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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Florida grounds UNCW 77-60 in season opener

For the 20th consecutive time, No. 9/11 Florida Gators basketball (1-0) won their regular season opener, defeating the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks (0-1) 77-60 Friday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Senior forward Chandler Parsons led the way for Florida with 16 points in the contest.

Tied at six early, the Gators missed six consecutive wide-open shots and turned the ball over five times, allowing the Seahawks to go up 11-6. Fed up with the performance of his starters, head coach Billy Donovan made a mass substitution that paid off when freshmen guard Casey Prather and point guard Scottie Wilbekin made back-to-back hustle plays to knot the score at 11.

Florida started pulling away from there, taking a 37-26 lead over UNC-Wilmington at the half when Parsons concluded an 8-0 run with a buzzer-beating put-back layup. He scored 12 of his game-high 16 points in the first half, while Wilbekin and junior PG Erving Walker each had three steals.

Read the rest of the Friday’s game story along with post-game news & notes…
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2010-11 Florida Gators basketball season preview

Finally returning to the NCAA Tournament after back-to-back appearances in the NIT, the No. 9/11 Florida Gators basketball team is back in the preseason top 10 and looking to return to the glory it experienced just a few short years ago. With forward Dan Werner now graduated and five new freshmen in the fold looking to make an impact, head coach Billy Donovan hopes to get back to his winning ways.

STARTING FIVE:

PG Erving Walker – junior, 5’8”, 171 lbs.
2009 STATS: 12.6 PPG – 4.9 APG – 3.3 RPG – .339 FG% – .347 3P% – 32.9 MPG
A spark plug who often appears to prefer shooting and penetrating to passing, Walker was named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team two years ago and the preseason All-SEC second team this year. He had trouble performing at a high level last season partially due to the lack of depth behind him on the bench. Donovan has noted that Walker’s shot selection, stroke and defense have all improved over the summer. He plans to keep him fresh by utilizing a number of other players at point guard during games and hopes that Walker will improve his ball handling, court vision and willingness to dish the ball – three things he needed to work on at this point last year.

G Kenny Boynton – sophomore, 6’2”, 183 lbs.
2009 STATS: 14.0 PPG – 2.7 APG – 2.6 RPG – .376 FG% – .294 3P% – 32.9 MPG
A five-star recruit coming out of high school, Boynton was the pride of the Gators’ 2009 recruiting class. Quick both with and without the ball, Boynton is highly competitive and athletic with the ability to play either backcourt position. He led Florida in points and was second in minutes played (Walker) in his first season, catching on fire in his final two games scoring a combined 50 points on 16-of-33 shooting while also going 9-of-18 from downtown. He can get his shot off at will, whether it be a pull up jumper, deep three-pointer, floater down the lane or penetrating layup. Boynton is also a tough defender who is strong with quick feet laterally but, like Walker, was gassed late in games last season due to lack of depth. Also similar to Walker, Donovan is impressed with Boynton’s improved shot selection and decision making this offseason. He was honored with a preseason All-SEC second team nomination this year.

This post contains 1,818 words previewing the season. You have already made it this far, so you might as well continue reading the rest…after the break!
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11/10: Donovan, players speak before first game

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.

SECOND HALF STARTS STILL A CONCERN

After the Gators’ second preseason game, Donovan was emphatic that the way they team performed in the second half against Georgetown College was not acceptable. Ever since, he has made a point in practice to ensure the team knows it cannot come out of halftime lackadaisical – especially against much better opponents.

“It definitely got addressed and something that we really talked about. We had better practices from that. It’s not so much the handling of expectations as much as it is the handling of prosperity – when you get recognized, when you get attention, when people talk favorably about you, positively about it,” Donovan said. “If you look at the first half of the Florida Tech game, if you look at the first half of the Georgetown game, those teams are shooting 33-34 percent from the field, they’re shooting 22 percent from the three-point line, and we’re forcing about 14 turnovers in the half.

“Now you take the second half of both those two games and you put together a 40-minute stat sheet – 20 minutes of each half – and we’re giving up 54 percent from the field and 42 percent from the three-point line. Can you play with a lead? Can you play when its 44-19? Can you understand, maturity-wise, that Georgetown is going to come out of the locker room and start the second half with a high level of intensity? They’re down by 25 points! If they were in that situation, I would hope they’d do the same thing! It’s a mentality that you have to have where the first four minutes starts in the second half and you send a message to that team that, ‘We’re not letting you back in the game.’”

Senior forward Chandler Parsons reiterated Donovan’s message, explaining that it has hit home with the team. “We don’t want to let up. Up 20, down 20, we want to come out and play our game, play with energy,” he said. “Especially when we have a team up – at home – we don’t want to take our foot off the gas. We want to keep going and keep trying to extend the lead.”

WILBEKIN INJURY UPDATE

Though Florida’s depth in the frontcourt has been seriously strengthened, it is pretty much freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin or bust behind junior Erving Walker. Injuring his neck against Florida Tech, Wilbekin missed UF’s second exhibition game and finally returned to limited practice on Tuesday. Donovan expects him to be active for Friday’s game after a full-contact practice on Thursday even though Wilbekin’s conditioning has suffered because he has not been able to run or work out until this week. “It was so painful that he could not lift his arms over his shoulders,” Donovan said.

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Florida basketball 2010 preseason wrap-up

Joining ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive for the 2010-11 basketball season is new correspondent Malik Grady. An OGGOA reader since the very beginning and Florida Gators basketball observer for two decades, Malik will be contributing his unique views and educated takes on head coach Billy Donovan’s squad throughout the season. Please do us a favor and welcome him into the fold after reading his first offering, a review of Florida’s two preaseason games this year.

By Malik Grady – OGGOA Correspondent

BALL HANDLERS

Observers only had five minutes to evaluate freshman Scottie Wilbekin before he was injured, during which time he managed a pair of assists and two steals. He has good size for the point and looked quick with the ball, though he seemed to get a little “high school cute” with it. Last year, after the preseason, then-freshman Nimrod Tishman rarely played again, but Wilbekin seems to be much more in Donovan’s plans considering the three-guard lineup the Gators have practiced with at times.

Junior Erving Walker, last year’s starter at the point, showed a bit of the good news/bad news he did at times last season. He led the team in assists (13 in the two games) but also had six turnovers while simultaneously forcing shots at times. Donovan said he’s seen improvement overall in Walker’s decision making, and he is improving defensively in the press where his stature is actually a benefit.

Fellow junior Kyle McClanahan saw a total of 17 minutes in the preseason but showed some limitations after managing four turnovers in six minutes in his first game and no assists in either. Donovan has expressed confidence in him at times though, so it’s possible he could work himself into emergency duty.

Read the rest of Malik’s preseason wrap-up and prepare for OGGOA‘s 2010-11 season preview (published Thursday)…after the break!
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