FOUR BITS: Dillman hired? Rosario, Kitchens

1 » According to the coaching news website CoachingSearch.com, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp has hired Jeff Dillman as the team’s next director of strength and conditioning. Dillman, who OGGOA reported last week was a top candidate for the job, is currently the head of physical conditioning for the IMG Performance Institute. A former college football player, he served as an assistant strength coach at LSU under head coach Nick Saban and was also the former director of strength and conditioning at Appalachian State during the team’s back-to-back national championship seasons. OGGOA will have more on Dillman when/if the University of Florida officially announces a hire, which is likely to come after the bowl game next Monday.

2 » Putting together a short preview for the 2012 Gator Bowl, which will be played on Monday, Jan. 2 at 1 p.m., SI.com’s Cory McCartney uncovered an interesting “did you know” fact. “The Gators ran the fewest offensive plays of any team in the nation this season with 735,” McCartney wrote. As luck would have it for Florida, the Ohio State Buckeyes were not far behind, running just 12 more offensive plays on the year. UF actually ranks ahead of OSU in total offense (101st to 107th) heading into the game; the Gators also check in better than the Buckeyes defensively (9th to 24th).

3 » When Florida basketball’s 2011-12 schedule was released, there was no doubt that redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario was eyeing the team’s road game at the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the team he transferred from two seasons ago. However, due to a back injury that began acting up on him over a week ago, it appears as if Rosario will be out for the game even if he will once again grab a seat in the Louis Brown Athletic Center. Head coach Billy Donovan said last week that Rosario was “doubtful” for the game, especially because he would be going home for Christmas and not available to do rehabilitation with the Gators’ training staff. SNY.tv’s Adam Zagoria spoke with a “family source” who said that Rosario is not expected to suit up. “He’s still questionable,” the person said. “He wants to play, but I don’t think he’s going to play.”

4 » One of the last football moments fans will remember from the 2011 is a scary incident involving Gators sophomore linebacker Darrin Kitchens laying motionless on Florida Field after being hit hard while on special teams during a kickoff against Florida State. Speaking with UF senior writer Scott Carter recently, Kitchens said the entire moment is a blur. “I don’t really remember anything,” he said. “I remember running down the field and my chin strap came loose, so I was trying to buckle it up. That’s the last thing I remember. The next thing I know I was talking to my trainer.” Kitchens, who was placed on a spinal board and taken to the hospital for evaluation, was cleared that evening with “just” a concussion, a relief to his family, friends, teammates and the coaching and training staffs. He returned to practice prior to the short break for Christmas and should be active for the Gator Bowl. Carter spoke extensively with Kitchens, teammates, staff members and trainers about the incident in a feature story you can read by clicking here.

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Florida up to No. 10 in top 25 polls; Beal awarded

The seventh editions of the regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Syracuse Orange maintained their spot as the No. 1 team in the country for the third week in a row.

The Florida Gators moved up to No. 10 in both polls on the heels of consecutive blowout victories over Mississippi Valley State and Florida State. Florida is one of three Southeastern Conference teams listed in the respective rankings.

Additionally, Gators guard Brad Beal took home SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the second time in three weeks after posting 13 points and six rebounds as well as a team-high 21 points and six more boards in Florida’s two respective contests last week.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: Syracuse (30), Ohio State (1), Kentucky, Louisville, Duke
6-10: North Carolina, Baylor, Missouri, Connecticut, Florida
11-15: Wisconsin, Georgetown, Marquette, Mississippi State, Indiana
16-20: Michigan, Michigan State, Kansas, Creighton, UNLV
21-25: Murray State, Pittsburgh, Harvard, Virginia, Kansas State

Last Week 1-5: Syracuse (30), Ohio State (1), Kentucky, Louisville, Duke
6-10: North Carolina, Baylor, Missouri, Connecticut, Marquette
11-15: Kansas, Florida, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Xavier
16-20: Georgetown, Mississippi State, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State
21-25: Creighton, Murray State, UNLV, Illinois, Harvard

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: Syracuse (54), Ohio State (5), Kentucky (4), Louisville (2), UNC
6-10: Baylor, Duke, Missouri, Connecticut, Florida
11-15: Wisconsin, Georgetown, Indiana, Marquette, Mississippi State
16-20: Michigan State, Kansas, Michigan, UNLV, Murray State
21-25: Creighton, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Harvard, San Diego State

