Florida Gators at Xavier Musketeers Gameday

Location: Cintas Center – Cincinnati, OH [Capacity: 10,250]
Time: 4:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS XAVIER MUSKETEERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Chris Mack
Record: 9-3 Record: 8-3
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic 10
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Xavier -1.5; O/U 126.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Xavier leads the all-time series against Florida 2-0. The Musketeers defeated the Gators 76-64 in Gainseville, FL, last season.
» Florida is only 14-17 all-time against A-10 opponents under Donovan and have lost three straight including two last season.
» The Gators defense has signifigantly improved over the last seven games, holding opponents to just 53.7 points per contest and allowing only one team to score 60. Simultaneously, Florida has failed to score 70 points once in the same seven games.
» Florida has out-rebounded 11 of 12 opponents this season – including in its three defeats – and is doing so by a +7.8 rebound per game advantage.
» The Gators are 80-22 under Donovan in the month of December.
» Florida bests Xavier in three of four major statistical categories nationally including rebounds per game 37.6-35.7 (97th-177th), assists per game 13.8-13.3 (138th-168th) and field goal percentage .467-.440 (57th-168th). However, the Musketeers score more points per game than the Gators 70.8-69.1 (160th-186th).

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Erving Walker…a backcourt duo that has combined to average 25.9 points per game and has accounted for 46 of their team’s 63 three-pointers this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-high 58.6 percent this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint.
» Senior F Chandler Parsons…who is averaging 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and is an integral part to the Gators’ success.
» Xavier G Tu Holloway…who leads his team with 20.8 points, 5.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game in an average of 39 minutes.
» Musketeers F Jamel McLean..who is his team’s biggest presence inside and averages 9.5 rebounds and almost a block per game while contributing 10.5 points.

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12/29: Donovan discusses Florida’s struggles

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.

TURNOVERS, FREE THROW SHOOTING ARE BIGGEST WOES

The Gators are struggling in a number of areas, but Donovan pointed to the team’s carelessness with the ball and inability to knock down free throws as its two biggest issues at this point in the season.

“The biggest thing has been our turnovers; about 22 percent of our possessions are resulting in turnovers,” he said. “The free throw shooting, coupled with the turnovers, has made us a team that has scored in the 60s. […] We got to make better decisions, we got to stop turning the ball over, and I also think we have to shoot the ball better from the free throw line. […] We’re leaving a lot of points out there in games because of the turnovers and the free throw shooting.”

Donovan added an interesting nugget. Senior forward Chandler Parsons and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, who are supposed to be Florida’s most frequent visitors to the charity stripe from a game-planning standpoint, are also the team’s least effective shooters from that range. Parsons hits 50 percent of his attempts, while Macklin is only connecting on 39 percent of his opportunities.

SHOOTING NOT THE PROBLEM; THREE-POINT SHOOTING IS

Donovan did not have many answers when it came to diagnosing the Gators’ shooting issues, except to say that the biggest problem is the team’s percentage from downtown. “Three point shooting – that’s been a struggle for us – but from the field, we’ve actually shot a pretty decent percentage,” he said. “We’re getting good shots when we don’t turn the ball over, but we need to put the ball in the basket a little bit more.”

Though a Donovan-coached team should not be expected to check down from wide-open treys, perhaps it is time Florida starts concentrating on mid-range jumpers and driving the lane with its backcourt instead of counting on them to drain shots from beyond the arc. His most successful teams have been proficient from the three-point line, but the Gators are shooting 31.5 percent as a team this year with Parsons and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton each hitting less than 27 percent of their attempts. Boynton has shot it 76 times from downtown while UF’s best threat, junior point guard Erving Walker (45 percent) has thrown up 58 shots from long distance.

IS THERE A POSITIVE?

Though Florida’s offense is still working out the kinks, the Gators have significantly improved their defensive aptitude from the previous few seasons. That has kept them in some of their worst shooting games and helped fuel them to victories over Florida State and then-No. 6 Kansas State.

