NCAA Sweet 16: Florida’s post-game thoughts

Shortly after the No. 2-seed Florida Gators got a measure of revenge with a thrilling 83-74 overtime victory against the No. 3-seed Brigham Young Cougars in the Southeast Regional Semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Thursday, a handful of players and head coach Billy Donovan participated in the postgame press conference. OGGOA has compiled some choice notes and quotes from the media availabilities.

TYUS A ONE-MAN WRECKING CREW

There are a lot of spur-of-the-moment proclamations that can be made after a game or a single player’s performance, but there is no doubt that senior forward Alex Tyus turned in a career-best effort for Florida on Thursday. Scoring 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting to go along with a career-high 17 rebounds, Tyus did it all for the Gators. He even hit his second three-pointer of the season (first since the opening game on Nov. 12) and added a block that made it to No. 2 on ESPN Sportscenter’s Top Plays of the night.

“It means a lot, just being able to come out and play to the best of my abilities tonight and help the team win in many different ways,” he said after the game. “[I was concerned with] just mainly coming out and trying to make an impact during the game to help the team win: offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds and playing good defense.”

Donovan was certainly a fan of his upperclassman’s effort. “The one thing with Alex is a lot of times he never really gets fazed in the moment of what’s going on. One of the things I’ve tried to pull out of him and get him to see is when he has a lot of activity, he has a great ability to impact the game,” he said. “When they were double-teaming the low post, they were leaving Alex to get Vernon [Macklin]. So when Vernon was throwing the ball back out, Alex’s man had to go from a double team to try and find him. He was freed up in a lot of instances to get to the glass. He didn’t grab a whole lot of offensive rebounds, but he was great on the glass. He did a great job defensive rebounding and limiting them at times to second shots. He was just really athletically very active and that helped. He really played a terrific game. I’m happy for him. Being a senior, he’s really been a great kid. It’s great when you can have a senior like that on a stage like it was today be able to really impact the game.”

BYU head coach Dave Rose was also complimentary of Tyus following the contest. “Somebody on every team always steps up, especially in big games,” he said. “Tyus is a really good player – athletic, long. He’s a guy who can hit shots from the perimeter, but I thought that the Florida coaching staff did a good job isolating him in space and giving him a good chance to have some pretty good match-ups.”

FATIGUING FREDETTE

Forget the tight calf muscle or the cut below the chin, Cougars star guard Jimmer Fredette was noticeably exhausted in the second half mostly due to the stout defense of Gators sophomore G Kenny Boynton. With assistance from freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin, Boynton was all over Fredette, forcing him to take tough shots and work hard for any jumper he chose to throw up.

Donovan explained after the game that UF’s defensive game plan was relatively simple: ensure that none of Fredette’s teammates scored double figures while making certain every shot he took was heavily contested. The result was an inefficient 32-point performance compiled on 11-of-29 shooting; Fredette only made 3-of-15 attempts from beyond the arc and turned the ball over six times.

“I know there’s a lot made of Jimmer Fredette, and he’s certainly a great player, but we felt coming into the game that the key was going to be trying to shut down the other four guys that were going to be on the floor with him,” Donovan said. “Because a lot of times you cannot dictate when he’s going to shoot the ball and where he’s going to shoot the ball from. Kenny did a terrific job defending him. One of the things we just tried to do was keep our shoulders parallel to half court and not get on the side of him.

“It’s like I said before, he’s going to take a lot of shots. The thing you want him to do is to take a lot of shots and you hope you’re not in a situation where he scores 52. He almost took as many shots as points he made. When I look at the stat sheet, the 32 points is misleading because of the number of shots it took him to get to 32. The key for us defending him [Thursday] was nobody left the floor. We all stayed down and nobody jumped. The first 13 minutes, he was trying to get us in the air to react to shots – and we never reacted. But he’s such a good scorer that, after that first 13 minutes, he started to kind of figure out some different ways to score – and he did.”

Senior F Chandler Parsons was especially complimentary of Boynton’s defense and noted that Fredette got frustrated because of the extra effort. “He did an unbelievable job just limiting his open looks. If you look back, pretty much every shot he took was off-balance,” he said. “Kenny was right there with him, staying down on him. If you look, he had 32 points, but it was a great job defensively we did on him making him take tough, long shots. Everyone gets frustrated out there. He’s seen pretty much every defense all year long. He’s been effective basically against everybody. You could definitely tell he was getting a little frustrated, and that’s just credit to our guys that were guarding him, especially Kenny Boynton.”

FRESH LEGS PROVIDE OVERTIME BOOST

Heading into overtime for a second-straight season against BYU, Florida started hot out of the gate and outscored their opponent by nine points in the final five minutes of the game. In addition to being more focused, mature and composed than 2010, the Gators were also fresher while the Cougars appeared quite winded.