Last Week 1-5: Syracuse (53), Ohio State (5), Kentucky (4), Louisville (2), UNC
6-10: Baylor, Duke, Connecticut, Missouri, Marquette
11-15: Florida, Kansas, Wisconsin, Xavier, Pittsburgh
16-20: Georgetown, Indiana, Mississippi State, Michigan State, Michigan
21-25: UNLV, Murray State, Creighton, Virginia, Illinois

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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NBA season begins with 10 Gators on rosters

The shortened 2011-12 NBA season is set to tip-off on Sunday with 10 former Florida Gators standouts on professional rosters. Some won National Championships while wearing the Orange & Blue, others went undrafted, but all want to prove that the Florida basketball program has and can produce legitimate NBA stars.

Al Horford, F/C, Atlanta Hawks
2010-11: Averaging career highs in points (15.3), field goal percentage (.557), assists (3.5) and minutes (35.1), Horford also contributed 9.3 rebounds and 1.0 block per game last year. He led his team to the second round of the playoffs for the third-straight season; nlike the previous two years, the Hawks were not swept but rather fell 4-2.
2011-12: The Godfather was named a captain in Atlanta one year ago and wound up earning his second-straight NBA All-Star nod as a reserve. The Hawks resigned him to a five-year, $60 million extension in Nov. 2010, and he enters this season as one of the team’s two best and most popular players.

Joakim Noah, C, Chicago Bulls
2010-11: Averaging a double-double with career highs in points (11.7), field goal percentage (.525), assists (2.2) and minutes (32.8), Noah was also good for 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steal per game. He only played in 48 games due to having two surgeries for ligament damage in his hand and a right thumb injury but helped lead Chicago to the conference finals where the Bulls lost 4-1 in five games.
2011-12: Noah was rewarded by Chicago for his hard work with a five-year, $60 million extension last offseason. His defense and shot blocking makes him an elite big man in the league and he will be a key piece for the Bulls this season as they hope to earn a spot in the NBA Finals.

David Lee, F/C, Golden State Warriors
2010-11: Falling just short of a double-double average aver accomplishing that feat in consecutive seasons with the New York Knicks, Lee contributed 16.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.0 steal per game in 36.1 minutes on average last season. He shot 50.7 percent from the floor and 78.7 percent from the line in 73 games after missing nine due to an elbow injury that got infected.
2011-12: Lee agreed to a six-year, $80 million contract with Golden State after being traded from New York before last season and shined as a efficient big man in an up-tempo offense. His numbers fell because he was not relied upon as heavily with the Warriors, but he should have ample opportunities to showcase his talent.

Read the rest of OGGOA’s 2011-12 NBA Preview…after the break!
Continue Reading » NBA season begins with 10 Gators on rosters

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Florida vs. Florida State post-game notes

The No. 11/12 Florida Gators wound up pulling away after a first-half slugfest with the Florida State Seminoles, defeating their in-state rivals 82-64 on Thursday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media and shared his thoughts on the victory.

ESPN HIGHLIGHTS

OFFENSE DEFENSE vs. DEFENSE

Heading into the contest, much of the focus was on whether Florida’s offense or Florida State’s defense would be the victor. Donovan, confident in the Gators’ ability to score, had his team focusing on defense all week, noting that if they could improve on that end a win against their rival would be likely.

“There was a lot of talk in the game about who was going to win out – our offense or their defense. I felt like the key in the game for us was how well we could defend and rebound. I told the guys that the game is not going to come down to whether or not they can stop us or not. It’s going to come down to how well we guard,” he said.

Even though Florida is somewhat of a smaller team overall, Donovan was confident in his team’s toughness against a rough group of FSU players.

“We have a pretty tough group physically. We may be undersized, but they’ll get in there and bang. They’ll physically compete. They’ll put their bodies in plays,” he said. “It was really important for us to have that physicality in the game from start to finish.”

He also said that the Gators’ defensive effort plays into his mantra that defense can setup offense, something Florida has plenty of this year. “The two hardest things to do in basketball defensively is to transition defense back … and to close out and guard the dribble,” he said. “When we get stops and we can rebound the ball, we’ve got a lot of offense coming down the floor and it’s hard to match up.”

YOUNG’s BLOCK; PLAYER EVALUATIONS

Sophomore center Patric Young’s insanely athletic block in the second half undoubtedly provided a great deal of push for the Gators. It was a play that turned a back-and-forth battle into a big-time victory, and Donovan felt the impact of Young’s block immediately. “It was a great play and it fueled our team and it gave us momentum, it gave us energy. And Pat athletically has the ability to make plays like that,” he said.

