2/3: Donovan on struggling starters, experience

No. 23 Florida Gators (17-5, 6-2 SEC) 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 media availability on Thursday.


Though redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, senior forward Chandler Parsons and junior point guard Erving Walker have by all accounts had solid seasons up to this point, Florida’s other two starters have yet to find a consistent groove. Donovan is not overly concerned with that fact, pointing out a few nuances to each player’s game.

“He really made a great jump in my opinion coming out of the Mississippi State game,” he said of sophomore guard Kenny Boynton. “In the Mississippi State game, he had some really, really good looks – open looks – and the ball didn’t go in the basket for him. And I really thought that affected him on the defensive end and his energy. He did a phenomenal job on [John] Jenkins. I know he scored 22 points, but it wasn’t from the three-point line, it wasn’t wide-open looks. I think we made him work for it. He got to the free throw line. He had some drives. Even though he was not having a prolific scoring night, he really was locked in defensively to try to do the best job he could on Jenkins.”

For his part, Boynton is getting the message Donovan is sending. “I just try to put the last play behind me,” Boynton said of his attitude when he’s struggling to knock down shots. “Coach Donovan, he doesn’t want anybody out there frustrated or thinking about the last play, he just wants us to play whether or not our shots are falling. Last year was pretty hard for me to do because I wasn’t used to it. This year is easier; [I] just go back and play defense the next possession.”

With senior F Alex Tyus, Donovan thinks the guys he has had to go one-on-one with have caused the biggest problem. “The one thing that’s been hard for Alex is he’s had a lot of very, very difficult match-ups at the power forward spot,” he said. “He’s had some really, really difficult match-ups. Alex has really been trying to focus on defending. Because when you’re going against those kind of guys, and we’re trying to provide some help for him, you probably have a tendency to focus a little bit less on your offense. […] You look at the match-ups he’s had to go against, there’s going to be a dip in offensive production because he’s had to focus so much on playing defense.”


Asked how the team’s veteran leadership and experience of playing four overtime games (and winning three) this season will help in the future, Donovan simply said it will not by noting that age and “being there” before don’t matter nearly as much as performing to the best of your abilities.

“I don’t think so,” he said of the notion. “Last year’s Kentucky team with all those young guys did pull out close games. There was a thought when I had [Joakim] Noah, [Al] Horford and [Corey] Brewer and they were all sophomores that there was no NCAA Tournament experience … and you have to have an experienced team to go deep into the tournament … and they proved that wrong.

“Just because we’ve won some close games does not ensure the fact that we’re going to win all of them going forward. Anything that’s happened in the past has no bearing on the next time you’re in that situation other than the fact that there’s a level of familiarity. You still have to make the plays that are necessary [to win the game]. You still have to execute, perform and do those things in those situations. Just because you did it last time doesn’t mean you’re going to do it [another] time. You got to execute, focus and do the right things at that time to the best of your ability.”

Parsons neither agreed nor disagreed with Donovan but did point out that the team’s three overtime victories have given the Gators more confidence as a unit. “Having four overtime games and winning three of them really shows something about our team and how we keep playing,” he said. “It’s all about effort, executing our offense, playing defense and getting those big stops when we need them. And then obviously our guys coming up with some big shots.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Free throw woes doom Florida again in 71-64 loss

Coming into Starkville, MS undefeated on the road and with a nine-game regular season winning streak against the Southeastern Conference West division, the No. 23/24 Florida Gators (16-5, 5-2 SEC) struggled mightily from the free throw line and eventually fell to the Mississippi State Bulldogs (11-9, 3-3 SEC) 71-64 at Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.

Up 63-62 with 5:17 left in the game, Florida went cold from both the field and charity stripe, allowing Mississippi State to put together a 9-1 game-ending run. The Gators missed eight consecutive field goals and five of six attempts from the line, while the Bulldogs hit seven of their final eight free throw attempts to ice the game.

MSU started the first half on fire, connecting on five of their first eight shots from long distance. Taking a game-high 10-point lead early, they quickly coughed it up and allowed UF to put a dent in their deficit. Florida used a 10-2 run to tie the contest at 38, but Mississippi State would take a two-point lead going into halftime.

The Bulldogs came out of the break hot, using an 11-4 run to take a nine-point lead. The Gators answered with a 13-1 run of their own; it ended with a trey and two free throws by junior point guard Erving Walker, which gave UF its first lead of the game, 55-52.

