12/2: Florida at Syracuse post-game notes

The No. 9/10 Florida Gators fell on the road to the No. 3/4 Syracuse Orange 72-68 Friday evening at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY as part of the 2011 Big East-SEC Challenge. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and the players provided their thoughts on the team’s second loss to a top-five ranked opponent this year.

TURNOVERS, POOR REBOUNDING PROVIDING EXTRA CHANCES

Florida worked hard on the defensive end of the floor Friday night, but the Gators’ 20 turnovers gave the Orange a number of additional opportunities to score that wound up being one of the main differences in the game. Syracuse took seven more shots and 10 more free throw attempts on the evening than Florida, which made up for the fact that SU shot worse both from the field and beyond the arc.

After the game, UF’s players took the blame for these miscues, noting that they resulted from carelessness rather than their opponent’s effort.

“That’s a good defense but those turnovers are our turnovers. They’re on us,” junior guard Kenny Boynton admitted.

The Orange were also the first team to outrebound the Gators this season, grabbing seven more boards and five additional rebounds off the offensive glass. Not only did Syracuse have a size advantage, they worked harder than Florida to this end and took a few directly out of their opponent’s hands.

“They did a good job of getting rebounds and getting out on their break,” senior point guard Erving Walker said. “That’s not an easy zone to play against, but we still had some good looks at the basket and actually shot a good percentage in the second half. We just turned the ball over up too much and gave up too many easy baskets.”

MISSING IN ACTION

Despite playing six minutes in the first half, redshirt junior G Mike Rosario did not return to the court in the latter portion of the game and was benched by Donovan for the entire second half. Rosario took two three-pointers in his six minutes on the court (airballing one), hit two free throws, committed a foul and turned the ball over once.

“The last couple days, I think emotionally, he just hasn’t been there,” Donovan said after the game about Rosario’s limited playing time. “I tried to use him a little bit and he just did not seem himself.

“It was more my decision not to play him. I actually felt like we needed defense because I knew we were going to have a hard time scoring with Patric [Young] off the floor.”

The team’s sophomore starting center, Young picked up two early fouls and only played 25 minutes of the game with the majority of that time coming in the second half. His absence limited the Gators offensively in the early portion of the game and hurt Florida’s ability to get penetration and force Syracuse’s zone to defend honestly.

Also absent from the game was junior forward Erik Murphy (knee), whose 6’10” frame and zone-stretching jump shot would have been a welcome addition. At any given point in the contest, UF was playing without two of its six best players (Murphy and Young in the first half, Murphy and Rosario in the second half).

Post-game quotes courtesy of UF contributing writer Chris Harry.

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No. 3 Orange squeeze past No. 9 Gators 72-68

Without one starter the whole game and their sixth man the entire second half, No. 9 Florida Gators (5-2) basketball fell 72-68 Friday night on the road to the No. 3 Syracuse Orange (8-0) in the fifth game of the 2011 Big East/SEC Challenge at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY.

A pair of junior guards led their respective teams in scoring on Friday. Florida’s Kenny Boynton, who started slow but caught fire in the second half, finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting (4-for-10 from downtown), while Brandon Triche led Syracuse with 20 points and three assists.

The Gators and Orange were tied at 14 midway through the first half thanks to senior point guard Erving Walker connecting on his first two three-pointers and center Fab Melo hitting his first three shots (two dunks).

Florida sophomore C Patric Young was forced to sit the majority of the first half after picking up a pair of early fouls and watched as reserves took his spot in the frontcourt.

Neither team had much of an advantage early on until Syracuse used a 6-0 run to jump ahead 31-25 with the half winding down. UF hit a jumper to reduce their deficit to four but missed a pair of treys at the end of the half.

Despite hitting some baskets early, Florida shot just 37 percent from the field in the first half and a paltry 21.4 percent from downtown. UF and SU each turned the ball over 10 times with Syracuse taking an early 18-11 (7-4 offensive) advantage on the boards. The Orange were also an inefficient 10 percent from three but connected on 43.3 percent of their attempts from the floor.

