Gators shine in 57-44 win over No. 6 Wildcats

Saturday was a day of redemption for the No. 24 Florida Gators. Down 20-8 to the No. 6 Kansas State Wildcats late in the first half, head coach Billy Donovan’s team came back from their deficit with solid defense and efficient shooting to prevail 57-44 at the 2010 Orange Bowl Basketball Classic at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, FL.

Florida (8-2), which improved to 8-2 all-time in the event, held Kansas State (9-2) to 27.3 percent team shooting and outscored them 37-21 in the second half for their most impressive victory of the season.

Things started off slow for both teams but especially for the Gators, who did not score until junior point guard Erving Walker drained a jumper eight minutes into the game. The Wildcats jumped ahead 20-8 on a three-pointer by guard Jacob Pullen with 9:05 remaining in the first half but went on a significant drought from that point forward.

Down 12 after Pullen’s trey, Florida went on a 12-3 run to end the half and added an 8-0 run coming out of the locker rooms to take a 28-23 lead. The Wildcats would reduce their deficit to three, but the Gators kept inching further and further ahead eventually going up a game-high 18 on two free throws by Walker with 2:38 left in the game.

Sophomore G Kenny Boynton, who played the first game of his college career near his hometown in Broward County, was named the contest’s Most Valuable Player after posting a team-high 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting (2-for-4 from downtown). He rebounded significantly from his last two games, in which he combined to go 3-of-21 from the field and 1-for-14 from beyond the arc.

Boynton started 0-2 and also missed two consecutive free throws.

Walker had his most impressive game of the season with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting while dishing three assists and only turning the ball over once. Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin was his consistent self with seven rebounds to go along with 10 points.

Playing major minutes off the bench were freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin, freshman C Patric Young and sophomore forward Erik Murphy Young grabbed two big rebounds and swatted the ball away twice, while Murphy scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting while notching four boards.

Florida’s senior Fs, Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus had juxtaposed performances. Parsons grabbed four rebounds, blocked three shots and scored seven points in 31 minutes, while Tyus played only 19 minutes and made one basket.

Pullen was Kansas State’s only effective scorer, but even he went 6-of-17 (1-for-17 from three) for a game-high 19 points. No other Wildcats player posted double-digit points and only two others (non-starters) made more than one basket.

UF out-shot KSU 53.5-27.3 percent and blocked five more shots but turned the ball over nine more times (17-8) and was out-rebounded 26-28.

Kansas State’s point total was their lowest in five seasons under head coach Frank Martin, and Florida played the best defense it has all season, holding a ranked opponent to under 50 points for the first time since 1968.

The Gators return to Gainesville, FL, to face Jacksonville on Monday at 1 p.m. The game will air live on Sun Sports (check your local listings).

Photo Credit: Jeffrey M. Boan/Associated Press

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No. 24 Florida Gators vs. No. 6 Kansas State

Event: Orange Bowl Basketball Classic
Location: BankAtlantic Center – Sunrise, FL [Capacity: 20,737]
Time: 3:30 p.m. (ET)

TV: FSN
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 24 FLORIDA GATORS No. 6 KANSAS ST. WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Frank Martin
Record: 7-2 Record: 9-1
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big 12
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Kansas State -1.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 7-2 when participating in the OBBC with their last loss coming to Richmond in 2009. The Gators’ previous loss in the event was in 1997.
» This is the first-ever meeting between Florida and Kansas State.
» The Gators are 12-9 all-time against current members of the Big 12. The team has earned a 2-1 mark in such games under Donovan.
» Florida has out-rebounded eight of nine opponents this season including their two losses. UF is averaging +7.3 rebounds per game more than their opposition.
»The Gators have forced 15.9 turnovers per game in their seven wins but only 8.5 per game in their two losses this season.
» Florida is 79-21 under Donovan in the month of December.
» Donovan needs just three victories to move into sole possession of third place in SEC history for most wins as an SEC head coach.
» Kansas State bests Florida in three of four major statistical categories nationally including points per game 76.2-70.9 (67th-161st), rebounds per game 42.4-36.8 (13th-132nd) and assists per game 15.3-14.3 (65th-108th). However, the Gators shoot better from the field than the Wildcats .482-.452 (33rd-100th).

