Wilbekin’s career day pushes Florida over UCF

In his third contest back after a three-game suspension, junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin put together a career game for his hometown team, leading the No. 7/8 Florida Gators (5-0) to a 79-66 win over the Central Florida Knights (3-2) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Wilbekin reached career-highs in points (18), rebounds (five) and assists (eight), registering the majority of those numbers off the bench in the first half. He started the second half in place of junior forward Will Yeguete and continued leading the Gators for the duration of the game.

Central Florida took an early 5-0 lead as Florida started 0-for-9 from the field, but the home team ensured that advantage was short lived. The Gators hit 10 of their next 15 shots and pulled off consecutive 8-0 and 11-0 runs to go up 24-12.

Wilbekin made his statement early by scoring 11 of UF’s first 20 points while starting 3-for-5 from downtown. He finished 6-of-12 from the field and 4-of-9 from long range.

Florida increased its advantage to 19 points on consecutive threes from senior guard Kenny Boynton and freshman G Michael Frazier and held on to a 42-24 lead at the half as Boynton was blocked at the buzzer.

The Knights got off to another fast start in the second half, opening up the final 20 minutes on an 11-0 run as the Gators turned the ball over and missed three-straight shots. Florida got its double-digit lead back by scoring six-straight points and used a 7-0 run midway through the half to retake its 18-point lead.

UF eventually extended its advantage to a game-high 21 points and held on for another impressive non-conference home victory.

Boynton led the way for the Gators with team-highs of 24 points and eight boards. He was 4-for-9 from three and a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe.

Junior center Patric Young was the only other Florida player in double figures as he chipped in 10 points and five rebounds. Yeguete added four points, five boards and four dimes, and junior F Erik Murphy scored nine on just 1-of-6 shooting from long range.

After missing four games due to multiple concussions, junior G/F Casey Prather returned and had a great all-around game for the Gators. He went 3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 from the line for eight points with four rebounds, an assist, a block and a forced turnover.

Four Central Florida players posted double-digit point totals, and UCF used an impressive performance from F Kasey Wilson to outscore UF 42-37 in the second half. Wilson finished 5-of-6 from downtown for a team-high 20 points.

The Gators forced 19 turnovers and gave up just nine, won the rebounding battle 41-27 and outscored the Knights off turnovers (27-11), in the paint (38-18), off the bench (28-0) and on second-chance baskets (21-1).

Next up for Florida is a home game against Marquette that is part of the 2012-13 SEC/BIG EAST Challenge. The Gators will get a six-day break before facing the Golden Eagles on Nov. 29 at 9 p.m. in a game that will air live on ESPN2.

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TWO BITS: Georgetown game, Donnie Jones

1 » The Navy-Marine Corps Classic on Nov. 9 aboard the USS Bataan at Navy Mayport Station in Jacksonville, FL was suspended at halftime after condensation that landed on the court made for unsafe playing conditions. At the time of game stoppage, the Florida Gators led the Georgetown Hoyas by four points. The game itself is currently classified as an exhibition as there was not a victor but that could very well change if an agreement between the two schools can be reached over the next few weeks. “Our school has reached out to Georgetown about completing and finishing the game,” head coach Billy Donovan revealed Tuesday evening. “There are some dates and there are some possibilities of that happening.”

The Gators would likely reimburse the Hoyas for a portion of their travel expenses considering the team would have to fly in to Jacksonville to play in an arena while UF would just have to drive a few hours. Donovan said there are a few dates in early January that work for both teams and the game would be forced to begin where it left off by NCAA rules. USA Today spoke with Georgetown head coach John Thompson III, who said that his team is also interested though nothing is set in stone yet. “I’m not opposed to it. We’ve got to see what happens. A whole lot of things have to fall into place,” he said.

2 » Donovan on Tuesday emphatically defended the character of former Florida assistant coach Donnie Jones, who has been the head coach of the Central Florida Knights since the 2010-11 season. UCF under Jones was recently found guilty of being involved with runners for sports agents and paying recruits. The basketball team received a one-year postseason ban, five years of probation and scholarship reductions; it was also forced to vacate all victories from the 2010-11 campaign. Jones himself was hit with a three-year show-cause penalty and is limited in how he can recruit players this season. Below is what Donovan had to say about the entire situation:

“Oh yeah, I spent a lot of time talking to him. I really personally thought it was really unfortunate. Donnie is a good, good person in this profession. I think the hardest thing that sometimes as human beings you go through is, you go through what he’s going through and all of a sudden people think that, well, he’s not doing his business the right way. That couldn’t be anything further from the truth. I spent a lot of time…obviously with how serious the matter, he couldn’t share a lot with me, but I wanted to spend time on the phone just kind of letting him know I’m there.

“I would tell you this right now: There’s a lot of things in terms of NCAA and decisions that are made. People get show-causes put on them and everything else. I know Donnie Jones. I worked with him for 13 years. He is good for college basketball. He is good for those kids at Central Florida. He’s a great family man. He’s a great father. He’s a great husband. He is the salt of the Earth. There is not a better human being.

