the SEC. The Gators have also reached 10 wins in league play for the ninth time in the last 13 years and first time since 2007 (13-3).
» Florida bests Tennessee in three of four major statistical categories nationally. The Gators hold advantages in points per game 71.5-70.5 (101st-128th), assists per game 13.9-13.2 (99th-154th) and field goal percentage .460-.433 (66nd-187th), while the Volunteers grab more rebounds 38.1-37.6 (30th-47th). Florida also holds opponents to 4.4 fewer points per game than Tennessee 62.3-66.7. The Gators rank 10th in RPI (.6368) and fifth in strength of schedule nationally compared to the Volunteers being 31st (.5918) and second, respectively.

LAST TIME(S) OUT

Florida and Tennessee will square off for the third time this season; the Gators defeated the Volunteers in an 81-75 overtime thriller in Knoxville, TN on Jan. 12 and a 61-60 nailbiter in Gainesville one month later. In the first contest, Florida saw all five starters score in double figures and the team held off numerous rallies by Tennessee to eventually prevail. The latter game was won by Walker, who scored a team-high 16 points (mosty from the free throw line) and hit a go-ahead layup with 14 seconds remaining to propel his team to victory.

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 7.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (805), No. 3 in points (1,377) and assists (307) and No. 4 steals (123). At one point he notched three-straight double-doubles and now has seven this year.
» Walker…who is marred in a shooting slump over the last few games but is still leading his team in scoring with 14.5 points per game while also leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.410) and three-point percentage (.366). Walker also tops Florida’s turnover rankings (73) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.6 percent from the floor as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but is struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is only hitting 37.5 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 13.7 points per game and makes a team-high 81.0 percent of his free throws. He is also shooting 85.5 percent from the line (53-of-62) in SEC play. Boynton has been stellar from the floor over the last three games, hitting 48.5 percent of his field goals (16-of-33) and 50 percent of his threes (13-of-26).
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat two weeks ago against Vanderbilt. His last two games for the Gators have been efficient and productive as he has combined for 25 points and 19 boards while shooting 56.3 percent from the floor and 7-for-9 from the line.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging over 17 minutes per game. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.32:1), while Young averages 3.3 points and 3.4 boards.
» Tennessee G Scotty Hopson…who leads his team in scoring with 17.3 points per game and shoots a team-best 38.1 percent from downtown. Hopson has had eight 20-point games this season with one coming in his first game of the year against Florida.
» Volunteers F Tobias Harris…who averages 14.9 points while grabbing 7.3 boards each game. Harris, along with Hopson, averages a team-high 29 minutes per contest.

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Contributions from Young, Wilbekin make impact

By Malik Grady – OGGOA Columnist

Comparing the 2010-11 version of Florida Gators basketball with the team as it was constituted in 2009-10, it is quite obvious the group as a whole is drastically improved. In addition to playing better defense, something Adam previously touched on, Florida is shooting better and turning the ball over less.

Up 1.6 percent from the field (46-44.4 percent) and 3.3 percent from downtown (34.6-31.3 percent), the Gators are more efficient than they were last year, making approximately the same number of baskets per game in fewer attempts.

Where and why has this slight but integral positive change come from? For one, the returning players are showing a newfound cohesiveness. Then there is the departure of guard Ray Shipman (transferred to Central Florida) and forward Dan Werner (graduated). Sophomore F Erik Murphy and some of the other young reserves have stepped up to replace the minutes previously occupied by Shipman.

Statistics show that the greatest difference is the combination of losing nearly 30 minutes per game from Werner and adding the 35 combined minutes that emerging freshmen Patric Young and point guard Scottie Wilbekin have contributed.

Neither Werner last season nor Young and Wilbekin this year shoot the ball often, but the duo’s shot selection and efficiency have made their production markedly different.

Werner Young Wilbekin Young/Wilbekin
3PT 19/73 (26%) N/A 11/37 (30%) 11/37 (30%)
2PT 34/87 (39%) 40/69 (58%) 16/36 (44%) 56/105 (53%)
FG 53/160 (33%) 40/69 (58%) 27/73 (37%) 67/142 (47%)

In 30 games, Young and Wilbekin combined for 64.7 percent more two-point baskets (56) than Werner did (34) in 34 games; the duo has also hit 26.4 percent more overall field goals (67-53). From three-point range, though Werner made eight more than Wilbekin has so far, it took him 36 additional attempts to do so.