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Erving Walker…a backcourt duo that has combined to average 24.2 points per game and has accounted for 33 of their team’s 48 three-pointers this season. Boynton, however, is struggling as of late after shooting a combined 3-21 (1-14 from downtown) over the last two contests for a total of seven points.
» Sophomore forward Erik Murphy…who is really coming on this season after only seeing the court sparingly as a freshman. Murphy has posted double-digit points three times and played more than 16 minutes in seven of nine games.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting 75 percent over the last three games and is becoming a force for Florida inside the paint.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who, after going scoreless against Central Florida, has gone 15-23 from the field over the last two contests for 34 points.
» Senior F Chandler Parsons…who is averaging 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and is an integral part to the Gators’ success.
» Freshman PG Scottie Wilbekin…who has posted a commendable 21-6 assist-to-turnover ratio while running the point in relief of Walker.
» Kansas State star G Jacob Pullen…who is averaging 16.3 points, 4.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Pullen has scored 18 points or more in half of his team’s games.
» Wildcats F Curtis Kelly…who is his team’s second-best scorer averaging 11.6 points along with 4.4 rebounds per game. Kelly missed KSU’s first three games of the season.

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12/16: Donovan discusses team, Kansas State

No. 24 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.

TIME OFF A MUCH-NEEDED BREAK FOR FLORIDA

With their longest stretch off between games this season coming to a close, the Gators have been trying to improve while simultaneously studying for finals over the last week. Nevertheless, Donovan believes the time off has been a positive for the team, which has plenty to improve on through its first nine games this year.

“That’s been good for us,” he said. “It’s been pretty productive. We practiced on Sunday and Monday, took Tuesday off and then Wednesday was a pretty big day for our guys academically. It’s always a balance. There’s so much demand on them academically in terms of papers and finals and things like that. We were able to get some work done on things we need to. Practice time has been good for our team. We have been able to address and work on some things we need to improve on.”

What exactly has the team made adjustments to over the last week? “Offensively just our ability to move the ball, catch the ball, pass it,” Donovan said. “Being a little bit more cohesive on offense. Trying to take advantage of our personnel. We’re getting better in that area. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think we’ve made some positive strides.

“The last four games we’ve done a pretty good job in terms of field goal percentage, defense, the number of points allowed. I’d like to see us defend the three-point line a little bit better than we are, but we got better there. The next step is: Can we put it all together? Can we defend like we need to and can we execute offensively in terms of taking advantage the five guys on the floor – them making decisions to make the game easy for each other.”

SHOOTING ISSUES ARE CONCERNING BUT CORRECTABLE

As a team Florida has really struggled shooting from, well, all over the floor. Though everyone is having issues, no one is performing worse right now while putting up shots than sophomore guard Kenny Boynton. Donovan, though concerned with his recent performances, believes confidence is the way Boynton can improve.

“That’s a really hard thing. One of the things I try to do as a coach is give our guys confidence. The worst thing is when a guy has an open shot and is tentative. That’s a real hard thing,” he said. “I think Dan Werner a little bit last year went through that. He wasn’t really sure when to shoot, when not to shoot. And you’re trying to instill confidence and give that confidence. At the end of the day, when a guy is shooting the basketball, as much as I can tell them to shoot that basketball, ‘I believe in you,’ the confidence still has to be internally that they believe it’s going in. And I try to help in that area.

“Kenny, in the last couple of games, has played phenomenal. He’s played great floor game. He’s defended very well; he’s been a much better help defender. He’s helped on the backboard and obviously his assist-to-turnover ratio has been much better. When you focus on things that you can do and you have control over, you have a better chance of making shots.”

To his credit, Boynton is doing exactly what Donovan is asking him to do. “You just keep shooting until you know, one game, it gets on, and then everything else will fall in place,” he said. “Not really too much in my head. Other than [three-point range] I’m shooting the ball 50 percent from the field. I just got to find other ways to score.”

Read much, much more from Donovan and UF basketball…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12/16: Donovan discusses team, Kansas State

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Jury still out on Florida basketball through nine

By Malik Grady – OGGOA Correspondent

After nine games, the Florida Gators men’s basketball team is a hard-to-gauge 7-2 with losses to a top-five Ohio State team in Gainesville, FL, and an embarrassing loss to a possible NCAA Tournament team in Central Florida in Orlando, FL. Is this team closer to the top-10 ranked one that led Ohio State at the 12-minute mark of the second half or more akin to the one that only beat Morehead State by six and lost to UCF?