Two triples from MSU G Dee Bost put his team ahead three, but Florida took the lead 63-62 and then tied it at 64 before falling apart at the conclusion of the contest.

All three of the Gators leads came in the second half, but their inefficiency from the line and beyond the arc doomed them in the end. Florida finished 9-of-19 from the charity stripe (47.4 percent) and only 5-of-21 from three-point range (23.8) percent. Mississippi State, after starting the game strong, went cold from three until the end of the second half. As a team, MSU finished 19-for-23 from the line.

Unlike the Gators, which saw all 10 of their players score, only four Bulldogs got the ball in the basket. Bost led MSU with 24 points and went 4-for-8 from downtown, forwards Kodi Augustus and Renardo Sidney each scored 16, and G Ravern Johnson contributed 15 important points.

Walker led Florida with 18 points on 6-of-17 shooting but was only 2-for-8 from downtown. Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin scored 10 points, and senior F Chandler Parsons grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go along with nine points.

Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, who is supposed to be one of the Gators best scorers, went an anemic 2-for-11 from the field and 0-for-4 from beyond the arc. Senior F Alex Tyus added six points and five boards.

Mississippi State has now won four of their last five meetings against Florida, which will likely be unranked once again when the new top 25 polls are released on Monday.

The Gators’ schedule does not get any easier going forward. Florida will face No. 22/19 Vanderbilt (Tuesday) and No. 16/14 Kentucky (Saturday) in consecutive home games next week. Both games will air live at 9 p.m. on ESPN, with College GameDay emanating from the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Saturday.

Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

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ESPN College GameDay in Gainesville on Feb. 5

As reported by OGGOA in December, ESPN College GameDay will emanate from the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Feb. 5 prior to the No. 23/24 Florida Gators taking on the No. 16/14 Kentucky Wildcats later that evening at 9 p.m.

The University of Florida announced on Friday that the show will air live from Gainesville, FL next week, noting that it is the first time since 2008 and third time overall that the television program will be broadcast from inside the arena.

In addition to the two hours College GameDay airs in the morning (beginning at 10 a.m. on ESPNU and 11 a.m. on ESPN), there will be a one-hour pre-game show live from the O’Connell Center at 8 p.m. The program features host Rece Davis and analysts Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis and Bob Knight. Feature reporter and former Gators dazzler Erin Andrews will not be in attendance. However, head coach Billy Donovan will likely be interviewed at some point during the second hour of the show.

The first 500 students in attendance will receive complimentary breakfast, the first 3,000 fans will be given rollbannas courtesy of State Farm, and one lucky student will shoot a half-court shot for a chance at $17,500. College GameDay also wants to see more “big heads” in the crowd. Every student who brings one will win a prize with one being awarded a “VIP prize pack.”

Photo Credit: ESPN

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Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.


Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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Week 1: No. 3 Florida Gators vs. Miami RedHawks

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 91°F, 30% chance of precipitation
Time: 12:00 p.m. (EST)

Sirius/XM: 220/199
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

Head Coach: Urban Meyer Head Coach: Michael Haywood
2009 Record: 13-1 2009 Record: 1-11
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Mid-American
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -38; O/U 54


» Florida is returning 43 letterwiners and 11 starters from the 2009 season – six on offense (junior running back Jeff Demps, redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson, senior center Mike Pouncey, sophomore left tackle Xavier Nixon, redshirt seniors guard Carl Johnson and right tackle Marcus Gilbert) and five on defense (senior safety Ahmad Black, junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, redshirt seniors linebacker A.J. Jones and defensive tackle Terron Sanders, redshirt sophomore DT Omar Hunter).
» The Gators have a SEC-best opening day winning streak of 20 games and are 76-27 all-time to start the season (62-6 in Gainesville). Teams coached by Meyer at any point in his career are 18-5 to begin the season; he has 16-straight opening day victories.
» Florida is also sporting a 10-game home winning streak and has won 20 consecutive regular season games. The Orange and Blue has a .897 (113-13) winning percentage at Florida Field since 1990, good for best in the nation.
» Miami (OH) leads the all-time series against UF 1-0, defeating the Gators 16-7 in The Swamp in the 1973 Tangerine Bowl; Florida is 10-3 all-time against the MAC.
» The Gators are the only team in the nation to finish the season in the top three in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ polls in three of the past four years; Florida is also the only school in the country to be ranked in the top five of the preseason coaches’ poll in each of the last four years.
» The RedHawks’ passing offense and passing defense each ranked 23rd in the nation in 2009, respectively throwing for 273.2 and giving up 190.4 yards per game.
» UF committed a nation-low 81 turnovers since 2005 and has had 23 games in which they did not give up a single turnover (best in the nation).


» Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley…who will be starting the first game of his Florida career. In 2009, he went 36-of-48 for 410 yards and seven touchdowns. Brantley tossed 75 percent of his balls for completions and finished the year with a QB rating of 194.9. He has thrown 61 consecutive passes without an interception and has a 10-1 TD/INT ratio for his Gators career.
» Florida’s veteran offensive line…which has combined for 87 career starts and is led by Pouncey (32). That total is the highest among returning offensive linemen since Meyer’s first season as coach in 2005.
» Redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey…who is moving to the slot after playing running back for two seasons. Rainey will be explosive while playing a modified “Percy Position” and could very well be the team’s best offensive weapon this season.
» Linebackers sophomore Jon Bostic and redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins…who are each trying to win the starting role in the middle but will likely split snaps Saturday. The same goes for cornerbacks redshirt sophomore Jeremy Brown and senior Moses Jenkins, each of whom hope to win the job opposite junior Janoris Jenkins.
» Redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose…who missed the entire 2009 season with a hamstring injury but remains a five-star recruit expected to make an immediate impact.
» Junior kicker Caleb Sturgis…who set a UF record for field goal attempted in a season (30) in 2009 and had the second-highest total of field goals made in school history (22).
» Freshman QB Trey Burton…who has been receiving extra attention at tight end during practices and is one of Meyer’s favorite youngsters. With other TEs injured and developing, Burton may see action early and often.

Injuries (All out)
Senior defensive tackle Terron Sanders (knee), redshirt freshman TE Jordan Reed (knee) left tackles redshirt sophomore Matt Patchan (wrist), sophomore Xavier Nixon (knee), sophomore LB Dee Finley

Redshirt sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. (indefinite suspension), junior S Will Hill (team decision)


The host of the first game to air Saturday on ESPN, Florida will be profiled in part during the network’s College GameDay broadcast beginning at 9 a.m. on ESPNU (hosted by Erin Andrews) and continuing from 10 a.m. until noon on ESPN. The main feature on the Gators will be a report from Tom Rinaldi focusing on Meyer’s decision to unretire one day after resigning from his job before the 2010 Sugar Bowl. Additionally, ESPN will feature a sound bite from Meyer talking about Florida’s offense, which will then be discussed by analysts Desmond Howard and David Pollack.

Read OGGOA’s Florida Gators vs. Miami RedHawks preview after the jump!
Continue Reading » Week 1: No. 3 Florida Gators vs. Miami RedHawks

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TWO BITS: Powell, Easley, GameDay, returns

1 » Rumors are running rampant throughout the Florida Gators program Wednesday that five-star freshmen defensive end Ronald Powell and defensive tackle Dominique Easley have skipped either one or multiple practices recently due to anger over how they have been treated by veterans on the team – assumingly the starting offensive line. Further rumors emerged that the duo cleaned out their respective lockers and may even be considering transferring. Though the former information (missing practice) appears to be the most concrete, the latter seems to be a bit of a reach at this point.

The latest reports – from the Miami Herald and The Gainesville Sun, respectively – have Powell’s and Easley’s high school coaches unaware that there is anything wrong. Powell’s coach, Pete Duffy, told the Sun that his former player is “happy and very excited” at Florida; he had not heard about him missing practice. Easley’s coach, Pete Gambardella, told the Herald that Easley neither seemed upset, disgruntled nor angry when speaking to his former player Wednesday morning.

UPDATE: Powell and Easley are both practicing with the team.

2 » In a press release Wednesday, ESPN announced that College GameDay will return to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, for the Gators’ game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Feb. 5. The show’s first time visiting the basketball team since 2008 will also include former Florida dazzler and network reporter Erin Andrews, who told OGGOA that she will be in attendance as well, likely for her duties of hosting the first hour of GameDay at 10 a.m. on ESPNU.

Extra BIT » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (ribs) and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (migraines) each returned to practice with their respective team on Wednesday after missing a number of days due to injury. Tebow had missed two practice and the Broncos’ last preseason game; Harvin had been sidelined after collapsing during practice on Aug. 19.

