11/30: Donovan discusses coaching, expectations

No. 16/18 Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his latest media availability in the following post.

COACHING, COMMON BOND UNITE DONOVAN AND FORMER ASSISTANTS

Though Donovan’s talented former assistants have been successful at Florida and been able to head coaching jobs, more than winning back-to-back National Championships unites him with Central Florida’s Donnie Jones, Alabama’s Anthony Grant and Arkansas’ John Pelphrey.

“Not to get too personal or morbid, but I lost a daughter. Anthony Grant lost a son. John Pelphrey lost a son. They’re all buried out on 43rd [Street] together. All their graves are right there together,” Donovan explained Tuesday. “So there are things that have happened over a 13-14-15-year period for the four of us that, no question, we will be ever interwoven in terms of relationships, things that have happened.”

Even with such a history with his assistants – and friends – Donovan does not see any issue competing with them on the court. “That’s the way it is. We’re all competitive, but there’s a fairness inside of competing,” he said. “Our kids are going to go out there and compete. [Jones is] going to prepare his team; I’m going to prepare my team. It’s not like he and I are half court beating each other up.”

EXPECTATIONS DON’T BOTHER DONOVAN, SHOULDN’T DISTRACT MEYER

Asked how it feels that successful men like himself and head football coach Urban Meyer can fall under such heavy criticsm even though they recently won national titles, Donovan explained that it is a part of the business they have chosen.

“We’re in a society that is kind of a microwave. Everybody wants instant, fast results. I don’t think anything worth building or worth lasting is built like that,” he said. “The one person, to me, that puts it all in perspective is Jeremy Foley. He understands that he’s trying to build a foundation. Whether you talk about IBM or some blue-chip stock company, no one ever stays on the top forever. There are peaks and valleys in our own personal lives. Everything just doesn’t go well all the time. That’s the thing that you realize. It happens. No one’s invincible. No one stays on top forever. The days of John Wooden winning 10-straight championships – that’s not happening anymore. There’s too many early departures, guys don’t stay around long enough.”

Donovan also empathizes with where fans and critics come from when they complain (and are perhaps even ungrateful) about team – and coach – performance. “It’s the passion for the University of Florida. People want to see everything at a very, very high level, and that’s understandable,” he said.

NO WAY YOU’RE GOING TO CALL HIM A “LIAR”

While discussing his decision to toss aside his NBA dream to remain at UF, Donovan was jubilant and jovial in explaining that there is no place he would rather be right now.

“One of the hardest parts in coaching is sometimes you don’t know where you’re going to be or what’s going to happen. I’m happy where I’m at, and if I was fortunate enough to stay here for another 15 years, I would really, really be happy with that,” he said. “I’m in a unique situation that the guy that hired me is still there and it’s still a great relationship.

“Sometimes when a coach comes out and says, ‘I’m never leaving,’ and they leave… ‘Liar!’ ‘Well I’m not sure, I’m going to keep my options open.’ ‘He’s not committed there! He’s thinking about…’ All I can say is I’m really happy here, happy with our team, happy with the administration, the people I work with. I am. I’m excited. And do say that’s the way it’s going to be for the rest of my life here at Florida? Things change. God forbid something happens with Jeremy Foley or there’s a new president or there’s a change in administration or they don’t like the way we play. Things can all change in a very quick period of time in this kind of business.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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No. 14 Florida Gators vs. Florida State Seminoles

Location: Donald L. Tucker Center – Tallahassee, FL [Capacity: 14,000]
Time: 7:30 p.m. (EST)

TV: FSN / Sun Sports
Online Video: None.
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 14 FLORIDA GATORS FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Leonard Hamilton
Record: 4-1 Record: 5-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida State +4; O/U 137

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Florida State 39-22, but the Seminoles are 4-2 in the last six meetings between the schools. The Gators have been unable to win in Tallahassee recently, dropping their last three contests (2004, 2006, 2008). However, they did win 68-52 last year in Gainesville, FL.
» UF has fared well against the ACC under Donovan, posting a 17-9 record and four straight wins and a buzzer-beater victory over N.C. State.
» The Gators are 65-8 under Donovan in the month of November (41-4 since 2004).
» Sunday’s game is Florida’s first game away from the O’Connell Center this season. It is the first time UF has played a true road game as its first game away from home since facing Jacksonville in 2004.
» Donovan needs just six victories to move into sole possession of third place in SEC history for most wins as an SEC head coach.
» The Gators and Seminoles have different specializations early in the season, splitting four main statistical comparisons. Florida is 46th in the nation in points per game (79.4), 136th in rebounds per game (37.6), 43rd in assists per game (16.0) and 11th in field goal percentage (.505), while Florida State is 21st in the nation in points per game (83.6), 10th in rebounds per game (44.6), 129th in assists per game (14.0) and 28th in field goal percentage (.493). FSU has also allowed fewer points per game (60.4-65.8), is playing better defense (32.7-44.9%) and shoots better from the line (71-67.3%).