Donovan also praised Young’s entire performance on Thursday and how he really took lessons he learned in practice this week to heart. “I was really impressed with him because we watched a lot of film on how he was going to be guarded. I told him he can’t get frustrated because it was going to be hard to get the ball,” he said. “I said, ‘You got to keep posting up the whole entire game. You may only get it three times, four times, five times. But when you get it – you may have to work 50 times just to get it [once].’ And he did. He kept great composure. He was 7-for-7 from the field and you want to get it to him more and you try to get it to him more.”

On freshman guard Bradley Beal and his improved shooting: “When he’s open, he shoots it. He got some more shots up tonight. I thought our guys found him. He had a couple good drives to the basket. He rebounded the ball. He had some good looks from the three-point line. He’s got freedom to do that. Like anything else, he’s just the kind of kid that never wants to come across as being selfish. And he’s not selfish. He’s probably feeling more and more comfortable. It’s not so much that we’re asking him to do more or he feels like he needs to do more, he’s just understanding where shots need to come from.”

On senior point guard Erving Walker’s shooting struggles: “He took one that he knew was bad. He came down on the break and he kind of let it really go. We were on a run, and I think we were up 13, and I could tell he looked down to see if I was upset. And I was. He had some decent looks but the one thing that he did do is he constantly puts pressure on team’s defenses because he’s coming down the lane for a layup and you do have to account for him. The biggest thing for him is him making the next decision which sometimes has been hard because of his size, but he did a better job tonight. […] But 1-for-7 beats 3-for-15. He’s got to understand, and I think he did make one three and he took a couple tough shots, but overall he really played a pretty good floor game in my opinion.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On shooting well from the line in the second half after starting 0-for-7: “Our guys have such a high opinion of how well they think they should shoot the ball. When it doesn’t go in, they lose a little bit of focus or they get down, they get disappointed. In the first half, our focus was not where it needed to be from the free throw line. In the second half we did a much better job. We rebounded pretty well in the second half and – thank God – made some free throws.”

» On when Florida will go from great spurts to playing a complete game: “It’s hard to play a complete game that you want to play because you’re playing other good teams. You’re up by 25 against A&M, you know they’re going to come out and compete and fight and battle. You know Florida State is going to compete and battle and fight for 40 minutes. [Playing against] good players, you’re going to have some moments you don’t look great and you need to get better.”

» On the health of redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (back): “I’m concerned from the standpoint that he’s going home and he’s not going to have any rehab for Christmas. Right now I would say he’s probably doubtful for Rutgers – that would be my guess. Just because he’s not going to be around the medical staff and be able to do treatment and rehab and the things he needs to do. We’re going to come back and practice on the 26th. We’ll see how he is, but I would be shocked if he plays right now with the way it is against Rutgers.”

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Young powers Gators to 82-64 win over Noles

What started out as a slugfest at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL turned into an impressive victory for the No. 11/12 Florida Gators (10-2), which used a picture-perfect performance by sophomore center Patric Young to upend the in-state rival Florida State Seminoles (8-4) 82-64 Thursday evening.

Young played 31 minutes for the Gators and was 7-for-7 from the field, scoring 15 points and grabbing four rebounds while also executing monster takeaway block that shook the O’Dome with excitement.

Florida State got on the board first but suffered through an 0-for-11 scoring drought that lasted 7:50 and saw Florida post 14 unanswered points to take an early 14-2 advantage. However, FSU eventually fought out of their rut and went on an 11-0 run over 1:42 to reduce UF’s advantage to a single point.

The Gators continued the game of runs by opening up an 11-2 scoring stretch capped by a three-pointer from junior guard Kenny Boynton in transition off of a blocked shot by freshman G Bradley Beal to take a nine-point lead with 3:57 left in the first half.

The Seminoles answered by scoring seven-straight points and cutting their rival’s lead to a single basket, but Florida scored four-straight to end the half and took a 32-24 lead on Florida State into the locker rooms at the break.

UF hit consecutive threes early in the second half to retake a 10-point lead and – following a quick 8-0 run by FSU – exploded on a 15-2 run of their own to jump ahead 53-38. The Gators never looked back.

A trey by junior forward Erik Murphy increased Florida’s advantage to a 19 points, and two free throws by senior point guard Erving Walker gave the Gators a game-high 21-point lead with less than three minutes left in the contest.