After another slow start to the second half, Syracuse took a game-high nine-point lead thanks to another 6-0 run. Florida counted with an 11-2 run of their own capped by a three from Boynton to tie the contest at 41.

Boynton would hit three-straight shots from downtown to give the Gators a 49-46 advantage, but the Orange countered by outscoring their opponent 16-4 and retaking their nine-point lead down a stretch in which Florida turned the ball over five times.

Syracuse held on to their lead with the clock winding down, though Walker hit a trey at the buzzer to make UF’s final deficit just four points.

Walker finished second for the Gators with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting (5-for-9 from downtown) and notched a team-high five assists. Sophomore forward Will Yeguete added 10 points, seven boards and four dimes, while freshman G Bradley Beal grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds but scored just seven points. He hit just 2-of-9 shots from the field and was 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Two other Orange players scored double-digits with G Scoop Jardine posting 16 points and seven assists and F Kris Joseph adding 14 points and five boards (four offensive).

Syracuse outrebounded Florida 34-27 (14-9) on the evening, marking the first time an opponent has grabbed more boards than the Gators this season. UF turned the ball over 20 times (10 in each half) and made just 9-of-26 threes. Florida had converted 10 or more treys in all six games played prior to Friday night.

The Orange was called for goaltending three times during the contest, and Gators redshirt junior G Mike Rosario did not play at all in the second half.

Both of Florida’s losses this season have been by single digits to No. 3 ranked opponents on the road, and the Gators hope to rebound from this defeat when they host Arizona on Wednesday. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

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No. 9 Florida Gators at No. 3 Syracuse Orange

Event: Big East·SEC Challenge
Location: Carrier Dome – Syracuse, NY [Capacity: 34,616]
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
SiriusXM: 190
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(9) FLORIDA GATORS (3) SYRACUSE ORANGE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Jim Boeheim
Record: 5-1 Record: 7-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +6.5; O/U 148.5

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 Friday night at 7 p.m.

Allen’s Alley: Previewing the 2011-12 Gators | The Countdown: 35-23, 15-1

Donovan’s Syracuse preview | Billy D hits 400 wins | Murphy back next week?

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Syracuse leads the all-time series against Florida 2-1. All three games have taken place at neutral sites while Donovan has been UF’s head coach. The Gators are 16-8 (7-2 since 2005-06) against current teams in the Big East under Donovan.
» Donovan is a former Big East player having spent his collegiate career at Providence.
» Boeheim is 13 victories shy of passing Adolph Rupp for fourth on the Division I career wins list. He is No. 2 on the active list, just 44 wins behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Boeheim has the most 20-win seasons among active Division I coaches (33).
» Florida has never defeated an opponent ranked in the top three in a true road game and has not taken down one ranked No. 4 or better in such a contest since 1988.
» The Gators won three out of every four road games they played in 2010-11 and captured eight true road victories for the first time since 1993-94.
» Florida has made a three-pointer in 652 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» UF has connected on 10 or more treys in all six games this season, the team’s longest streak under Donovan.
» The Gators have outrebounded every opponent this season.
» Florida is No. 3 in scoring offense (89.8 points), No. 6 in scoring margin (25.4 points), No. 6 in rebounding margin (11.4 boards) and T-No. 1 in three-pointers (11.6 per game) nationally as of Nov. 27.
» UF has the best winning percentage against ranked opponents (.552) among SEC teams dating back to 1999-2000.
» The Gators lead the nation with 72 triples made through six games.
» The Orange have begun the season 7-0 for the fourth consecutive year.
» Syracuse is winning their games by an average of 26.1 points and is holding opponents to just 57 points per game.
» Three of the Orange’s subs are among the team’s top five scorers.
» Syracuse has outrebounded all but one opponent this season.
» Friday’s game is part of the recently expanded Big East/SEC Challenge, which features 12 teams from both conferences playing each other with all games taking place over three days and broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.