KEEP AN EYE ON…
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Erving Walker…a backcourt duo that has combined to average 28.6 point per game and has accounted for 21 of their team’s 31 three-pointers this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus…Florida’s three frontcourt starters who have combined to average 17.7 rebounds per game.
» Freshman PG Scottie Wilbekin…who has posted a commendable 14-2 assist-to-turnover ratio while running the point in relief of Walker.
» Freshman F Will Yeguete…who has been a spark off the bench for the Gators averaging 5.8 rebounds per game and 3.8 points per game in just 10.3 minutes.
» FSU F Chris Singleton…who is the ACC’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year and is currently averaging a team-high 17.4 points per game, 10.8 rebounds per game and a conference-high 3.6 steals. He recently became the first player in ACC history to score a triple-double including steals with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 steals against UNC-Greensboro.

INJURIES

» Active: Redshirt senior C Vernon Macklin (knee)
» Inactive: Redshirt junior F Adam Allen (knee)

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Gators start slow then fly past Owls 79-66

Head coach Billy Donovan has criticized the No. 14/16 Florida Gators (4-1) for the poor way they have performed in the second half of games since the season began. His message will likely be different Tuesday evening considering Florida struggled out of the gate but pulled away in the latter part of the contest to defeat the Florida Atlantic Owls (3-3) 79-66 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Shooting only 41.4 percent in the first half, Florida took a 34-32 lead in the closing seconds after sophomore guard Kenny Boynton put in a fastbreak layup and freshman center Patric Young contributed a free throw.

Though they out-rebounded Florida Atlantic 22-14 and committed five less fouls in the period, UF allowed FAU to shoot 46.7 percent from the field and provided them with some wide open looks from downtown.

Boynton and senior forward Alex Tyus led the way offensively for the Gators in the first half, scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively. Tyus also grabbed five rebounds in the early portion of the contest.

Florida would keep its lead the entire second half, going on a short 8-1 run including a mid-range jumper and layup off a steal by junior point guard Erving Walker to jump ahead 47-39 with 12:08 to play.

Finally pulling way, Florida used a trey from senior F Chandler Parsons to take a game-high 13 point lead with 2:46 remaining. They would go up-and-down the remainder of the game to win by the same margin.

Boynton (21 points) and Tyus (19 points) stayed hot in the second half, and Walker scored 11 of his 14 points in the latter period to go along with six rebounds, four assists and five clutch steals.

Hobbled with a bad knee, redshirt senior C Vernon Macklin got off to a slow start but scored five points and pulled down 11 rebounds while blocking three shots. Freshman F Will Yeguete made the most of his eight minutes off the bench by grabbing six boards and getting to the line three times while injecting some energy into the team.

Parsons was scoreless in the first half with two turnovers but found his legs late in the contest to finish with eight points and six rebounds without giving the ball up again.

Gainesville native G Greg Gantt was dynamite from downtown for the Owls, going 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and 6-of-12 from the field for a FAU-high 17 points.

Both teams shot 33.3 percent from three and in the low-40s from the field, but Florida earned the rebounding advantage 44-28 and committed five fewer fouls.

The Gators’ sluggish start was somewhat understandable seeing as Tuesday’s contest was their fourth game in eight days, and their resilience coming out of the locker room at halftime was certainly a sight for Donovan’s sore eyes.

Florida will now get four days of rest before traveling to Tallahassee, FL, on Sunday to face Florida State at 7:30 p.m. The game will air live on Fox Sports Florida.

POST-GAME NOTES & QUOTES (After the break…)
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11/22: Donovan talks about Macklin’s knee, FAU

No. 14/16 Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his latest media availability in the following post.

MACKLIN’s KNEE REMAINS AN ISSUE

Though redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin is feeling “significant pain” in his right knee due to tendinitis, bone spurs and “a lot of grinding” behind his kneecap, he will not require surgery and will continue to practice and play with the Gators this season. However, Donovan did not put to rest a thought of sitting him for a stretch including perhaps some of Florida’s less intense upcoming games.

