With No. 9/10 Florida Gators basketball set to travel to Syracuse, NY to take on the No. 3/4 Syracuse Orange Friday evening, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to discuss what preparations have been made for his team’s next road game.
MURPHY’S DIAGNOSIS NOT TOO BAD
Considering the original thought was that junior forward Erik Murphy had a tear in his meniscus, Donovan was pleased to learn early this week that he only has a bone bruise and will be able to “get back to doing as much as he’s capable of withstanding.”
Donovan said Wednesday that Murphy could return as soon as the Arizona game after doctors figured out the “subtle and small” meniscus tear was from when he was a sophomore in high school.
“When you see a torn meniscus on the MRI, your initial reaction is that he’s going to need surgery. Waiting to get the other MRI from high school proved to be very helpful in making a decision for what he needs to do rehabbing to get himself back,” he said.
PLAYING IN THE DOME
One of the best venues for college basketball in the country, Syracuse’s Carrier Dome is always an interesting place to play. In addition to the fans being raucous and the atmosphere electric, the dome itself provides different site lines for shooters that sometimes can take some getting used to.
“Hopefully the memories that I had in the Dome they don’t have. We never won at Providence when I was plying there in the Dome,” Donovan joked. “[Florida] did have some success there in the NCAA Tournament in 2000, which was great. They’ve got a great home court advantage. They’ve got a great environment. It’s a unique situation. I don’t know if there’s any other college program that plays in a dome setting like that. It’s a special environment. Our guys will enjoy it. It’s a different place to play, and I was fortunate 25 years ago to play there several times.”
Redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario, formerly on Rutgers, had the opportunity to step on the court a number of times and provided his opinion on what it is like to play there.
“It’s a crazy atmosphere. It’s loud and it’s a lot of orange. A lot of orange,” he said with a smile. “It’s a dome and those guys love to go out there and just have fun out there. Their fans are loyal, so it’s going to be a good atmosphere for us to play in.”
Junior G Kenny Boynton was not too concerned with his team’s ability to perform in the dome. “A gym is a gym. You just got to go in there and try to get a win,” he said.
ATTACKING SYRACUSE’S ZONE
Famous for perfecting and running the 2-3 zone, the Orange will undoubtedly use the defense against the Gators regardless of the fact that Florida’s three-point shooting is some of the nation’s best heading into the game. Though Syracuse will allow UF to take its share of threes, Donovan is cautioning the team against settling for the historically low-percentage shot.
“One of the reasons why their zone is effective to me is they have great length, they have great size. They can alter shots around the basket. Their perimeter guys do a good job getting out to shooters,” he explained. “Certainly you’ve got to make great decisions. I’ve always felt like, when we’ve played against Syracuse, they’ve always been one of the best fast breaking teams in the country. They’re leading the country right now in turnovers. They get out on the break.
“Our guys have got to be strong with the ball. They’ve got to play and they’ve got to take care of the ball. [....] We’ve got to make some shots, move the ball and make good decisions and then we’ve got to try to eliminate those careless passes, careless shots that really get them into what they do well, and that’s play out in transition with their length and athleticism.
“It’s pretty clear when you watch them play, they guard everybody a little bit differently. [...] A lot of the zone is adjusting and moving based on your personnel. I’m not opposed to taking threes, but you really possession-by-possession have got to take what you create.”
Rosario, for one, is excited about the opportunity. “I wish every team would play a 2-3 zone. I love to play against 2-3 zones so you can shoot threes,” he said. “It’s a very good zone that we’re going to play against. That’s basically what Syracuse lives off of – their defense – and their zone is real good. They’re long. They have like 6’5” and 6’6” guys on the wing, so sometimes it’s hard to shoot over those guys. It’s going to be a good experience for us.”
However, like Donovan, he is also cautious of staying beyond the arc and not attacking inside the paint. “The guys at the top of the zone are going to be physical and athletic and can get out there as quick as they possibly can to shooters,” Rosario said. “It’s going to be a game where we’re going to have to go in-and-out. Go inside and then go out and let the game come to us from there.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan on how chaotic he thinks things are for Jim Boeheim: “I can only imagine. It’s a tough situation for everybody – for the victims, for the university. Jim knowing Bernie Fine for as long as he’s been around him, I’m sure it’s difficult for everybody.”
» Donovan on playing at Syracuse with the current situation ongoing: “It’s not a situation right now where the players on either team are involved in this. When the game takes place between the lines, both teams kids are going to go out there and play.”
» Donovan on the team learning to be more patient: “If we don’t have what we want within the first 10 seconds, we have to do a better job of taking care of the ball and making decisions unlike what we did in Columbus there the second game.”
» Donovan on if the team’s decision making has improved: “We’ve gotten better. We’ve made some good strides. If you look at our turnovers coming out of that game, they’ve been drastically down and our assists have been up. We’ve taken better care of the ball. This is a different game than the last 3-4 we’ve played talent-wise. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of jump we’ve made.”
» Donovan on the Gators success at rebounding: “We’ve gotten better in that area. I didn’t think we did a great job against Stetson. They came up with a lot of loose balls and did a great job physically coming down with a lot of difficult rebounds. At the half we were down rebounding margin, but we’ve done a pretty good job. They’ve made an effort to do it. The one thing that is happening is when you see a guy like [Brad] Beal gets 10 rebounds, Erving Walker getting six, Rosario had a game where he’s had seven, Boynton’s gotten in there and got five or six. That’s what we need to happen. It can’t be just Patric [Young] or Will Yeguete or our frontcourt guys who have to get 15 rebounds apiece and our guards don’t do anything. We’ve got to get back in there. Our guards can help in that area, and they have, and that’s what’s helped us defensively limit teams.”
» Donovan on if he expected this type of play from Yeguete during recruiting: “Watching him play, he really did a lot of little things. He was physical. He stepped in and took charges. He had good athleticism on the floor. He could rebound in traffic. He’s always kind of been – that’s who he was in high school – he could do a lot of different things. He really understands defense. He understands positioning. He can really keep balls alive. He’s a hard guy to block out. He showed quite a bit of that in high school.”
» Boynton on slow ball movement at times: “A majority of the teams we’ve played, we’ve been getting stops and easy turnovers. A team like Syracuse, you don’t want to go through stretches where you stop ball movement and don’t score because they can score right back at us.”
» Boynton on the lift Yeguete brings to the team: “He’s definitely helped out on the rebounding, too. Yeguete provides energy. He forces turnovers with those long arms.”
» Rosario on how Young has helped the team: “We just need Pat to stick to his strengths. His strengths last game were him being patient, waiting for the game to come to him and doing the things we need him to do to help us win. That’s rebound the ball, block shots and run the floor. He’s been doing a great job at that.”
» Rosario on playing Syracuse: “This will be a great challenge for us. Another step forward. We built from our game that we played against Ohio State. We got better at the things we needed to get better in. I think we’re prepared to go out and win the game Friday.”