With the 2011 NCAA Tournament Southeast Regional Semifinal game between the No. 2-seed Florida Gators (28-7) and No. 3-seed BYU Cougars (32-4) just hours away from getting underway, there are a number of storylines being discussed going into the contest. OGGOA has compiled some of the latest news and notes surrounding the Florida-BYU game airing live on TBS Thursday evening at 7:27 p.m.
WHAT SORE ANKLE?
Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton sprained his ankle on Saturday against UCLA, but if you ask him or his teammates how he’s doing, you would never know he hurt it in the first place. “[He’s] fine. You couldn’t even tell that he twisted it,” senior forward Alex Tyus said. Boynton was 100 percent positive he would be playing without any issues on Thursday. “My status is good. I practiced fully [Wednesday],” he said. “I did every drill. I’m going to be good tomorrow. I’m confident.”
Head coach Billy Donovan provided a more substantial update on Boynton’s health and mobility. “He was in a position to practice [Tuesday], and the trainer wanted to hold him out and rest him another day. He went through practice [Tuesday] without any contact. All the running drills, moving drills, shooting drills, he did all those things. [Wednesday] he was full go. He was in full contact,” Donovan said. “He appeared to be moving well, has not said or given me any indication he’s having any issues or any problems with his ankle. We expect him to be fine [Thursday] night and to be able to play. He probably could have gone [Tuesday], but they just wanted to give him that extra time to at least get back in the flow, move, shoot, cut and then see if there was any kind of lasting effect from the injury, and there didn’t seem to be. […] I didn’t notice anything differently with him favoring it, him trying to protect himself at all today in practice. He did everything that everybody else did and was in there the whole entire time.”
REVENGE? WHAT 2010 GAME?
Like Boynton’s ankle, Florida’s loss in the opening game of the 2010 NCAA Tournament to BYU never happened if you talk to the Gators starters. Not only is UF not out for “revenge,” they are confident that there are few similarities between the two contests.
“We pretty much put that game in the past,” redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin said. “Coach Donovan told us it happened last year, and it was a great game. […] We’re just going to try to go out there and play defense because it’s a great team. We’re going to put that game in the past and just get ready to play. […] There’s no revenge. It’s just a regular game for us. And for them, also. The game happened last year was a great game. We lost first round of the tournament; they went on and won. But it’s no revenge, we just want to go out there and play against anybody and it happens to be BYU and they’re ready to play and we’re ready to play.”
Tyus and fellow senior F Chandler Parsons echoed Macklin’s sentiments on the subject. “We’re just excited to play tomorrow. No revenge. It could have been anybody we were going to play against, and we’re just ready to play tomorrow,” Tyus said after Parsons provided his own thoughts. “Us going into the game, we’re just worried about their team this year. We can’t be worried about what we did good last year, what we did bad last year,” he said. “We’ve just got to come in. We have a new team; they have a new team, new personnel. So it’s just going to be us against them. We’re playing them right now, so that’s all we can worry about. We can’t worry about the past or the future.”
Donovan remembers that game and notices that the Cougars are much improved from a year ago even though there won’t be any carry over. “They’re better because [their players have improved]. They are a physical team. They’re a very aggressive team. They’re a great steal team,” he said. “We’re not playing the same team we played a year ago; we’re playing a team that’s better than they were a year ago. So for us, and I’ve said to people, unless they’re going to take points from the last time we played them or rebounds or assists, that game has nothing to do with this game tomorrow. What we can take from the game is having a familiarity in terms of their personnel.”
That being said, the Gators have also vastly improved and are entering the contest with a different mindset. ”We’re more focused coming into this game,” Boynton said. “We’re mature. We’re focused more on defense, taking more charges than we did last year. We’re ready to play.” Added Walker, “We’ve been doing a great job all year with scouting. This week has been no different. Coach prepared us very well and we should be ready to go come [Thursday] night.”