“I think some of the things that happened, in my opinion as I look at college basketball, were very, very unfortunate. With that being said, I just tried to be there for him. … He is good for college basketball. There’s a lot of bigger problems in college basketball than Donnie Jones. To me, what happened to him does not reflect who he is as a coach, a person, his integrity, his character and what he stands for. I will stand behind that for as long as the day is because that’s what he is. That whole thing that happened, again, I don’t know all the ins and outs of what happened, but that guy is a quality human being, to me, that got dragged through the mud and it was not deserved.”

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Billy Donovan talks about hitting 400 wins

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan won the 400th game of his career on Monday when Florida routed Stetson 96-70 in Orlando, FL. Following the game, Donovan was hit with a Gatorade shower in the locker room and got to celebrate for a short while with the team and visitors Chandler Parsons and Jason Williams. In his post-game press conference, Donovan spoke at length about reaching 400 victories and his coaching career.

On what winning 400 games means to him: “One, I’m definitely clearly getting older. A guy like Jason Williams is here at the game, and he was obviously a part of it when it first started, coaching him. Chandler came in the locker room [and I thought about] his time here. Joakim Noah has been on campus a lot with the lockout. The Brent Wrights of the world. The [Udonis] Haslems. I think more about the time here and the guys that have come through. There have been a lot of special guys. Not only the guys that people get a chance to watch that are in the NBA, because those are obvious guys, but the Justin Hamiltons, the Brent Wrights, the Major Parkers – that first recruiting class. Anthony Roberson, Matt Walsh, Brett Nelson, there have been so many guys that have come through that were close to making the NBA that maybe didn’t make it that had a huge significance and impact on our program. It’s not just the NBA guys, it’s a lot of really good quality kids I’ve coached for a period of time. It’s hard to believe you see Jason Williams. The guy is married, he already has a couple of kids and is retired from the NBA. It’s definitely a reflection that time is moving on and you’re getting older.”

Read everything else Billy Donovan had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » Billy Donovan talks about hitting 400 wins

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FOUR BITS: All-SEC, Oliver, Meyer, Jones

1 » The Southeastern Conference announced its coaches’ preseason All-SEC first and second team selections on Wednesday, and three Florida Gators were honored on the lists. Senior point guard Erving Walker and junior guard Kenny Boynton both earned first team nominations, while sophomore center Patric Young was the only UF representative placed on the second team. Walker and Boynton were both on the media’s All-SEC second team, and Young was left off.

2 » Former Florida safety Louis Oliver was one of six people inducted into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame on Tuesday evening. Fellow former Gators student-athlete Dara Torres was inducted previously. “It is very flattering,” Oliver said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “I am very excited to be in a group that includes a group like [Dan] Marino, Coach [Don] Shula, H. Wayne Huizenga, Michael Irvin and those types of people. Just to be recognized with those people puts me in a category that most people aren’t in. It’s not Canton, Ohio, but it is a really big deal for me.”

3 » With Joe Paterno stepping down from his job as head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions at the end of the season, former Gators head coach Urban Meyer is obviously going to be the No. 1 name on the list of the university and fans. Meyer discussed his admiration for Paterno at the 2011 Outback Bowl but has also said on numerous other occasions how much he is enjoying his time off from the game. However, Meyer is not the only candidate as Miami head coach Al Golden and Rutgers top man Greg Schiano could also be in the running for the job. The fact of the matter is that Meyer may very well not be ready to return to college football and could also look at the sport’s landscape (with major violations and legal issues going on at his supposed top two destinations of Ohio State and Penn State) and choose to wait a bit longer.

4 » Central Florida Knights head coach Donnie Jones was suspended three conference games without pay and publicly reprimanded by the NCAA on Wednesday for being aware of contact between a recruiter for a sports agency and student-athletes and not preventing it. The recruiter allegedly paid tuition and travel expenses for some players and recruits. “As the program’s head coach, I accept responsibility for mistakes when they occur,” he said in a statement from the school. A former assistant at Florida under head coach Billy Donovan, Jones took his UCF team to Gainesville two Saturdays ago for an exhibition game against UF.

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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…)
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Knights upset No. 16 Gators 57-54 in Orlando

Entering the first-ever Florida Citrus Sports Shootout at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL, the No. 16/18 Florida Gators were hoping to build momentum after pulling out an impressive defensive victory against Florida State on Sunday. Instead Florida (5-2) played their worst game in recent memory and fell 57-54 to the up-and-coming Central Florida Knights (6-0).

Led by former Gators assistant Donnie Jones, the Knights had UF and head coach Billy Donovan their heels the entire game. Though the contest was never out of reach for Florida, they failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities – specifically three in the last 30 seconds including a costly turnover by Central Florida.

UCF jumped out to a 28-20 lead in the first half and finished the period up four as guard Marcus Jordan – son of NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan – posted nine points to lead his team. UF senior forward Chandler Parsons got off to a rocky start (that would continue the entire game) going only 1-for-5 from the field and 0-for-4 from the free throw line in the first half.