Complicating the issue is the curious combination of players struggling offensively and extended minutes for young players who may still improve dramatically in the coming months. It’s much easier to look at the often contradicting facts than to make any certain predictions for this team going forward.

Simply put, the Gators have not been particularly noteworthy on either offense or defense as of yet, except in a few curious instances. Checking their advanced statistics so far reveals a few things about how the team has played up until this point.

Read the rest of Malik’s commentary on Florida basketball…after the jump!
Continue Reading » Jury still out on Florida basketball through nine

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12/9: Donovan provides his post-game opinions

The No. 24 (for now) Florida Gators (7-2) won their second-straight game by double digits on Thursday, defeating the Kent State Golden Flashes (7-3) 65-52 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Head coach Billy Donovan spoke to the media after the game and had plenty to say about his team’s performance.

FLORIDA IS ABOUT DEFENSE IN 2010-11

With the Gators struggling mightily on offense, Donovan has made it a point to tell the team that playing great defense gives Florida the best chance of being successful for the remainder of this year through the (potential) postseason.

“The biggest thing everybody wants to talk about is our shooting. That’s been up-and-down and certainly we have not shot the ball great,” he said after the game. “The thing that’s gotten probably lost the last three or four games is how much these guys have improved defensively. […] It’s been four-straight games now that we’ve kept people below 40 percent for the game.”

He continued, “We’re going to have to be a defensive team because we are going to have nights where we score and then we’re going to have some nights where we struggle. We got to find ways to get stops; that has to be something we hang our hat on.”

Donovan shares his thoughts on the offense and two players…after the break!
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Frontcourt leads Florida over Kent State 65-52

Head coach Billy Donovan demanded unselfish play from the No. 24 Florida Gators (7-2) after last week’s stunning upset, and that is exactly what he got Thursday night as they handily defeated the Kent State Golden Flashes (7-3) 65-52 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida’s frontcourt dominated the contest. Senior forward Alex Tyus bounced back from a rough start to finish 10-of-15 from the field for a game-high and season-high 20 points, and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin dominated his second-straight game going 9-of-12 from the paint for 19 points.

Read the rest of OGGOA’s Florida vs. Kent State game story…after the break!
Continue Reading » Frontcourt leads Florida over Kent State 65-52

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Gators rebound to defeat Eagles 67-48 in D.C.

Wednesday was a rough night for the No. 16/18 Florida Gators as they fell in an upset bid authored by Central Florida. Saturday’s contest in Washington, D.C. was a bit easier for Florida (6-2) as they put together a 67-48 win over the American Eagles (5-3).

Senior forward Chandler Parsons rebounded from the worst performance of his career to score 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, bring down a team-high eight rebounds, dish four assists and grab three steals. Parsons was also 2-for-3 from the free throw line after missing all six of his attempts in the previous game.

Joining Parsons to lead the Gators was junior point guard Erving Walker, who scored a team-high 16 points of 5-of-7 shooting while going 4-for-6 from downtown. Senior F Alex Tyus posted 14 points, and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin scored 12.

Down 3-7 early in the contest, Florida quickly regained the lead on back-to-back jumpers from Macklin and 10 points by Parsons in a matter of six minutes. Up on American 12-10 with 13:56 remaining in the first half, UF would retain the lead and never look back.

The Gators took a 30-21 lead going into halftime but scored seven straight points out of the break and bumped their margin to a game-high 21 points with 2:33 left in the game.

Though the other four starters combined to go 20-for-31 from the field, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton was held scoreless on a 0-for-9 effort which included six misses from beyond the arc. Boynton contributed by dishing seven assists and holding onto the ball without a single turnover in 32 minutes.

As a team Florida shot 49 percent from the field, 84.6 percent from the charity stripe and 35.3 percent from downtown. They out-rebounded American 27-24, stole nine more balls (10-1) and committed seven fewer turnovers.

UF looks to keep the momentum going when they face Kent State on Thursday in Gainesville, FL. The game will begin at 7 p.m. and air live nationally on ESPN2.

POST-GAME NOTES & QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » Gators rebound to defeat Eagles 67-48 in D.C.