“The one thing that’s been really good for us as a positive – that maybe is not talked about – is that we’ve held teams down ourselves. We’ve played much, much better defense,” Donovan said. “We’ve rebounded the ball much better. We’re more of a physical team and have a better presence at the basket than maybe we’ve had the last couple of years. That’s a blessing.”

But can UF keep it up when their Southeastern Conference slate begins? “To consistently hold teams down game-after-game that low is hard to do,” Donovan added.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 12/29: Donovan discusses Florida’s struggles

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FOUR BITS: Graham’s award, Nelson’s journey

1 » Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback Earnest Graham was honored by his teammates with the Ed Block Courage Award this year. Coming back this season after tearing a ligament in his toe in 2009, Graham has dealt with a lot in 2010 including the loss of his mother and his brother recently being released from prison. A fan favorite, Graham recently started the charity Earnest Giving in support of early childhood development.

2 » ESPN’s AFC East blogger Tim Graham published an interesting story about undrafted Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson last week. Nelson, who took some time to develop while with the Florida Gators, performed admirably in his final two seasons but was not selected in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was picked up right after the draft by the Bills and fulfilled his dream of making the NFL even though talk show host Regis Philbin – a Notre Dame supporter – once said live on air that he was made a bad decision. “”Big mistake for you kid!” Philbin said live on his show when Nelson decided to switch his commitment from Notre Dame to Florida. “You start to think ‘What might have been? Maybe Regis was right,’” Nelson said on his early struggles at UF. “Looking back now, it’s easy to see I made the right decision.” Nelson has 31 receptions for 353 yards and three touchdowns already this season.

3 » Let’s just say Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons is not having the type of season anyone – including himself – expected. He has struggled shooting from beyond the arc and at the free throw line even though he continues to put in optimum effort each night. Nevertheless, he is not discouraged. “We can’t get down. I can’t get down because I was 0-for-3, 0-for-4 from the three-point line,” Parsons told The Gainesville Sun. “I’m going to keep trying to get to the foul line even though I’m not shooting the ball well from there. It’s all about confidence, getting good shots. I’m going to keep trying to get to the free throw line. If I’m open, I’m going to shoot the ball. I’m not going to get down. It’s my senior year. I’ve been through slumps before so it’s nothing I haven’t experienced.” Head coach Billy Donovan and his teammates are certainly behind him. “We need Chandler and he needs us,” junior point guard Erving Walker said. “So we’re going to be there for him. I’ve got confidence in him and if he’s got an open shot I want him taking it.”

4 » Coming off a win in the Gator Holiday Classic, Florida women’s basketball was hoping to keep the magic going with an upset win over the No. 23/25 Florida State Seminoles. Unfortunately they fell just short with the Seminoles (10-3) squeaking out a back-and-forth 74-72 win over the Gators (10-4) on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida shot 48.4 percent from the field (compared to 44.4 percent for Florida State) and out-rebounded their opponent 39-31 but still fell. Guards redshirt junior Jordan Jones and freshman Jaterra Bonds combined for 25 points and 11 assists.

Photo Credit: Daniel Wallace/St. Petersburg Times

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Florida starts strong, finishes flat against Radford

Suffering a devastating upset to Jacksonville on Monday, the No. 19/20 Florida Gators (9-3) rebounded slightly with a 66-55 victory over the Radford Highlanders (2-9) Wednesday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Junior point guard Erving Walker, who led Florida in points for the second-straight game and was perhaps the most efficient offensively he has been all season, posted 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting while going 5-for-7 from downtown and 3-for-4 from the free throw line. He scored a season-high 21 points for UF on Monday.

Radford, which is 340th in the nation in points per game and field goal percentage and has now lost nine-straight games, never led in the contest but was only down seven points going into halftime and ended up losing the game by 11 after facing a game-high 18-point deficit late in the second half.

The Highlanders turned the ball over five times in the first 4:30 of the game, allowing the Gators to jump out to an early 13-1 lead. Radford did not make its first field goal until 12:22 remained in the first half but went on a 7-1 run to cut Florida’s lead to 23-16.

