Allen’s Alley: Gators have room for improvement

A four-year member of the Florida Gators basketball program under head coach Billy Donovan, former forward Adam Allen – a four-star recruit coming out of Milton High School – was forced to retire due to multiple knee surgeries. No longer with the team, he has joined OGGOA as a basketball columnist and will provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2011-12 season.

Friday night Florida was hoping to snag a big road win at the undefeated No. 3 Syracuse Orange without junior starting forward Erik Murphy but fell short in two primary areas – turnovers and rebounding.

Turnovers have doomed the Gators in recent memory and proved to once again be a factor in their latest big game. The fact is: It’s nearly impossible to go on the road against a top 10 team and expect to win when you cough the ball up 20 or more times.

Murphy’s absence and sophomore center Patric Young only being able to play 25 minutes (mostly in the second half) because of foul trouble had a large impact on the game in the rebounding and low post scoring departments.

Sophomore F Will Yeguete played well but, despite his great effort and energy, could only do so much standing 6’6” against the length and size of the Orange’s front line.

Syracuse’s zone caused problems for Florida all night. The whole idea of SU’s patented 2-3 is to get teams out of their comfort zone and bait them into settling for shots that may appear to be the best available. Even when UF did hit tough treys, it simply gave the team false hope because the Orange know teams won’t be able to make enough challenged threes over the course of 40 minutes to beat them.

Additionally, with Murphy being out, the Gators didn’t have a true threat in the high post and a big man who can space the floor and knock down shots. When UF stopped getting the ball to the high post and baseline on offense, the team got stagnant.

Florida settled for setting ball screens on the guard at the top of the zone and kicking to the wings, which did not force Syracuse’s back end to work at all. Even as out of rhythm as the Gators may have seemed on offense, UF would have been in a great position to win the game if the players simply took better care of the ball.

Read the rest of this edition of Allen’s Alley…after the break!
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Allen’s Alley: Florida has room for improvement

A four-year member of the Florida Gators basketball program under head coach Billy Donovan, former forward Adam Allen – a four-star recruit coming out of Milton High School – was forced to retire due to multiple knee surgeries. No longer with the team, he has joined OGGOA as a basketball columnist and will provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2011-12 season.

Two games into the young season, the No.7/8 Florida Gators have shown plenty of promise but had some of their weaknesses exposed on Tuesday.

Florida rolled over Jackson State in the opener but followed that up with a tough 81-74 road loss to No. 3 Ohio State. Going on the road this early in the season to face a top-five opponent will prove to be a great learning experience for the young Gators, just as it has been for previous teams under head coach Billy Donovan.

Playing against such a talented team in a hostile environment will always reveal where a squad is while simultaneously showing some of its flaws. Visiting Ohio State as a freshmen in 2007, I can attest to how tough it is to play in Columbus, OH. The hope now is that Florida can use this loss as a true learning experience and move forward with the rest of their season.

Read the rest of this edition of Allen’s Alley…after the break!
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Allen’s Alley: Previewing the 2011-12 Gators

A four-year member of the Florida Gators basketball program under head coach Billy Donovan, former forward Adam Allen – a four-star recruit coming out of Milton High School – was forced to retire due to multiple knee surgeries. No longer with the team, he has joined OGGOA as a basketball columnist and will provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2011-12 season.

College basketball season has arrived, and the excitement is in full force surrounding the new-look Florida Gators squad. Florida basketball has the potential to be one of the best programs in the nation this year and should be one of the most exciting teams to watch from November to March.

The Gators feature what could be the best backcourt in the nation to go along with a rather inexperienced but talented frontline that has been waiting to prove itself.

There is no question that this team possesses the talent to be great but concerns surround the backcourt chemistry and keeping
everyone happy with playing time.

Guards senior Erving Walker, junior Kenny Boynton, sophomore Scottie Wilbekin and sophomore Casey Prather already have experience playing together, but how will the addition of two potential star players in freshman Brad Beal and redshirt junior transfer Mike Rosario wind up working long-term?