The Gators got back in the swing of things at the start of the second half, tying the score at 34 on a layup from redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and quick jump shot by junior point guard Erving Walker. A 9-2 run exhibited by the Knights took them back up to their game-high eight-point advantage (44-36), but Florida answered with a 10-0 run to re-take the lead 46-44 just minutes later.

UCF went 0-for-13 from the floor during UF’s run, but while the Gators did erase their deficit, they failed to capitalize on the momentum. The game would go back-and-forth from there with Macklin tightening UCF’s lead to 53-52 with under a minute to go.

Florida got its first big opportunity on an inbounds play from Central Florida with 55.4 seconds left. Sophomore G Kenny Boynton stole the ball on a bad pass and Donovan called a timeout to draw up a play with 44.1 seconds remaining. Boynton got the ball out of the break and missed an open jumper, giving it back to the Knights who wound up with Jordan on the line shooting the one-and-one.

The Gators were still faced with a one possession game after Jordan made both free throws, but Walker and Boynton each missed wide open treys and UCF grabbed the second rebound. Two more free throws and a quick layup by Boynton passed before UF put F Keith Clanton on the line for another one-and-one.

Clanton missed his first free throw, but Macklin knocked an easily corralled rebound out of bounds with what would have been four seconds remaining for Florida.

Jordan matched his first half performance for Central Florida, scoring nine more points and finishing the game with 18 on 6-of-11 shooting. Clanton was just as effective for the Knights, going 4-of-8 for 12 points with nine rebounds.

Macklin was truly the only bright spot for the Gators, shooting an impressive 10-for-11 from the field for a game-high 20 points to go along with a team-high eight boards. Walker scored 16 points of 4-of-7 shooting (2-of-4 from downtown), but he also turned the ball over thrice and only dished it twice. Boynton went 4-of-10 for 10 points but was 0-for-3 from beyond the arc and missed some clutch shots.

Parsons and fellow senior F Alex Tyus were dreadful for Florida throughout the night. Parsons finished 1-of-9 from the field, 0-for-3 from downtown and 0-for-6 from the line (including an air ball) in front of his hometown crowd. He did, however, grab six boards and hand out five assists. Tyus finished 0-of-5 from the field and was held scoreless only taking down five rebounds in 21 minutes.

Though the Gators shot better than the Knights from the field (42.0-38.2 percent), the team – without Macklin – only made a 28.9 percent of its shots. Florida also out-rebounded Central Florida 37-30, handed out more assists (12-10) and committed less fouls (13-16). However, UF turned the ball over twice as much as UCF (14-7) and was unable to capitalize on the few miscues they did force.

Florida will look to right the ship on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. against American in Washington, D.C. The game will air live on Sun Sports.

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

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No. 16 Florida Gators vs. Central Florida Knights

Event: Florida Citrus Sports Shootout
Location: Amway Center – Orlando, FL [Capacity: 20,000]
Time: 7:00 p.m. (EST)

TV: FSN
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 16 FLORIDA GATORS CENTRAL FLORIDA KNIGHTS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Donnie Jones
Record: 5-1 Record: 5-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Conference USA
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -3.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is undefeated in the all-time series against Central Florida 9-0, though the two teams have never squared off in Orlando.
» The Gators are 8-1 against Conference USA opponents under Donovan.
» Donovan is also 5-1 against his former assistants.
» Florida is 77-20 under Donovan in the month of December.
» UF will play UCF in the first collegiate event at the brand new Amway Center; ironically, they also faced Stanford in the first collegiate event at the old Amway Arena.
» Donovan needs just five victories to move into sole possession of third place in SEC history for most wins as an SEC head coach.
» The Gators have out-rebounded five of six opponents thus far and are doing so by +8.2 rebounds per game.
» The Knights are No. 2 in the nation in field goal percentage (55.4), No. 9 in assists per game (18.8) and No. 10 in points per game (85.8).

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Erving Walker…a backcourt duo that has combined to average 27.6 point per game and has accounted for 25 of their team’s 37 three-pointers this season.
» 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 important minutes in Florida’s win over Florida State.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior Fs Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus…UF’s three frontcourt starters who are average 16.2 rebounds per game.
» Freshman PG Scottie Wilbekin…who has posted a commendable 15-2 assist-to-turnover ratio while running the point in relief of Walker.
» Freshman F Will Yeguete…who has been a spark off the bench for the Gators averaging 5.6 rebounds per game and 3.4 points per game in just 12.6 minutes.
» UCF G Marcus Jordan…who is the son of Michael Jordan and is averaging a team-high 16.8 points per game.
» Knights F Keith Clanton…who averages 16.2 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 68.4 percent from the field.

INJURIES

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

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11/30: Donovan discusses coaching, expectations

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

COACHING, COMMON BOND UNITE DONOVAN AND FORMER ASSISTANTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUOTES (After the break…)
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