Though his numbers may be the worst in his college career, the intangibles Tyus has been bringing to the court night-in and night-out are being overlooked by many – just not his teammates. “Alex is doing a great job right now. We love the way he is playing. He brings a lot of energy from the tip to the end of the game,” Macklin said. “He’s all about winning. I don’t think numbers matter to any of us,” Parsons added. “He’s really bought in to our whole system and what he needs to do. He’s done a great job and brings energy every game, great defense. We wouldn’t be here without him.”
Tyus scoffs at the notion that he is doing any sacrificing, saying he is just doing what is needed to help the team win. “I really wouldn’t think of it much as sacrifice. Those different things of helping the team win, those are easy,” he said. “Trying to get offensive rebounds and trying to do well on defense and trying to bring energy is something that comes natural for me. That helped a lot to get just to this point. A lot of the guys have been doing well, helping me out as far as telling me they need me. We’re doing great, and I’m really happy about it.” Because of those efforts, Tyus feels his performance this year has been as good – if not better – than prior seasons. “It’s been a great year. I’ve grown a lot as a player just trying to do other things to impact the game and impact winning,” he said. “Whenever you make it to the Sweet 16 and you’re starting and helping the team get to this point, it definitely feels like my best year.”
Florida will be guarding BYU star guard Jimmer Fredette as a team, but most of the onus will fall on Boynton’s shoulders. Watching extensive film on his opponent over the last week, he has noticed changes in his game and has decided to adapt his defensive mindset against him. “He’s definitely more aggressive,” Boynton said of Fredette. “Last year he was scoring, but he’s way more aggressive this year. He’s expanded his range – shooting from very deep. Overall he’s gotten better as a player.” How will he combat that? “Last year I didn’t really know too much. I’ve seen him a lot this year. I’m going to try to pick him up at half court this year and make it tough for him – every shot he shoots. That’s the main thing – making him take tough shots.”
Junior point guard Erving Walker, who likes to shoot from well beyond the three-point line as well, noticed that Fredette takes it a step further. “We can’t pick him up at the three-point line, because he’ll shoot it just as he cross half court. That’s a strength of his,” he said.
BIG STAGE FOR THE FRESHMEN
For freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young, Thursday’s tip will be the most important basketball game – on the largest stage – that either has participated in. This is not a fact lost on the youngsters who average over 17 minutes per game off the bench.
“There was a state championship in high school in AAU, but it was nothing like being in the Sweet 16,” Wilbekin noted. “It’s still basketball, so you just got to play your game and play hard.” Young has a similar mindset. “I’m just taking it one step at a time,” he said. “Nothing in my life has been like this – on such a large scale. This is the biggest basketball game I’ve ever been in, but I’m not going to let it affect how I play.”
Parsons on BYU aside from Fredette: “We had so many careless turnovers where it led to easy baskets for them. People always underestimate everyone on their team. And I think we’ve got a good understanding going in there how good they are from playing them last year. And it’s just not Jimmer Fredette, the other guys are very good players and they understand their role, and they don’t get a lot of credit, but we’re not just focused on Jimmer, we’re focused on their entire team.”
Tyus on BYU aside from Fredette: “A lot of people lose sight of how good the other guys are playing off of Jimmer, and I feel like the key to doing a good job on them is to stop the other guys, too.”
Donovan on facing BYU in 2010 compared to 2011: “We realize going into the game that we’re going to have to play a lot better than we did a year ago, and in the game we played a year ago, we didn’t win. I think coming out of that game we can probably at least have a feel of size, athleticism. There’s a little bit of familiarity in terms of style of play, and I do think at this time in the NCAA Tournament where a lot of times there’s not a lot of familiarity because you’re seeing opponents that maybe you see on TV and don’t know a lot about. So we’re playing against a terrific team. We’re excited about the opportunity to play and advance to this point in time, and we’re playing against a team that you win 30-plus games in this day and age in college basketball, they’re very good.