“It could be discussed,” he said on Monday. “It probably will be discussed. He’ll practice some today and play tomorrow and going forward from there we’ll make a decision of what we need to do. If we’re going to rest him, it won’t be for a couple days. That’s not going to cure the problem. It would help him a lot [to sit out for a week or longer].”

Macklin’s lack of “explosion,” as Donovan put it, explains why he has been showing up in the first half of games but is struggling to get things going after the first buzzer. His knee is warmed up before and during the start of the games but gets achy and more painful as things go on. Nevertheless, surgery is not an option for Macklin at this point if he wishes to continue playing this year.

“The biggest thing with surgery is: Do you get a drastic return when you perform surgery that he’s that much better?” Donovan said. “With what his issues are, there is no guarantee that if he did get surgery, there would be a whole lot of improvement there. Because of the tendinitis and the bone spurs the best thing for him would be rest.”

FLORIDA ATLANTIC WILL TEST FLORIDA’S PERIMETER

If facing new No. 3/3 Ohio State last week served as a wake-up call for Florida, nearly blowing a big lead against Morehead State on Sunday served as a splash of cold water on the face. With the Florida Atlantic Owls coming to town Tuesday, Donovan believes the Gators will be tested in a different way.

“[FAU's] a team that’s deeper than [Morehead State] on the perimeter,” he said. “They’re going to play five guards. They’ve got speed and quickness. They’re going to play more conventionally up front, as opposed to [MSU] playing four guards. They will play with two post players. They’re a little more athletic with more size.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Florida scrapes by Morehead State 61-55

Florida Gators basketball held an opponent to 55 points for the second-straight game on Sunday. However, unlike their previous performance against North Carolina A&T in which Florida posted 105 points on offense, the No. 9/10 Gators (3-1) were only able to put up 61 against a high-energy Morehead State Eagles (2-2) team at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Down 6-2 to start the game, Florida rattled off a 30-6 run to take a 32-12 lead late in the first half and ultimately go into the locker room up 34-17. Junior point guard Erving Walker led the way for the Gators early, scoring 14 first-half points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Morehead State started the second half hot, using a 9-0 run to cut Florida’s lead to six (45-39) with 10:50 left in the game. The contest went back-and-forth from there, with sophomore guard Kenny Boynton scoring eight points (two three-pointers) in just over two minutes to give the Gators a 58-47 advantage with 3:49 remaining.

The Eagles would reduce their deficit to six points on a layup from center Kenneth Faried with 0:24 left on the clock and then down to five via a trey from G Ty Proffitt with nine seconds remaining, but UF would hang on for the win.

Though Walker finished with a team-high 16 points, he only scored two in the second half; he also had seven assists and shot an uncharacteristically poor 5-for-10 from the free throw line. Senior forward Chandler Parsons recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Boynton scored 10 points on a paltry 3-of-12 from the field.

Senior F Alex Tyus (five points, four rebounds) and redshirt senior C Vernon Macklin (six points, seven rebounds) struggled in the post against Fariet, who notched game-highs in points (20) and rebounds (18) while shooting 10-of-17.

Florida and Morehead State each shot poorly from the field (38.9% – 36.7%), from downtown (26.3% – 20.0%) and at the line (60.9% – 58.3%). The Eagles out-rebounded the Gators (38-32) and stole two more balls (5-3) but committed 10 more fouls (21-11).

UF will look for answers after this dismal showing before facing Florida Atlantic at home on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The game will air live on Sun Sports (check your local listings).

POST-GAME NOTES & QUOTES (After the break…)
On the difference between the two halfs: “I was really, really happy with the way we played in the first half. We really did a terrific job in the first half. I though the difference in the second half was Faried totally dominated our frontcourt by himself. We really had a hard time as the second half started to unfold guarding their perimeter on the dribble. We had some pretty decent looks on offense; we moved the ball fairly well. It was one of those games where we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well and it’s a game where you’re going to have to rely on your defense. I definitely thought, in the second half, our inability to put the ball in the basket had a direct affect on our emotional level and the way we played in terms of battling through the adversity and the difficulties we were having offensively.”

On Faried’s talent: “That guy Faried, to me, is a senior in college. That guy wants to be a pro. That’s Dennis Rodman all over again. If I was a NBA general manager, I’d be taking him right with my pick. That’s what a next level guy looks like – in my opinion. […] He just totally destroyed our frontcourt. That was definitely an incredible performance by just a terrific player.”