UF coughed up the ball nine times in the first half and shot a paltry 3-for-12 from beyond the arc. Senior forward Chandler Parsons dished five assists in the period, one more than the entire RU team.

The second half began in a similar fashion for both Radford and Florida. The Highlanders committed seven turnovers in the first 5:17 of the half, and the Gators used a 14-2 run to jump out to a 45-28 lead. Controlling the game most of the half, Florida went up a game-high 18 points and looked to cruise to the finish line until Radford exploded on an 11-3 run to cut UF’s lead to 64-55 with 1:05 left in the game.

The Gators forced a season-high 23 turnovers in the contest, and their nine treys tied their top mark for the year. Head coach Billy Donovan won his 340th game Wednesday night, tying him for third all-time in Southeastern Conference history.

Parsons finished the game with nine points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals but missed all four attempts from downtown. Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton continued to struggle shooting, finishing 4-of-13 (3-for-9 from three) with 11 points.

Senior F Alex Tyus grabbed five boards and was an efficient 4-for-6 from the field for eight point, while redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin added six points and six rebounds. Freshman PG Scottie Wilbekin saw 20 minutes off the bench and scored the first three-pointer of his career to go along with two assists.

Florida now has nearly a week off to celebrate the holidays before they face Fairfield at home on Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. The game will air live on ESPNU.

Other statistics from the box score:
– Sophomore F Erik Murphy: 2-of-7 for four points, four rebounds, two blocks
– Freshman F Will Yeguete: 3-for-4 from FT line, five points, five rebounds (four off.)
– Radford shot 50% from the field against Florida after averaging 36.5% on the season.

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12/20: Donovan dismayed by competitiveness

No. 19/20 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. Suffice to say Donovan was none-too-pleased with his team’s performance against the Jacksonville Dolphins.

GATORS LACK COMPETITIVENESS AGAINST OPPONENTS

One of the main things that stood out to Donovan after Monday’s embarrassing loss to Jacksonville is the fact that his team plays down to its competition and does not get up for “smaller” games the same way it does for big-time showdowns.

“Clearly for the people that watched us play against Kansas State – two totally different teams. One team unable to handle the human element,” he said. “We were riped to be beat. We were totally riped to be beat. I’m not so sure we could have beat anybody tonight. And that’s not to take anything away from Jacksonville because their kids did a great job. […] We don’t handle that human element part of it well. You talk about being a great team? The great teams are able to do that.”

Donovan provided a thought-provoking example. “Can we be a team that is almost playing like a faceless opponent, a nameless opponent? We would have been better off tonight playing the Los Angeles Lakers,” he said. “That would have been better for us. If you’re a competitor, it doesn’t make a difference who you’re lining up and playing against. That’s an internal make-up, and I don’t know if you can all of a sudden instill that in guys. Our guys are competitive. But can you be competitive when there is no reason to be competitive? We don’t have that mentality. And I have to find a way to help them get it.”

Who exactly has that mentality? “There are certain guys that I would [say] are just killers. When they line up, competition doesn’t make a difference,” Donovan said. “You talk about Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant; there’s just a certain kind of guy that it doesn’t make a difference what happened yesterday. They do not live in any level of success. They are just focused about competing and putting their reputation on the line every time they play or compete. That’s what [Al] Horford and [Joakim] Noah, [Udonis] Haslem, [Matt] Bonner – those guys had the ability to move from one thing to the next.”

WHO IS GOING TO SHOW UP FOR FLORIDA?

Another issue Donovan says the team is facing is a relatively simple concept. “I don’t know who’s going to show up necessarily from game-to-game. So [I’m always] trying to find combinations and pieces to throw out there,” he said adamantly.

Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton showed up big against Kansas State on Saturday and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin was the man over the last few games. Aside from junior point guard Erving Walker, who put up a lot of points out of necessity, no one truly stepped up on Monday.