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12/1: Donovan shares his post-game thoughts

The No. 16/18 (for now) Florida Gators (5-2) suffered a tough loss Wednesday night, falling 57-54 to the Central Florida Knights (6-0) in Orlando, FL. Though the upset loss is certainly tough for the Gators to stomach, the way they played appeared to make head coach Billy Donovan queasy. He spoke to the media after the game and had plenty to say about his team’s performance at the Amway Center.

EVEN IF FLORIDA WON, THEY LOST

Some teams steal wins and others – like Florida last year – get lucky with some buzzer beaters, but no matter what happened Wednesday in Orlando, Donovan knew that the Gators were not worthy of any positive recognition should the outcome have gone their way. “We didn’t even deserve to be in that position [to tie or win],” he said. “If we would have won the game, it would have been a complete steal. I would have felt bad for Donnie [Jones]. Nevermind how he would have felt, I would have felt awful for him. I would have gave him the win.”

Though Donovan dismissed the notion that he was “irate” after the upset, he did explain that the team’s “issues are bigger than this loss” though they can be corrected with maximum effort. He continued, “The one thing that’s good with our schedule is, when you play games like this and you play Ohio State, you play on the road at Florida State, your issues flour – they get exposed. Every team’s got issues. How you become a good team is how well you deal with your issues inside your team to get better.”

NOT SELFISH BUT CERTAINLY NOT SELFLESS

Donovan treaded carefully after Wednesday’s game to ensure he did not use world “selfish” when describing his team’s performance. However there is no question that word could certainly be used when discussing how Florida played in the contest.

“We have a group of guys – all of our older guys are way, way too wrapped up in their offense,” Donovan said. Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton – you look at their assist-to-turnover ratio last year to this year [and it’s not good].

“You look at, in this game, with the way we were scoring in around the basket, those guys should know just by playing the game [that] the ball needs to go inside. We get wrapped up when we’re not scoring or we’re not getting touches and looks and things like that. We’re not a cohesive team right now, certainly on the offensive end of the floor. The defensive part is easy because they understand if they’re not doing the things they need to do they’re probably going to come out of the game.

“They’re not playing together. They’re not utilizing each other’s individual talents. And the disappointing part is these guys played together last year.”

TEAM LACKS UNDERSTANDING, ISN’T HELPING EACH OTHER

“That’s the part to me that’s a little bit disturbing as a coach,” Donovan said of the team not recognizing that [Vernon] Macklin was on fire and could not be defended. “He got in foul trouble in the first half so he was out with two fouls, but the recognition by your team… I can’t call a play every single time down the floor because there’s transition. When they’re playing they should be seeing the fact that Vernon Macklin is having a big night offensively. The other four guys should be saying, ‘Let’s get Vern the ball.’ But we’re too wrapped up in, ‘I didn’t get a shot now,’ or ‘I missed my last one.’ They’ve got to see those things. Every time I ran a play, I kept running a play at him.

“We don’t have very good chemistry on offense with this group right now at all. And that’s the disappointing part. These are older guys that are less focused on what they can be doing to help the group get better. You always hear the thing: ‘A great player makes everyone else around them better.’ We have a bunch of guys on the floor that make nobody better. We’re less concerned about how to do that; we’re more concerned about, ‘How am I doing.’”

PARSONS FAILS TO DELIVER IN RETURN TO HOMETOWN

With approximately 70 tickets distributed to family and friends and a lot of eyes on him Wednesday, senior forward Chandler Parsons appeared to crack under pressure. Though he helped distribute and rebound the ball, Parsons simply played awful in his 32 minutes on the court, going 1-for-9 from the field (0-for-3 from downtown) for two points and 0-6 from the charity stripe (including an air ball). He played so bad, in fact, that his lack of production stood out even though fellow senior F Alex Tyus went 0-for-5 and was held scoreless in 21 minutes.

“Chandler and Vernon last year, they were really on edge about really trying to compete and do the things they needed to do. Chandler – with the way he’s shooting free throws right now – that looked like he was his sophomore year,” Donovan said. “[He’s] just not in the right frame of mind. I don’t know if we’ll be a great free throw shooting team or not, but Chandler’s certainly better than 0-6.”

A career 61.5 percent free throw shooter, Parsons was making them at a 66.6 percent clip before Wednesday’s game. Struggling more is Macklin, who shot 58.8 percent from the line in 2009-10; he is currently shooting 23.1 percent from the stripe.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 12/1: Donovan shares his post-game thoughts

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