Florida, which had been much improved from the free throw line over the last two games, started 0-for-7 from the charity stripe but finished by hitting 16 of their final 17 attempts, shooting 66 percent on the evening. The Gators also hit 10 threes and outrebounded their opponent 32-31, marking the 10th time in 12 games this season that Florida has achieved either feat.

Beal led the Gators with a game-high 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting and hit 3-of-4 attempts from beyond the arc to go along with six rebounds. Boynton (14 points), Murphy (12 points, six boards) and Walker (11 points, 8-of-10 from the line) also scored in double digits as sophomore F Will Yeguete led Florida with eight rebounds.

UF registered 12 steals during the contest with Beal and Yeguete each grabbing three; Boynton and Walker each took the ball away from FSU twice.

During the contest, Walker became the 12th player in school history to surpass 1,500 career points. The Gators awarded head coach Billy Donovan a ball for his 400th win prior to the game and honored the Voice of the Gators Mick Hubert at the first media timeout for calling his 1,000th career Florida football or basketball game.

UF will have a week off for the holidays before travelling to face Rutgers on Thursday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN2 and will be the second-to-last one the Gators will play before the new year.

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No. 11 Florida Gators vs. FSU Seminoles

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPNU
SiriusXM: 219/199
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(11) FLORIDA GATORS FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Leonard Hamilton
Record: 9-2 Record: 8-3
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -9.5; O/U 138

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before the big game? No problem. OGGOA has been here all season long compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam Thursday evening.

Donovan’s MVSU notes, Florida State preview | Texas A&M post-game notes

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Florida State 40-22, sporting a 9-6 record against their in-state rival under Donovan and a 19-6 record at home in Gainesville. FSU, however, holds a 3-2 advantage in the last five meetings but has only beat a ranked UF team in the O’Connell Center once.
» The Gators are 97-6 against non-conference opponents in the O’Dome since 1999.
» UF has won 11-straight games at the O’Connell Center.
» The Gators have made a three in 662 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» Florida has connected on 10 or more treys in nine of 11 games this season, failing to do so only against Syracuse and Arizona. Hitting double-digit threes in six-straight games is the longest streak under Donovan.
» Three Gators are shooting better than 40 percent from three (minimum 10 attempts).
» UF has outrebounded 10 of 11 opponents this season.
» The Gators have the second-best winning percentage against ranked opponents (.551) among SEC teams dating back to 1999-2000.
» Florida is ranked No. 3 in scoring offense (86.5 points), No. 12 in scoring margin (19.6 points), No. 10 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.52), No. 12 in assists (17.8) and No. 1 in three-pointers (11.3 per game) nationally as of Dec. 18. The Gators are also 302nd (out of 338 teams) in free throw shooting (61.8 percent).
» Florida State is ranked No. 3 in field goal defense (34.2 percent), No. 14 in three-point defense (25.8 percent) and No. 7 in blocked shots (7.0) nationally as of Dec. 18.
» FSU is on a three-game winning streak after dropping three consecutive contests including two at home in the month of November. All three teams the Seminoles lost to are currently or were previously ranked this season.
» Florida State has 10 players who see double-digit minutes on average.
» The Seminoles are the third winnings program in the ACC since 2008-09, only behind Duke and North Carolina.
» FSU is first in the ACC in field goal defense, blocked shots and steals; third in three-point defense, scoring margin and rebound margin; and fourth in scoring defense.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and Florida State last squared off a year ago with the Gators earning a four-point victory over the Seminoles even though they were outscored 30-25 in the second half. Kenny Boynton led the way for UF with 14 points, but Erik Murphy’s putback of a missed shot with 16 seconds left in the contest helped seal the victory for Florida. FSU only shot 33.3 percent on the evening with Chris Singleton making just 2-of-12 shots. Though the Seminoles cut the Gators’ lead to one point with less than three minutes to play, they never managed to negate Florida’s lead and fell at home to the No. 16-ranked Gators.