In the other aspects of their games, the Young-Wilbekin combo has eerily similar production to Werner’s last year:

Werner Young/Wilbekin
PTS 4.6 5.8
REB 4.1 5.0
AST 2.0 2.1
TO 1.5 1.4
STL 1.3 1.6

Standing out the most is Young’s penchant for blocking shots. He has 26 rejections in 30 games, which easily dwarf’s Werner’s five in 34 contests.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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3/9: Players discuss upcoming SEC Tournament

As the No. 12/12 Florida Gators (24-6, 13-3 SEC) prepare for the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament, four of the team’s starters discussed the successful regular season while looking ahead to all of the game action ahead of them. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the media availability.

MOTIVATION TO PLAY AS A TEAM

At the start of the season, head coach Billy Donovan kept repeating that Florida was failing to come together as a cohesive unit and instead consisted of players who were worried about “getting their own.” Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton insists that all changed after UF dropped a tough neutral site game (in Orlando, FL) to Central Florida.

“We had a meeting – players only – we told each other it’s not about the individual. That’s going to come [in time],” he said. “After the UCF game, it made a lot of sense. We played selfish that game. After watching film, we had a meeting and we came together and said we had to play together as a team in order for us to get where we want to be. That was the start. Every game after that we came out and played as a team.”

Now the team is focused on maintaining that edge. “All we can do is stick together as a team and keep practicing hard and just be ready for the games,” junior point guard Erving Walker said. “It’s one and done now. We’re not going to be satisfied with just winning the regular season SEC. We want to do more things.”
Continue Reading » 3/9: Players discuss upcoming SEC Tournament

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Gators add commitment from 2012 PG Ogbueze

Florida Gators basketball’s 2012 recruiting class doubled in size Wednesday as four-star point guard Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, NC) committed to head coach Billy Donovan.

Joining four-star shooting guard Michael Frazier (Tampa, FL), Ogbueze is Donovan’s second backcourt commitment for the 2012 cycle and the University of Florida’s highest-ranked point guard recruit since former five-star Nick Calathes. He is listed as the No. 7 player at his position by Scout and the No. 9 point guard in his class by Rivals.

“When I arrived on campus I was impressed with all the coaches, players and the beautiful campus,” Ogbueze told ESPN about his decision. “I want to learn my position from Coach Donovan, who has had great success with perimeter players and is a proven winner. Winning back-to-back national championships means a lot.”

Always holding the school in high acclaim, Ogbueze decided to attend Florida over offers from Oklahoma, Baylor, Tennessee, Wake Forest and South Carolina. Assistant coach Rob Lanier was heavily involved in his recruitment.

“Braxton Ogbueze approaches everything with excellence in mind,” his high school head coach Sean Wiseman told ESPN. “From the court to the classroom as well as his character, he tries to be the best at what he does. That’s what makes him special.”

The Gators already have five-star SG Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) and three-star forward Walter Pitchford (East Lansing, MI) on board as members of their 2011 signing class.

Scout.com first reported Ogbueze’s decision.

Photo Credit: NY2LA

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Parsons, Walker recognized with more honors

Fresh of winning the 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year award from the league’s coaches, Florida Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons earned additional recognition on Wednesday.

SportingNews tabbed Parsons as it’s SEC Player of the Year and selected him as one of the five member of its 2011 All-SEC First Team. The National Association of Basketball Coaches named Parsons to their 2011 All-District 21 First Team.

Also honored Tuesday was Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, who was given 2011 All-SEC Second Team honors by SportingNews and 2011 All-District 21 Second Team recognition by the NABC.

SportingNews chose former Florida assistant and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant as the 2011 SEC Coach of the Year, an award the conference coaches presented to Gators head coach Billy Donovan.

The NABC’s District 21 is an area that covers the states of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Grant on Donovan, track & field

1 » Like his former boss and close friend did for him a few days ago, Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant expressed plenty of positive thoughts and warm wishes toward Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan upon learning he was voted 2011 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year. “It’s a great honor – 15 years in the league and the success that he’s enjoyed,” Grant told The Birmingham News. “It’s really, really hard – the expectations were extremely high for his team this year. They may have surpassed those expectations with what they’ve done. […] There is not a more deserving recipient because of the way he approaches what he does and the passion that he has. I’m really happy for him and their program.”