“We just know how to stay focused and stay in the moment,” junior point guard Erving Walker said when asked why UF played so well in extra time. “They made a run to come back at the end of the second half, but we stayed together. We’re conditioned pretty good, and we got a lot of energy left in us.”

Fredette also noticed how well Florida handled playing an extra handful of minutes after a hard-fought game in regulation. “They definitely had fresh legs and were ready to go in that overtime,” he said.

That being noted, the Gators did have two opportunities to win the game in regulation and missed on both. First up was Boynton, who missed a nice look from beyond the arc but was bailed out by Walker, who chased down a rebound to give his team a second chance. “I was actually kind of lucky because I was supposed to get back after Kenny’s shot, but I just hung around a little bit and I saw the ball go to the corner, so I just made a hustle play and was able to come up with the ball,” Walker said of his extra effort.

Then Donovan drew up a play that was not likely to wind up in Parsons’s hands but did anyway. With less than five seconds to go, Parsons drove to the hoop but was met with four defenders and was unable to make the shot or draw a foul. “I was coming off a double screen, and I saw that the guy guarding me kind of jumped over,” Parsons said. I just wanted to make sure we got the last shot to not give them a “chance to get the ball back. I just went up and three-or-four guys jumped at me, so I really just tried to draw a foul and throw it up there. It didn’t slip or anything; it was just a forced shot.”

Ironically, it was the third time in two games against BYU that Parsons missed the final shot – he also failed to connect at the end of regulation and at the conclusion of the first overtime during the opening game of the NCAA Tournament in 2010.

QUOTES

Donovan’s opening statement (truncated): “I was really proud of our guys. Coming into the game, these guys prepared really hard. I thought they prepared well. […] Alex, on the glass, did a tremendous job. He was great tonight. He made shots, but he really was aggressive; he was active. Chandler really contributed and gave us what he normally gives us, an all-around game where he rebounded, gave assists and scored some. We were able to hold all their guys under double-figure points besides Fredette.”

Donovan on the perception that the team is about offense and how much the defense has improved: “Our [championship teams were] really underrated defensively. We were a great defensive team. This year’s team has gotten better. A couple things have happened. One, we’ve got some older guys that understand schemes, scouting reports and changing of defenses – changing coverages inside of a game. They’re pretty cerebral and they’re older so you can do that a little bit more with them. With the addition [of the freshmen], they give us a different defensive dimension.”

Donovan on Fredette’s ability to transition to the NBA: “There’s no question that he has the offensive capability to be a terrific NBA player. His biggest challenge is going to be: What kind of defensive player can he be? I know he’ll work hard at it, because he’s worked hard at every other part of his game, but the biggest question is going to be: What kind of effort he will really put in to defending?”

Walker on why it is tough to defend Fredette: “It was difficult because he’s a great player. He’s got a lot of combination moves. He can shoot from long distance and he can shoot at any time. We did a good job as a team, especially Kenny, defending him the whole game.”

Fredette on Boynton: “He did a pretty good job. He just contested shots. He’s athletic, a good defender.”

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Forget Fredette, Tyus proves Gators are elite as Florida tops BYU 83-74 in overtime

Trying to avoid comparisons to a match-up between the same two teams in the opening game of the 2010 NCAA Tournament all week, the Florida Gators found themselves in the same spot they were one year ago – tied with the Brigham Young Cougars at the end of regulation. However, No. 2-seed Florida (29-7) proved they are a more mature and composed team than they were last season, outscoring No. 3-seed BYU (32-5) by nine points in overtime to win the Southeast Regional Semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Tournament 83-74 at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA on Thursday night.

Senior forward Alex Tyus led the Gators with the best game of his career, scoring 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting to go along with 17 rebounds in an all-around effort that kept Florida in the game and helped them prevail in the end. UF’s guards were relentless on BYU star G Jimmer Fredette, who scored a game-high 32 points but did so on 11-of-29 shooting (3-for-15 from downtown) with six costly turnovers.

The Gators started out hot, hitting eight of their first nine shots from the field to take a 20-10 lead. A trio of three-pointers from Cougars G Jackson Emery kept the score close as Florida missed five-consecutive treys after starting 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.

Fredette, who started out 0-for-6 and was blocked three times in first half, hit his first shot of the game with 6:17 left before the break. As he heated up, BYU took off on a 16-5 run to and jumped ahead 32-30 on UF. With under three minutes to play before halftime, Fredette hit two layups while senior F Chandler Parsons and junior point guard Erving Walker each dropped in a three for the Gators. Walker went to the line for a one-and-one at the end of the half but missed the front end to send the game into halftime tied at 36.