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Gators dazzler, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews: “I really don’t think I’m that big of a deal.”

The last year has been one of ups-and-downs for former Florida Gators dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews. From having to deal with an unfathomable episode regarding her privacy to performing on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and just recently signing a new two-year deal to remain a featured member of the ESPN broadcast team, Andrews has appeared strong, resilient and unrelenting. On the brink of the greatest undertaking of her career – hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU and joining the cast of Good Morning America – she took time out of her schedule to speak exclusively with OGGOA about her career as a Gators dazzler, recent trials and tribulations, perspective on her own fame and love for the University of Florida.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Growing up in Tampa, was the University of Florida always at the top of your list for college? How did you wind up there?
ERIN ANDREWS: “Growing up in Tampa, there are three schools: Florida State, Miami and Florida. Obviously because Florida was closest to Tampa, Tampa is really like Gator haven. I made the comment one day to my dad, which he’ll never let me live down…because I was such a sports fan growing up, I said to him, ‘Dad, I really want to go to a college that has a good football team.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, that’s a great thing to live by Erin. I’m glad that’s what you’re choosing your education by.’ At the time it sounded really stupid, but actually it was kind of funny that it worked out that way because by going to Florida, I knew they had a great journalism program, but also because Florida has such a good football team, we were exposed to TBS, we were exposed to ESPN, we were exposed to all the national sports media coming to the campus to see the team, to see [head coach Steve] Spurrier. That was really good for me to kind of be around that at the time. Actually, that wasn’t a stupid comment.

AS: How much of an influence did your father’s [six-time Emmy Award-winner Steve Andrews] profession have on your major and eventual career?
EA: “My dad played a huge part in it. I grew up with my father being on TV. It just wasn’t a big deal to me. We’d turn on the TV at 6:00 and there was my dad. I grew up at the TV station; I played around on the TV set. So that just wasn’t a big deal – being in front of the camera – because I was so used to [watching] my dad. He was a giant sports fan, so that’s where I got my passion for sports and watching it and becoming familiar with the broadcasters and announcers that I liked – and the athletes. That’s where it all just kind of snowballed. I decided that I wanted to be a broadcaster. I loved the stories with coaches and athletes. I told my dad when I was young, ‘I want to do this for a living.’ He also laughed at me and said, ‘You know, everybody wants to do this for a living.’ I went to Florida, we checked out the journalism school. I really liked it. I just enrolled and it began – the whole process. The first couple years at Florida you don’t really get a taste of your major until probably your junior and senior year – that’s when I was very serious about it.

AS: You obviously spent a good amount of time at Weimer Hall but some of your most exciting times were likely at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. While at Florida, you were famously a member of the Dazzlers for four years. Was that something you had planned on doing from the beginning?
EA: “I grew up dancing my whole life with my little sister [Kendra Andrews]. That was just something I knew that Florida had – a dance team. I loved mine growing up and the experience that I had. I actually auditioned my senior year of high school and didn’t make the team and then went back out my sophomore year and I was on the team my sophomore, junior and senior season[s].”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Erin Andrews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gators dazzler, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews: “I really don’t think I’m that big of a deal.”

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ESPN adds Erin Andrews to College GameDay

In a press release Monday, ESPN announced that its two-time Emmy Award-winning program, College GameDay Built by The Home Depot, will expand to three hours – with the first hour being aired exclusively on ESPNU – and feature a new personality, former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews.

The show will maintain Chris Fowler as its host and Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard as its analysts, while adding Andrews to the team. She will anchor “several segments during the first hour on ESPNU, and contributing reports, interviews and features during the ESPN portion of the show,” according to the release.

“As part of her role, Andrews will also work as the sideline reporter on the game from which College GameDay originates from, if the game is on an ESPN network (ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, etc.). In addition to her responsibilities across ESPN platforms, Andrews will provide select reports on ABC’s Good Morning America throughout the year.”

In related news… former Florida quarterback Jesse Palmer will continue as an analyst on ESPN’s College Football Primetime and College Football Live as well as during Saturday pregame, halftime and postgame studio segments on ABC.

Also in related news… former Gators softball player Jenn Brown will join Primetime as a sideline reporter during its Thursday games.

Photo Credit: Patrick Fraser/Vanity Fair

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