“I made the comment after the Kansas State game that I was very anxious to see our guys’ level of maturity coming into a game like this,” Donovan said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever, ever sat over there in 15 years and seen a team that I’ve coached effort-wise and playing-wise and awareness-wise…forget about playing good or bad…just [being] in the game. We have 13 turnovers in the first half. I’m not so sure we ran a play.”

BLAMING HIMSELF FOR PREPAREDNESS

“I certainly did not do a good enough job in a quick turnaround in 36 hours getting them prepared to play,” Donovan admitted early in his post-game press conference. “I’m the head coach and I did not do a good enough job getting them prepared to handle Saturday-to-Monday. I did not.”

He went on to compare Florida’s faltering to how it played Central Florida coming after the tough and competitive victory against Florida State just a few days before.

“The one thing that happens during the course of the season is you’re dealing with either prosperity or adversity. We’re dealing with adversity. Our guys handle adversity pretty well. They really are a resilient group. They bounce back pretty quickly. They fight. They try to improve,” he said. “In order to be a great, great team you have to be able to handle prosperity. Because if you’re really good that means you’re winning a lot.”

THEY’RE NOT “THERE” YET…

Donovan made it a point before the season to tell the media that he did not have the high expectations for his team that were thrown on them by all of the analysts surrounding college basketball. He reiterated that statement on Monday. “I think you know why [before the season I said] I’m ‘optimistically cautious.’ And I’m probably not even optimistic right now; I’m really cautious,” he said.

Much more from head coach Billy Donovan can be read…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12/20: Donovan dismayed by competitiveness

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Jacksonville stuns No. 19/20 Florida in overtime

Coming off their biggest win of the season, the newly-minted No. 19/20 Florida Gators were looking to continue the momentum just under two days later against the Jacksonville Dolphins at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Florida (8-3) instead proved that they were not up to the task and dropped a 71-68 overtime thriller to their in-state visitors.

The Gators began the game just like their last: slow and inefficient. Florida only posted six points in the first seven minutes of the game while simultaneously turning the ball over five times. They completed the first half with 13 turnovers and only shot 9-of-20 from the field, allowing Jacksonville (7-3) to take a 29-27 lead into the locker rooms.

UF looked like it was starting to turn things around in the second half as they went up a game-high seven points on a trey by junior point guard Erving Walker with 6:58 remaining. That advantage would be short lived, however, with JU putting together a 7-0 run to tie the game up at 56 just three minutes later.

Up two with the ball and 33 seconds left in the game, the Gators looked to close out the contest. Unfortunately senior forward Chandler Parsons turned the ball over near mid-court; Dolphins guard Ayron Hardy stole it and dunked it with 21 seconds remaining to force overtime..

Walker hit three of four free throws early in overtime to give Florida a 64-63 advantage, but a turnover in the backcourt by sophomore G Kenny Boynton allowed Jacksonville to take a 65-64 lead.

Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin knocked in a missed layup by Walker to put UF back up one, but four-straight free throws by JU G Keith McDougald would end up icing the game for the underdogs.

Though he scored a season-high 21 points and made 9-of-13 free throws, Walker missed a game-winner in regulation and game-tying shot in overtime for Florida. He also shot only 5-of-12 from the field and 2-for-6 from downtown.

Filling out the box score for the Gators with double-digit points were Macklin (13), Boynton (12) and senior F Alex Tyus (10). Macklin and Boynton combined to go 10-for-27 from the field, part of the reason why the team as a whole only shot 35.6 percent (21-of-59).

The Dolphins were led by McDougald’s game-high 18 points but were also fortunate enough to have an impressive showing from Hardy, who scored 12 points to go along with eight rebounds.

Jacksonville out-shot Florida from the field and downtown, but the Gators out-rebounded the Dolphins 42-30. UF turned the ball over four more times than JU, but Jacksonville fouled Florida twice as often (26-13), part of the reason the offense was so off-balance.

The Gators will try to collect themselves before facing Radford on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The game will air live on Comcast Sports South (check your local listings).

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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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