The Gators came out of the break with an 8-0 run to take a 44-39 lead. Fredette quickly responded with five-straight points – including his first trey after starting 0-for-5 from downtown – to bring his team within two with 15:12 remaining. A 6-0 run by the Cougars a few minutes later jumped them ahead 50-49, but Florida answered back with a 12-5 scoring streak to quickly retake the lead.

Down six, Brigham Young looked to Fredette to get them back in the contest; he answered the call, capping an 8-2 run with a 30-foot three-pointer to tie the game at 63 with 4:59 to play. He would go on to score 32 of his team’s final 47 points in regulation.

UF and BYU traded field goals and free throws from there, and the Gators led by one with under a minute left and the clock winding down.

Suddenly, after a missed triple by Walker, Tyus was called for a questionable over-the-back foul, which sent Cougars F Kyle Collinsworth to the line with a chance for his team to take the lead. Collinsworth proceeded to make his first free throw but missed his second to leave the game tied at 68 and the ball in the Gators’ hands.

UF head coach Billy Donovan immediately called a timeout to draw up a play for sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, who missed a three with 25 seconds left. Walker rushed across the court to get the long rebound, allowing Donovan to call a second timeout and create another play. Parsons got the ball, drove down the right side and missed a short jumper to send the contest into overtime. It was the third time in as many tries that Parsons missed a potential game-winner against BYU in regulation or extra time.

Florida started hot out of the gate in the final five minutes, knocking down four-straight points and concluding the game by outscoring Brigham Young 15-6 in overtime while holding Fredette scoreless.

Three other Gators starters scored in double figures to complement Tyus’s career-best performance. Boynton dropped in 17 points on a relatively poor shooting night (5-of-14 from the floor, 4-of-13 from downtown), though he did hit 3-for-4 from the line and scored five-straight in overtime. Walker and Parsons each finished with 16; Walker added six rebounds and five assists, while Parsons contributed nine boards and seven dimes.

Florida redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, who saw double teams in the post most of the night, was 4-for-5 from the field for nine points with five rebounds.

Fredette did not get much help from his squad offensively as none of his teammates posted double-digit points. Emery and F Noah Hartsock each contributed nine points, but it was Collinsworth came up big for Brigham Young with a team-high 15 boards.

UF was more efficient than BYU overall, hitting a better percentage of their shots both from the floor (.477-.352) and from beyond the arc (.324-.270). However, the Cougars kept it close by making the most of their chances from the charity stripe, connecting on 14-of-16 attempts (87.5 percent) compared to the Gators only hitting on 10-of-22 tries (45.5 percent). Florida outrebounded BYU 42-39, dished 10 more assists (23-13), smacked four more blocks (5-1) and committed seven fewer fouls (12-19).

The teams set a NCAA Tournament record by combining for 71 three-point attempts.

With the victory, the Gators advance from the Sweet 16 to the Elite Eight for the fifth time in school history (1994, 2000, 2006-07). Florida has never in the Elite Eight, advancing to the Final Four on all four occasions.

UF will face No. 8-seed Butler on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The game will air live on CBS.

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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2011 NCAA Tournament: (2) Florida vs. (3) BYU

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16
Location: New Orleans Arena – New Orleans, LA [Capacity: 18,500]
Time: 7:27 p.m. (EST)

TV: TBS/ TBSHD
Online Video: —->
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (3) BYU COUGARS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Dave Rose
Record: 28-7 Record: 32-4
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Mountain West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -3; O/U 149
Note: The line has fluctuated slightly since it was initially released, dropping as low as -2 but as high as -4. You can bet on College Basketball at BetUS! The Gators are currently the second-most wagered-on team of the day and could cover for the spread for the third-straight game in the tournament.