In head coach Billy Donovan‘s portrait, he sees a perfect combination. Many wonder how the talented guards will share the ball and allocate shots amongst one another. The only true “pass-first” guard is Wilbekin but sharing the ball will be an issue with this group. Coach Donovan will have the guards playing together and feeding off each other because he is the best in America at getting players to understand their role and what they need to do to help the team win.

Read the rest of this edition of Allen’s Alley…after the break!
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SEC title a dream come true for UF’s seniors

“I couldn’t dream of a better way of finishing my career here.”

That is how Florida Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons described the perfect storm of good fortune that his team encountered Tuesday night.

“This is a great feeling. I just feel honored right now.”

Emotional words coming from a 6’10” 240 lb. redshirt senior center named Vernon Macklin, who has shown flashes of dominance in only his second season as a starter after transferring from Georgetown.

“It means everything.”

The only way senior F Alex Tyus could verbalize the expression on his face as he walked off the court after the 78-51 beating Florida put on the Alabama Crimson Tide to capture at least a share of the 2011 Southeastern Conference regular season title.

His next thought?

“I don’t want to hear anything about ‘co-‘ or ‘share.’ I want to win it outright. Let’s get this win against Vandy.”

Just another thing he has in common with his classmates.

“The best thing about it is Saturday we have an opportunity to go and win on the road and be the only SEC champs, not just have a share of it,” Parsons said. “We did it tonight, but we want to win out and win against Vanderbilt. I’m glad we did it for Coach Donovan,” Macklin added.

So while the Gators have another obstacle in front of them Saturday, facing No. 20/21 Vanderbilt to earn more than a “share” of the SEC title but instead the whole thing, Tuesday was a day where dreams were reached and emotions were, well, shared. And it all started with head coach Billy Donovan.
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Gators win first SEC title since 2007 as No. 14 Florida chomps Alabama 78-51 on Senior Night

It took them four years of scratching and clawing, but on Senior Night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, the No. 14 Florida Gators (23-6, 12-3 SEC) won at least a share of the Southeastern Conference regular season title for the first time since 2007 by thrashing the Alabama Crimson Tide (19-10, 11-4 SEC) 78-51.

Fittingly enough, it was Florida’s three seniors – redshirt center Vernon Macklin and forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus – who led the way for the Gators’ romp. The trio combined to score 50 of UF’s 78 team points with Macklin and Parsons each accounting for 19. Macklin also led Florida with a game-high 11 rebounds; Tyus scored 12 and gave a sterling effort on the glass with nine boards.

The Gators played with passion and intensity the entire game, but one would not get that impression by looking at the first half box score. Florida started the game 3-for-19 from the field and 0-for-10 from downtown but led Alabama nearly the entire first half.

UF closed the half with back-to-back three-pointers from sophomore guard Kenny Boynton to knot it up at 30 even though they finished 11-of-30 from the floor, 2-of-12 from three and 6-of-12 from the free throw line. UA shot the ball better but had eight fewer attempts due to turning the ball over 10 times.

Coming out of the break, the Gators started hot with a 7-2 run to go up five. After some back-and-forth action, Florida put their foot on the gas and refused to let up. UF exploded on a 28-6 run over almost 10 minutes that included a flurry of three-pointers from Boynton, Parsons and junior point guard Erving Walker.

The Gators ended up hitting twice as many shots as the Crimson Tide in the second half (18-9), went 18-for-26 overall in the later portion of the game and took a game-high 27-point lead in the final few minutes of action.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan pulled Macklin and Parsons to standing ovations with 1:23 to go and called a timeout for Tyus to leave the court with a minute left. He then substituted redshirt junior F Adam Allen, who had not stepped on the court in three years and is retiring after the season, to run out the final 25 seconds of the clock.

Boynton joined the seniors with a stellar offensive effort including 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc to go along with six assists. Walker added eight points and seven dimes even though he did not hit his first shot until well into the second half.

Guard Trevor Releford led Alabama in scoring with 17 points, while star Fs JaMychael Green and Tony Mitchell combined for 24 points and 17 rebounds (11 offensive).