2 » As OGGOA tweeted about Monday, Florida basketball was not the only sport to pull in high praise from the SEC. Gators track and field head coach Mike Holloway was named the 2011 SEC Coach of the Year for his sport on Monday, and junior jumper Christian Taylor earned 2011 SEC Men’s Field Athlete of the Year honors. Also awarded by the conference were hurdler Eddie Lovett and Cory McGee, who were each named 2011 SEC Freshman Runner of the Year for their respective gender.

3 » The 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships begin on Friday at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium in College Station, TX, and Florida track and field will be represented by 15 student-athletes (13 men, two women) at the event. The Gators men’s team is looking to defend its title after claiming the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championship. Sophomore sprinter and defending champion Jeff Demps will compete in the 60-meter dash, while defending champion Taylor will try to once again win the triple jump. Junior Will Claye and sophomore Omar Craddock will also compete in the triple jump. Other Florida athletes participating in the NCAA Indoors include Clay (long jump), junior runner Dumisani Hlaselo (mile), junior Gray Horn (heptathlon), Lovett (60-meter hurdles), McGee (mile), sophomore Tony McQuay (200-meter dash, 400-meter dash), senior Kemal Mesic (shot put), senior Terrell Wilks (60-meter dash). The Gators will also field men’s and women’s 4×400-meter relay teams.

4 » Former NFL head coach Mike Ditka, speaking with Chicago Sun-Times, provided his opinion on the future of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Ditka only had good things to convey about the second-year pro. “People talk about the combine, about body fat, 40 times, bench presses, how high you can jump. That’s great, but how do you measure heart?” he said. “People talk about Tim Tebow like he can’t do this or he doesn’t have this throwing skill. But all that matters is can he lead you from Point A to Point B. I like him. You cannot coach character. You cannot coach leadership.”

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FOUR BITS: Johnson, Pitino, Joyer, Dunker

1 » It is quite obvious that former Florida Gators guard Carl Johnson is a large man. Florida fans have known this for quite some time and NFL folks got to see it for themselves during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine when he weighed in at an event-high 361 lbs. However, Johnson’s size is not solely due to eating habits or not working out but rather the medicine he takes to combat his Crohn’s Disease. “[It’s] like arthritis in your intestines,” he told the Palm Beach Post’s Ben Volin. “Crohn’s patients are known for dropping massive amounts of weight, like 20 pounds in a week. So [the medicine] makes me gain weight. It makes me retain water. But it also keeps me alive, so it’s a double-edged sword.” Luckily for Johnson, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard (who also has the disease) has been there for him from the beginning. Read more about his struggles with the disease and preparation for the 2011 NFL Draft.

2 » He may be a bit biased due to his son being an assistant on the team and the fact that he coached Florida head coach Billy Donovan while both were at Providence, but Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino tabbed the Gators as his dark horse candidate for a national title during a recent appearance on the Colin Cowherd show on ESPN Radio. “Everybody overlooks Florida,” he said. “Obviously Billy Donovan played for me, but I think Florida’s the type of team with three seniors in the front court with a very quick backcourt. They’re a team that could beat anyone on a given night. I look at Florida. Although they are ranked [12th] in the nation, nobody talks about them as a potential national champion. But they have the experience in their head coach, they have the experience in the frontcourt, the returning backcourt.”

3 » You have to be strong in order to play fullback and linebacker. You have to be even stronger to carry your family on your back when your mother suffers a cerebral aneurysm, undergoes multiple surgeries and has years of recovery ahead of her. Florida freshman FB Hunter Joyer is both after helping his family survive the frightening near-loss of his mom. “To have her there to be able to share in that moment was amazing,” Hunter said of his mom joining him on National Signing Day. “I couldn’t imagine how upset I would be if she wasn’t there. Signing with Florida was one of my lifelong dreams, and she was there to share it and take pictures with me.”

4 » Four-star tackle Jessamen Dunker (Boynton Beach, FL) looks to be one of the top offensive lineman available in the 2012 recruiting class, and the Gators are already making a strong push for him. Having visited Florida for Junior Day already, Dunker was impressed with head coach Will Muschamp, the campus and town; he hopes to learn more about the school as he goes through the recruiting process. “I had a good time while they were showing me around,” Dunker told the Post. “I was driving through [Gainesville] and it seems like a place I could live.”

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