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Senior point guard Erving Walker (#11)…who is the longest tenured player on the team having appeared in 118 consecutive games with 57-straight starts. A shoot-first player much of his career, Walker has been tasked with distributing the ball and managing the game this year. He is the SEC’s active leader in minutes (3,527) and treys (240) but also ranks second in points (1,490), assists (432) and steals (136) as well as third in free throws (374). Walker is No. 12 on the school’s all-time scoring list, No. 4 in assists, No. 8 in free throws, No. 5 in threes made, No. 4 in treys attempted (628) and No. 7 in minutes. He is the only player on the team making more than three quarters of his free throws (82.1 percent).
» Junior guard Kenny Boynton (#1)…who is a dynamic scorer and just the second starter returning from a year ago. Boynton is working on his consistency this season and is already shooting better than he has throughout his career (49.6 percent from the field and 46.6 percent from downtown). He is the best defender on the Gators and is often put on the opponent’s best backcourt playmaker. Boynton currently ranks fifth in the SEC among active players in points (1,207) and third in three-pointers (193). He has hit a trey in 26-straight games and is the SEC’s second-leading scorer averaging 18.7 points per game. Boynton is No. 7 on UF’s list for threes made.
» Freshman G Bradley Beal (#23)…who is starting at the three for Florida fresh out of high school. Beal was the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year, one of the top five players in the country, and is arguably the most talented player to sign with the Gators since Donovan took over. He is averaging 15.0 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 69.4 percent from the line (second best on the team) while playing a team-high 33.0 minutes per gam.e
» Sophomore center Patric Young (#4)…who joined the starting lineup this year after being the primary frontcourt reserve as a freshman. Young saw action in all 37 games as a freshman, averaging 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in limited action. He has four double-doubles on the season and scored a career-high 25 points against Arizona. Young is posting averages of 11.0 points, 7.5 boards and 1.4 blocks per game.
» Sophomore forward Will Yeguete (#15)…who is Florida’s do-everything player, averaging 5.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals in 20.8 minutes per game. The Gators’ primary frontcourt reserve, Yeguete has started a few games due to injury.
» Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (#3)…who is finally playing for Florida after transferring out of Rutgers and sitting out the 2010-11 season. Rosario scored more than 1,000 points in two seasons with his former team and averaged 16.7 points per game during his sophomore year. He is the Gators’ de facto sixth man and is seeing 17.1 minutes of court time each game, averaging 9.4 points while shooting 46.6 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent from beyond the arc.

FLORIDA STATE
» F Bernard James (#5)…who is the Noles’ consummate big man, averaging 10.5 points and 9.2 boards each contest while also adding 2.6 blocks. James, who has netted five double-doubles this year (including two sets of consecutive ones), hits 59.8 percent of his field goals but only shoots 45.0 percent from the line.
» G Michael Snaer (#21)…who leads Florida State in points per game (13.2) and minutes (30.5), also nabbing 4.5 rebounds while shooting team-highs from the line (90.9 percent) and downtown (36.8 percent). All of those numbers are career-highs for Snaer, who hit a clutch three-pointer in the last minute of the game against Florida last year.

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FOUR BITS: Noah, chomp, strength, baseball

1 » Participating in a preseason game for the Chicago Bulls Tuesday night, former Florida Gators center Joakim Noah gave Indiana’s Tyler Hansbrough a bit of a reality check as he stuffed his shot right at the basket. Check out the video below:

2 » Appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno alongside play-by-play man Al Michaels last Thursday, former Florida wide receiver and current NBC color commentator Cris Collinsworth discussed getting into broadcasting and the play of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. The entire show is viewable below; however, if you are just interested in watching Collinsworth do the Gator Chomp upon entering the studio, skip to 18:55 (thanks to OGGOA reader Eli M. for the heads-up).

3 » As the Gators look for a replacement for strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, one name that a source close to the program told OGGOA is in contention for the position is former director of strength and conditioning at Appalachian State Jeff Dillman. An assistant strength coach at LSU when now-Florida head coach Will Muschamp was an assistant under Nick Saban, Dillman played football at Elon and Appalachian State, was also an assistant strength coach at Louisiana-Monroe and is now the head of physical conditioning for the IMG Performance Institute. OGGOA reached out to Dillman, but our message has not been returned as of press time.

4 » With football season coming to an end and basketball in full swing, baseball is next on the docket among the major Gators sports programs. Florida got an early start to what is expected to be another stellar season by earning a No. 1 preseason ranking in Collegiate Baseball’s “Fabulous 40” poll. The Gators, which were swept in the 2011 College World Series Championship Series by South Carolina, will begin the season ranked one spot ahead of the Gamecocks, CB ranks the No. 2 team into the country. Florida is stocked full of talent on the mound, in the batter’s box and on the field and will likely be the national pick to win the 2012 title.

