The No. 11/12 Florida Gators wound up pulling away after a first-half slugfest with the Florida State Seminoles, defeating their in-state rivals 82-64 on Thursday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media and shared his thoughts on the victory.
OFFENSE DEFENSE vs. DEFENSE
Heading into the contest, much of the focus was on whether Florida’s offense or Florida State’s defense would be the victor. Donovan, confident in the Gators’ ability to score, had his team focusing on defense all week, noting that if they could improve on that end a win against their rival would be likely.
“There was a lot of talk in the game about who was going to win out – our offense or their defense. I felt like the key in the game for us was how well we could defend and rebound. I told the guys that the game is not going to come down to whether or not they can stop us or not. It’s going to come down to how well we guard,” he said.
Even though Florida is somewhat of a smaller team overall, Donovan was confident in his team’s toughness against a rough group of FSU players.
“We have a pretty tough group physically. We may be undersized, but they’ll get in there and bang. They’ll physically compete. They’ll put their bodies in plays,” he said. “It was really important for us to have that physicality in the game from start to finish.”
He also said that the Gators’ defensive effort plays into his mantra that defense can setup offense, something Florida has plenty of this year. “The two hardest things to do in basketball defensively is to transition defense back … and to close out and guard the dribble,” he said. “When we get stops and we can rebound the ball, we’ve got a lot of offense coming down the floor and it’s hard to match up.”
YOUNG’s BLOCK; PLAYER EVALUATIONS
Sophomore center Patric Young
’s insanely athletic block in the second half undoubtedly provided a great deal of push for the Gators. It was a play that turned a back-and-forth battle into a big-time victory, and Donovan felt the impact of Young’s block immediately. “It was a great play and it fueled our team and it gave us momentum, it gave us energy. And Pat athletically has the ability to make plays like that,” he said.
Donovan also praised Young’s entire performance on Thursday and how he really took lessons he learned in practice this week to heart. “I was really impressed with him because we watched a lot of film on how he was going to be guarded. I told him he can’t get frustrated because it was going to be hard to get the ball,” he said. “I said, ‘You got to keep posting up the whole entire game. You may only get it three times, four times, five times. But when you get it – you may have to work 50 times just to get it [once].’ And he did. He kept great composure. He was 7-for-7 from the field and you want to get it to him more and you try to get it to him more.”
On freshman guard Bradley Beal and his improved shooting: “When he’s open, he shoots it. He got some more shots up tonight. I thought our guys found him. He had a couple good drives to the basket. He rebounded the ball. He had some good looks from the three-point line. He’s got freedom to do that. Like anything else, he’s just the kind of kid that never wants to come across as being selfish. And he’s not selfish. He’s probably feeling more and more comfortable. It’s not so much that we’re asking him to do more or he feels like he needs to do more, he’s just understanding where shots need to come from.”
On senior point guard Erving Walker’s shooting struggles: “He took one that he knew was bad. He came down on the break and he kind of let it really go. We were on a run, and I think we were up 13, and I could tell he looked down to see if I was upset. And I was. He had some decent looks but the one thing that he did do is he constantly puts pressure on team’s defenses because he’s coming down the lane for a layup and you do have to account for him. The biggest thing for him is him making the next decision which sometimes has been hard because of his size, but he did a better job tonight. [...] But 1-for-7 beats 3-for-15. He’s got to understand, and I think he did make one three and he took a couple tough shots, but overall he really played a pretty good floor game in my opinion.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On shooting well from the line in the second half after starting 0-for-7: “Our guys have such a high opinion of how well they think they should shoot the ball. When it doesn’t go in, they lose a little bit of focus or they get down, they get disappointed. In the first half, our focus was not where it needed to be from the free throw line. In the second half we did a much better job. We rebounded pretty well in the second half and – thank God – made some free throws.”
» On when Florida will go from great spurts to playing a complete game: “It’s hard to play a complete game that you want to play because you’re playing other good teams. You’re up by 25 against A&M, you know they’re going to come out and compete and fight and battle. You know Florida State is going to compete and battle and fight for 40 minutes. [Playing against] good players, you’re going to have some moments you don’t look great and you need to get better.”
» On the health of redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (back): “I’m concerned from the standpoint that he’s going home and he’s not going to have any rehab for Christmas. Right now I would say he’s probably doubtful for Rutgers – that would be my guess. Just because he’s not going to be around the medical staff and be able to do treatment and rehab and the things he needs to do. We’re going to come back and practice on the 26th. We’ll see how he is, but I would be shocked if he plays right now with the way it is against Rutgers.”