UF hopes to keep the SEC title to themselves but first must face No. 20/21 Vanderbilt on the road Saturday at 6 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN. UA will also head on the road to face Georgia on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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Parsons, Tyus, Macklin celebrating Senior Day

The No. 14/14 Florida Gators (22-6, 11-3 SEC) hope the conclusion of Tuesday’s game against the Alabama Crimson Tide (19-9, 11-3 SEC) brings the same smiles that three seniors and one junior will have on their faces before the contest even begins, as the University of Florida celebrates the achievements of redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus, and redshirt junior F Adam Allen on Senior Day. All three players, along with head coach Billy Donovan, spoke about the special occasion on Monday.

LOOKING BACK ON FOUR YEARS OF GROWTH

Refraining from referring to ego or a sense of entitlement, Donovan discussed the trials and tribulations his graduating class went through over the course of their Florida careers – especially early on.

“I don’t think you can really be successful unless your heart really gets broken in something that’s competitive,” he said. “I did not feel, when those guys were freshmen and sophomores, that their hearts were broken. Their hearts got broken after their sophomore year. When they came in here after those two National Championships, there was no doubt in their mind they were cruising right to the same thing in 2008 and 2009. It was just very, very immature. It was not their fault. There was no one there to show them.

“They walked into the most difficult situation you could possibly walk into as a young group, and it was not their fault. If anybody, it was my fault. When I say it was my fault, I did not have enough depth or enough people around those guys that when [the Oh Fours] left, that there was enough there for those guys. They came in as freshmen not knowing anything and really got put into a very difficult situation. I give them credit because they were resilient. They did battle and they did fight and they did try to figure things out. They could have felt sorry for themselves. They could have left and gone somewhere else, but they kept battling. Where they are today from where they were as freshmen is two totally different ends of the spectrum.”

Parsons remembers Donovan locking the team out of the beautiful practice facility and taking away their official team clothes after a tough first season that resulted in a NIT berth. “That was unbelievable. That was a rough time for everybody,” he said. “Having to practice at Florida Gym with no shirt, our own shorts, having to do our laundry, come back three times a day, practicing at P.K. Yonge. That was definitely different. Those experiences have helped our upperclassmen get to where they are today.”

EMOTIONAL YET REWARDING

Like most coaches, Donovan will probably show plenty of emotion and stick his chest out with pride as his four oldest players celebrate their final game in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. “It’s always a hard thing. It’s emotional for anybody. When guys step into the arena and know it’s their last game, that’s significant,” he said. “They’re never going to play there again. When they’re young, they act like it’s never going to end. Now they realize, ‘Wow, this is coming to an end.’”

That being said, he also realizes what it took for them to get to where they are now both as players and individuals. “It’s been very rewarding, fulfilling just to see them to get to this point. Sometimes, two-to-three years ago, you don’t know if you’re ever going to get to that point in time,” Donovan noted. “They have worked hard. They have figured some things out. They still know there is a lot left of this season to be played.

“Those three guys deserve a lot of credit in terms of trying to get better, trying to improve and dealing with the adversity and growing pains of trying to be successful.”

Macklin in particular realizes he has made huge strides since first joining the team as a transfer from Georgetown. “I came a long way. I was mentally and physically weak when I got here,” he said. “It was tough for me to realize that coaches and these players actually care about me. Me sitting out, these guys treated me like I was actually playing that year. That made me feel like those guys really wanted me to be here. That helped me out a lot, and I think I’ve grown a lot from there.”

Read more from the mouths of Parsons, Allen and Macklin…after the break!
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Allen to skip fifth season, be honored Tuesday

Redshirt junior forward Adam Allen, who has not played since first injuring his knee in April 2008, has decided to forgo his fifth year of eligibility and conclude his basketball career with the Florida Gators.

Due to his decision, Allen will be honored alongside redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior Fs Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus during Senior Day ceremonies on Tuesday before Florida plays Alabama at home.

“It means a lot to me,” Allen said, per The Gainesville Sun. “Even though I haven’t been able to compete this last three seasons, I still feel like I’m a huge part of the team.”