On if Faried is talented enough to play in the SEC: “He’s not talented at all. And it’s a great lesson for our guys. He’s not a talented player. He has absolutely no offensive skill. He’s not a great post player, he’s not a great scorer. He’s a relentless – and I use that will all capitals – a RELENTLESS effort guy. In terms of going after every single rebound. We intentionally tonight had our 4 man and our 5 man on free throw situations blocking him out. Twice against two people he got the rebound on a missed free throw. It is just a perseverance, it’s a mentality, it’s a make-up, it’s who he is. He is a complete warrior, and I have the utmost respect for him and the way he plays the game. At the next level there’s such a value for Dennis Rodman-type guys, and he’s like a Dennis Rodman-type guy.”

On why some freshman didn’t play earlier: “We had two guys late – and it probably hurt our rotation. We had two guys walk in late. Both guys walked in late and I was a little concerned going into the game because I didn’t really think it was fair to Kenny Boynton and to Erving Walker and to Chandler not really having a whole lot of subs – because the [late people] were perimeter guys. Our guys learned a valuable lesson about the importance of being on time and trying to do the right things. They’re great kids and hopefully they’ll learn a lesson on where they need to be on time. When you got a game and you’re expected to be somewhere, I expect those guys to be there. It’s not going to linger any more than today.”

On maintaining the energy advantage with a big lead: “When you’re up on a team by 17 points, it’s almost like you know the other team is going to come out and they’re going to battle and fight. If you give them a glimmer of hope that they can get back in the game the first four-or-five minutes in the half, you create a level of energy for that team that you’re going to have to deal with the rest of the half. And we did that.”

On Tyus’ late contributions: “Alex made a couple of incredible plays defensively to me [in the last few minutes]. He went up and blocked a shot and he made a couple different plays. Alex was up on the glass really trying. He did some very, very good things the last couple of minutes. He gave us a presence at the rim; he went after a couple shots and really jumped. There was a loose ball we came down with that was all predicated on his effort.”

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Florida bounces back to rout N.C. A&T 105-55

Just two days after suffering a tough loss at home to No. 4/5 Ohio State, the No. 9/10 Florida Gators (2-1) rebounded with a dominating 105-55 victory over the North Carolina A&T Aggies (1-3) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 16 points apiece and were just two of eight Florida players to score in double figures on the evening. Freshman F Will Yeguete proved to be a dominating presence down low, grabbing 15 rebounds (nine offensive) while also scoring seven points, dishing four assists and stealing the ball thrice.

Yeguete’s 15 boards were the most by a freshman since Al Horford (18 vs. Alabama in 2005), but he was not the only first-year player to have a big night. Center Patric Young posted 11 points, six rebounds, four steals and two blocks, G Casey Prather scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting (2-of-4 from downtown), and point guard Scottie Wilbekin finished with 11 points and six assists.

Rounding out the starting five for the Gators were senior C Vernon Macklin (10 points, six rebounds, two blocks), PG Erving Walker (11 points, six assists, no turnovers) and sophomore F Erik Murphy (11 points, four rebounds, two blocks). Murphy started the first game of his young career in place of senior F Alex Tyus, who missed the contest with a mild concussion but is expected to return to action on Sunday.

Up 28 points late in the first half and eventually winning the game by 50, Florida scored 52 points in the paint, 35 off turnovers and 25 on second chances. The Gators’ bench produced 41 points, which helped UF score more than 100 for the first time since defeating North Florida by 102 in 2007. Florida also notched 26 assists, 16 steals and eight blocks while turning the ball over 11 times as a team.

Though most of the team was solid defensively, head coach Billy Donovan had to sit Boynton early on due to a poor defensive effort. He returned to the court after a quick talking to and helped hold North Carolina A&T to 34.5 percent shooting on the evening.

The Gators are back in action in less than 72 hours, taking on Morehead State in the O’Dome on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The game will air live on Sun Sports.

POST-GAME NOTES & QUOTES (After the break…)
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No. 9 Gators exposed as No. 4 Buckeyes roll 93-75

Billed as one of the premiere games to start the 2010-11 college basketball season, the No. 9/10 Florida Gators and No. 4/5 Ohio State Buckeyes squared off Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Unfortunately, after an intense first half, only one team showed up to close out the game with the Buckeyes (2-0) trouncing the Gators (1-1) 93-75.

Defense and ball control doomed Florida in the second half; UF allowed Ohio State to score 55 points and shoot 70.6 percent from the floor as they tore through the press and scored in bunches on the fast break.