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Florida’s post-game notes; Donovan talks absences, Florida State game

With No. 11/12 Florida Gators basketball set to host the in-state rival Florida State Seminoles on Thursday, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Tuesday to discuss what preparations he and the team are making for the squad’s next game.

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

Redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario (back) and redshirt freshman center Cody Larson (strep throat) both sat out Monday’s game against Mississippi Valley State, and Donovan was not too confident that either would return for Florida State calling them both “doubtful” in his post-game press conference. He expanded on that thought Tuesday:

“Right now he’s out today,” Donovan said of Rosario, whose preseason back injury flared up on him after the Texas A&M game. “He’s not going to practice today. If he can’t do anything tomorrow in practice, then I’m probably not going to play him. He’d have to at least show me some things that he can at least get back [into the flow].”

He also said that Larson will probably miss the game mostly due to his need to gain strength back after an illness. “Cody’s doing better. We’ll have to see what he does in practice,” Donovan said. “He’s lost a lot of weight. He’s going to be drained. I imagine conditioning is going to be a problem. Whether or not he can really provide anything for us, I think I’ll have a better feel tomorrow after practice.”

PLAYING ON THANKSGIVING WEEKEND

For the first time years the basketball game between Florida and Florida State is not being played on Thanksgiving weekend. This is something the Seminoles have recently changed their minds about, and Donovan gave some insight into why head coach Leonard Hamilton might feel like moving the game to another weekend is a better option.

“Leonard’s view is he wants that game to kind of stand on its own two legs by itself,” he said Tuesday. “I get that, and I understand it and certainly respect it, but I’ve also been in this state long enough [to know] that you get a lot of people traveling in for that game football and basketball wise. I always thought it was a great weekend.”

Donovan said that, despite this year’s game being scheduled in December, the Gators plan to play the game on Thanksgiving weekend when they host FSU in 2013 and 2015. However, he has no problem if Florida State does not do the same in 2012 and 2014.

“I’m just looking at the best environment for both teams,” he said. “There’s a great environment in Tallahassee when it’s the Friday before the football game; there’s a great environment here. I just think it’s a great time to play. Right now during these times you got students missing and things like that.”

Donovan added that his preference for that date is his own opinion and pointed to Lon Kruger and Pat Kennedy choosing to play the annual contest in Orlando, FL when they coached UF and FSU, respectively.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On how Florida opened the game strong: “They showed a level of maturity. […] I thought our focus, our energy and how they tried to play the game was really good.”

» On the Gators’ free throw shooting: “The last two games we’ve shot well from the free throw line. Those guys have focused on it; I think they realized they got to get better at it. […] I certainly don’t think we’re a 59 percent free throw shooting team. We’re probably somewhere in the middle. They’ve focused on it and they’re getting better at it. That’s been encouraging.”

» On why Florida ran sprints before the second half: “These guys are all warmed up and they’re lathered up before the game starts, but the opposite happens in the second half. We’ve got to find a way to get them [going]. Some if it is their responsibility, too, to get themselves ready to go. I was disappointed the way we came back out the second half against [Texas] A&M, and I told the strength coach we need to get these guys moving around better.”

» On the leap that junior G Kenny Boynton has taken this year: “Because of the way we play, there’s a lot of freedom that I give our guys. Obviously I was a guard and there’s nothing worse than looking over your shoulder wanting to know if you’re coming in or out of a game because of a shot. So much of what we’re doing is predicated on concepts and spacing and positioning on the floor and different things are happening that these guys got to make reads. For Kenny, like anything else, when you first come to college you’re going to rely on what you’ve always relied on until you get enough experience under your belt to start to understand those things. For Kenny, he was pretty much just a three-point shooter as a freshman. Now he’s starting to pull up, he’s starting to get drives to the basket, he’s starting to make threes, he’s starting to understand shot selection and understand – more importantly – the length of time of a game.”

» On Florida State’s defense: “They’re disciplined. that’s the biggest thing they know what they’re doing. They got great length, great size. They have shot blocking at the basket, so a lot of times your numbers are going to be predicated on how well you do at the basket.”

» On why practice wasn’t “cancelled” on Tuesday: “I wouldn’t say practice is cancelled. The contact and the banging was probably a little bit cancelled right now. We obviously had a week of practice going into A&M; we had three really hard days going into that game. We had a real hard practice going into this game last night and played last night somewhat shorthanded with Mike and Cody being out. Right now more for us is more of a mental day of things we need to do mentally to get prepared to play on Thursday.”

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