Allen, who sits on the bench for every home game but does not travel with this team, has been a great cheerleader for his teammates. Whether consoling guys who are struggling or running down the court on one leg after a teammate hits a buzzer-beating game winner, he has done his best to smile in the face of continued adversity.

Moving on to what he hopes will be a career in broadcasting, Allen is departing on the heels of the best season he has seen as a member of the team.

As the Sun’s Kevin Brockway points out, Allen’s decision opens up a second scholarship that head coach Billy Donovan could use for the 2011-12 season. The Gators will have four available with two being filled by five-star guard Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) and three-star F Walter Pitchford (East Lansing, MI).

Photo Credit: Unknown

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Top 10 for 2010: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2010, the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From game-winning baskets to displays of pure emotion, Florida experienced some unique athletic moments in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 On the Field Moments of the Year.

OGGOA RELATED: Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

10 » FLORIDA WINS INAUGURAL LACROSSE GAME (2/20/10)
When Florida decided it wanted to start another women’s athletics program, the University Athletic Association did extensive research and found out that women’s lacrosse would be the perfect fit. In preparation for their first season, the Gators and head coach Amanda O’Leary secured the country’s No. 1 recruiting class (according to Inside Lacrosse Magazine). All the hard work and preparation to get the team ready paid off on Feb. 20 when lacrosse debuted in the brand new Donald R. Dizney Stadium to a boisterous crowd of 2,114 spectators. Florida defeated Jacksonville 16-6 behind four goals and four assists from freshman sensation Ashley Bruns. All-in-all the Gators faced 16 championship-caliber teams and played so well that they reached the 2010 ALC Tournament semifinals. In just their second year of existence, Florida women’s lacrosse is ranked as the No. 17 team in the country going into the 2011 season.

9 » NEAR VICTORIES/HEARTBREAKING LOSSES (5/25/10 * 3/18/10 * 10/9/10)

It is rare for teams to go undefeated and even less likely that an entire athletic program can go through a season without its share of close losses and nail biting finishes. Such was the case for the Gators in 2010. On May 25, No. 3 women’s tennis was barely defeated by the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal for the 2010 NCAA National Championship. Stanford won 4-3 after Florida rallied when they were just two individual games away from being defeated. The Gators forced third sets in two singles matches; sophomore Joanna Mather took down her opponent but senior No. 65 Marrit Boonstra was not as lucky. Losing her first set 6-4, Boonstra fought back to even her match with No. 33 Mallory Burdette by taking the second set 6-7 (4). Down 2-0 in the third, she pushed ahead with a valiant effort to take a 5-4 lead but ended up losing her final three games, the match itself and the championship.

Returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons, No. 10-seed Florida got in a bit easier than some might have expected. Matched up against the No. 7-seed Brigham Young Cougars in the event’s opening game, the Gators fought hard but could not stop Cougars star guard Jimmer Fredette. Allowing BYU to jump ahead 59-46 in the second half, UF came back behind freshman G Kenny Boynton and junior forward Chandler Parsons. Florida missed potential game-winners during regulation (Parsons) and the first overtime (Boynton) and eventually fell to Brigham Young 99-92 in a double-overtime heartbreaker with Fredette adding to his game-high 37 points.

Though losing a national championship and NCAA Tournament game are both difficult, Gators fans will probably look back on No. 12/14 Florida’s shocking loss to the No. 9/12 LSU Tigers on Oct. 10 as the worst near-victory of the season. Wearing orange jerseys for the first time since 1989, the Gators came back from a 12-point deficit when freshman wide receiver Andre Debose returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, sophomore running back Mike Gillislee rumbled in for a touchdown and redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley completed a two-point conversion to sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. to cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive. All Florida wanted when its defense came out was a stop, but LSU put together a 62-yard game-winning drive that included numerous third down conversions and a converted fake field goal attempt on fourth down from UF’s 36-yard line with 35 seconds remaining. Back-to-back passes to WR Terrence Toliver (of 28 and 3 yards, respectively) and the Tigers left The Swamp with a 33-29 victory. Players have noted that the loss was a negative turning point in the season, one that may or may not have led to the team dropping their third-straight game one week later at home to Mississippi State.

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