Freshman forward Jared Sullinger and junior guard David Lighty led the way for OSU with 26 points apiece. Sullinger dominated down low making 13-of-17 shots and notching 10 rebounds (five offensive), while Lighty was the most efficient starter of the court draining 9-of-11 buckets.

Gators sophomore G Kenny Boynton had one of his best offensive performances in the orange and blue, going 8-of-14 from the field and 5-of-8 from downtown for 21 points. Defensively he struggled in the press and had trouble in containment.

Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin rebounded from a rough opening game with an intense first half that included 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He was shut down after halftime with only one more bucket on two attempts. Also struggling late was junior point guard Erving Walker, who turned the ball over six times after the half and finished with seven giveaways. By contrast, the Buckeyes had eight turnovers as a team.

Florida took a seven-point lead in the first half but went into the locker room up only three even though they out-rebounded Ohio State 17-7. The two teams went back-and-forth to start the second half with the Buckeyes taking the lead over the Gators for good with 12:14 left on a three-pointer from G Jon Diebler to go up 59-57.

OSU outscored UF 37-18 down the stretch and took a game-high 20-point lead on a dunk by F Dallas Lauderdale with 1:15 to go. Ohio State finished the second half shooting a spectacular 70.6 percent from the field compared to 63.2 percent for Florida.

In all, the Buckeyes got off 13 more shots than the Gators, notched 11 more assists (22-11) and gave up significantly fewer turnovers (18-8). However, they were out-rebounded 26-17 with the majority of the difference coming in the first half.

Senior F Chandler Parsons, who was quiet at points during the game, finished with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting with a team-high seven boards, while sophomore F Erik Murphy – Florida’s lone veteran reserve – was the team’s primary threat off the bench with eight points, four rebounds and two blocks.

Losing what was likely one of their toughest match-ups of the non-conference slate, UF will attempt to regroup as they take on North Carolina A&T at home on Thursday at 7 p.m. The game will air live on Sun Sports.

POST-GAME NOTES & QUOTES (After the break…)
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11/15: Donovan, players speak about Ohio State

No. 9/10 Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his latest media availability in the following post. Additional material from some of Florida’s players can also be found below.

FIRST PHYSICAL TEST COMES IN GAME TWO

Donovan has made it a point over the last two seasons to schedule tough opponents early both to increase strength of schedule and test his team. That is why the No. 4/5 Ohio State Buckeyes are heading to Gainesville, FL, on Tuesday for a rekindling of a recent rivalry.

“This is a great test and a great opportunity for both [teams]. One because it is so early in the season, it is the second game for both of us right now,” Donovan said Monday. “There’s a long way to go, you find out a lot more about your team in these situations. There will probably be some things in the game that we will need to get better at improve on. They’ll probably say the same thing. There’s no question we’re going against a physical frontcourt with [Dallas] Lauderdale, [Jared] Sullinger and [Deshaun] Thomas and that poses great challenges for our frontcourt as well to do the things we are talking about physically.”

But wouldn’t it be better for everyone involved if the game was a few weeks later? “Part of me really, really likes the fact that it is really this early,” Donovan continued. “The opportunity to play against a team clearly that returns four starters, they return guys that won a Big 10 Championship. They’re veterans and they add the best recruiting class in the country to their team. And Sullinger [is] arguably the best player in the country. […] Things are going to get exposed that you gotta get better at and sometimes its better off finding out those things now than it is later.”

YOUNG WILBEKIN COULD PAY DIVIDENDS

Freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin had an impressive showing in his first regular season game, showcasing his poise, crisp passing and mature defense. Donovan raved about Wilbekin on Monday and hinted that he should see the court plenty this season.

“He’s really a disciplined kid, and when I say ‘disciplined,’ he really does the right things at the right time. When you talk about the discipline part of doing your job and doing the things you need to do, that’s what has really enabled him to come in and play,” he said. “His game will get better. As a coach, you always enjoy playing guys [from whom] you kind of know what you’re getting. I’ve been very, very impressed with him. I’ve been impressed with his toughness, and I’ve been impressed with his stamina.”

MACKLIN’s KNEE ACTING UP

Asked about the health of redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, Donovan confirmed that he is dealing with some knee issues – specifically tendinitis and bone spurs. “He’s been in and out of practice here the last couple of days. He’s dealing with some knee issues; it’s nothing that s going to prevent him from playing [Tuesday],” he said. “Going forward that is a concern for me. We’ll have to wait and see, but he’s been battling it now for the last week to 10 days. It’s definitely probably affected him some, but I’ve always been the believer when you step across the lines and put the jersey on, you have to go out there and play.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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