LAST TIME OUT

Syracuse and Florida last met in 2009 with the Orange defeating the Gators 85-73 in Tampa, FL. Kenny Boynton scored a game-high 20 points, and Chandler Parsons added 19 for Florida, but Syracuse’s Rick Jackson led the way with a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds. The Gators held a small lead midway through the second half, but the Orange outscored their opponent 28-14 over the last 10:06 of the game.

INJURY REPORT

FLORIDA
» Active: Sophomore guard/forward Casey Prather (groin)
» Questionable: Junior forward Erik Murphy (knee)

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 113 consecutive games with 52-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 (3,361) and treys (226) but also ranks second in points (1,412), assists (409) and steals (130) as well as seventh in assists (409). Walker is No. 19 on the school’s all-time scoring list, No. 8 in free throws made (350), No. 5 in threes made (226) and No. 4 in treys attempted (595).
» 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 shoot better than he has throughout his career (50.0 percent from the field and 48.9 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 (1,112) and fourth in three-pointers (174).
» 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 17 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field and 71 percent from the line (second best on the team).
» Sophomore center Patric Young (#4)…who joins 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 opened the season with consecutive double-doubles and is posting averages of 10.2 points, 7.7 boards and 1.7 blocks per game.
» 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 20.2 minutes of court time each game, averaging 12 points while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 48.6 percent from beyond the arc.

SYRACUSE
» F Kris Joseph (#32)…who is the reigning Big East Player of the Week due to averaging a team-high 14.7 points per game while shooting 49 percent from the field and 41 percent from downtown. Joseph has posted double-digit points in all but one game this season and is averaging the second-most rebounds with 5.7 per game.
» C Fab Melo (#51)…who is averaging 21.4 minutes per game and has grabbed 36 rebounds on the season with 22 coming on the offensive glass. He’s blocked at least three shots in four games this year including a season-high five against Virginia Tech.
» PG Scoop Jardine (#11)…who has been named one of 20 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award (top point guard) and leads Syracuse with 29 assists. Jardine needs just 15 points to become the 56th player in school history with 1,000 career points.

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11/30: Donovan on Murphy, Syracuse, zone

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.”

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Florida to face ‘Cuse in BIG EAST/SEC Challenge

ESPN officially announced the field for the 2011 BIG EAST/SEC Challenge on Thursday, and the Florida Gators are set to play the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY on Dec. 2 as part of the three-day event.

Undergoing a format change this year, the BIG EAST/SEC Challenge will feature 12 games in on-campus arenas rather than four games at neutral sites. It will last from Dec. 1-3 with six games played at the home arenas of each conference.

All 12 of the SEC’s teams will compete in the event while four Big East teams (the conference has 16 total) will not be in action.

Though the invitational has been around since 2007, Florida has only competed in it once. The Gators lost to the the Orange 85-73 in Tampa, FL on Dec. 10, 2009.

Syracuse leads the all-time series against Florida 3-1.

The Gators’ game against the Orange will be their fifth all-time in the Carrier Dome (4-0); however, Florida have never played Syracuse in the building. All of the Gators’ previous contests there have been in NCAA Tournament action.

2011 BIG EAST/SEC Challenge
Dec. 1
Georgetown at Alabama
Providence at South Carolina
St. John’s at Kentucky
DePaul vs. Ole Miss

Dec. 2
Seton Hall vs. Auburn
Syracuse vs. Florida
Cincinnati at Georgia
Louisville vs. Vanderbilt

Dec. 3
Connecticut vs. Arkansas
West Virginia at Mississippi State
Rutgers vs. LSU
Pittsburgh at Tennessee

All games will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.

As OGGOA first reported on April 28, UF will also compete in the Global Sports Shootout tournament to begin the 2011-12 season. The event, which is a collection of games played at different arenas, will see Florida play on the road against Ohio State, in a neutral site game against Wright State (Tampa) and at home against North Florida and Jackson State. UF and WSU will square-off on Nov. 21 at the St. Pete Times Forum; the dates and times for the remainder of the games are still being determined.

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