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is making its second-straight and 16th overall NCAA Tournament appearance. The Gators are 31-13 all-time in the event with two national titles, three championship game appearances and four Final Four appearances.
» UF has advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinal for the seventh time in school history. The No. 2 seed is their second-highest opening position in school history, and their .705 all-time NCAA Tournament winning percentage is the highest in SEC history in front of Kentucky (.695) and Auburn (.600).
» BYU is making its 26th NCAA Tournament appearance. The Cougars are 14-28 all-time in the event and have earned a berth in eight of the last 11 seasons. The No. 3 seed is their highest in school history; they earned the same rank in 1980.
» Florida and BYU are meeting for the fourth time in the history of the two programs. The Cougars are 3-0 all-time against the Gators with all games being played at neutral sites. Before squaring off in 2010, the teams had not met since 1991 and prior to that 1959. BYU’s win last year in the tournament was their first since 1993.
» The two teams share the UCLA Bruins as a common opponent during the season. Florida defeated UCLA 73-65 on Saturday, and BYU lost to them 86-79 back on Dec. 18.
» Donovan is 24-8 all-time in the tournament including two national championships and three Final Four appearances. His .750 winning percentage at the Big Dance is fourth among active coaches and second all-time among SEC coaches. He is also the youngest active coach to win a national title (age 40 in 2006).
» The Gators are 15-3 against the 2011 NCAA field and finished the regular season with the third outright SEC championship in school history (1989, 2007). Florida has captured five overall SEC titles including four under Donovan (2000, 2001, 2007, 2011).
» UF averages a +14.0-point margin of victory in 24 NCAA wins under Donovan. They have not allowed a team to connect on more than six threes in the last seven games.
» The Gators are 23-2 when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» Florida has won 20 of their last 24 games (and 12 of their last 14 – only losses coming to Kentucky) including 17 against RPI top 100 teams.
» The Gators are the only NCAA Division I team not to have a player foul out of a game this season. They lead the nation in fewest fouls committed per game (14.5).
» UF is 10-3 when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10+ shots from the field. He has moved into the top 20 in school history in scoring (1,419 points) and is the only active Division I player with over 1,300 points, 800 rebounds, 300 assists and 125 steals. He also became the sixth player in school history with 500+ career field goals.
» Brigham Young senior guard Jimmer Fredette holds the school’s career, single-season and single-game scoring records.
» BYU bests Florida in three of four major national statistical categories. The Cougars lead the Gators in points per game 81.6-71.5 (8th-98th), rebounding 38.7-37.5 (16th-49th) and assists per contest 14.5-13.7 (65th-106th); however, Florida shoots better as a team from the field .462-.452 (51st-91st). The Gators also lead the Cougars in scoring defense with 62.7-67.4 points per game and rebound margin +5.9 to +3.0. Brigham Young, on the other hand, turns the ball over less per game 10.9-12.3 and forces more miscues 14.4-12.5. UF ranks 10th in RPI (.6353) and sixth in strength of schedule nationally compared to BYU being fifth (.6462) and 22nd, respectively.

LAST TIME OUT…

Florida and BYU met in the opening game in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The Gators had opportunities to win the contest at the end of regulation and conclusion of the first overtime, but Parsons missed both shots and the Cougars pulled away during the second overtime to earn a hard-fought 99-92 victory. Fredette led the way for his squad with 37 points including two treys in the second OT (he only hit one the rest of the game), helping his team outscore UF 18-11 in the final five minutes.

KNOW THE OPPONENT

Coming out of the MWC, No. 3-seed BYU defeated No. 14-seed Wofford 74-66 in first round action before thrashing No. 11-seed Gonzaga 89-67 in the round of 32. Fredette finished 7-for-12 from downtown and 11-of-23 from the floor; though he had trouble in the first half, he found his stride later in the game. The Cougars finished the regular season as a top-10 team and co-MWC regular season champions, splitting the honor with San Diego State. BYU is 9-2 against teams ranked in the RPI top 50.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Parsons…the 2011 SEC Player of the Year and a unanimous All-SEC First Team selection…who is averaging double-digit points (11.4) while leading the Gators with 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He is sporting a 15:4 assist-to-turnover ratio in the NCAA Tournament, which is much improved compared to his season average.
» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who was marred in a shooting slump but has rebounded and is still leading his team in scoring with 14.7 points per game while also leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.421) and three-point percentage (.393). Walker also leads Florida in both turnovers (82) and steals (39). He is shooting 62.5 percent (10-of-16) from the field and 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from downtown in the NCAA Tournament. Walker is averaging a team-best 19.5 points in those games while also hitting 80 percent (12-of-15) of his attempts from the line.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but was struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is shooting 38.2 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 14.0 points per game and makes a team-high 82.4 percent of his free throws. He has scored in double figures in 14-straight games and has made at least one three-pointer in each of those contests.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 58.1 percent from the floor as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.3 points and 5.4 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage and is the only starter who does not score in double digits. He averages just 8.6 points and 5.7 boards each game.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging approximately 17.5 minutes per game. Wilbekin leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.33:1), while Young averages 3.5 points and 3.8 boards.
» BYU’s Fredette…the 2011 MWC Player of the Year and a unanimous All-MWC First Team selection…who is averaging a team-high 28.8 points in 35.5 minutes per game while also leading his squad with 4.3 assists each contest. Fredette shoots 45.5 percent from the field, an astounding 40.6 percent from beyond the arc and also hits 89.1 percent of his free throw attempts.
» Cougars G Jackson Emery…who is second on the team to Fredette in points (12.6), assists (2.7) and free throw shooting (82.9 percent). He averages 32.5 minutes each game and hits 35.9 percent from downtown.
» BYU F Noah Hartsock…who is the team’s leading rebounder with Brandon Davies on suspension. Hartsock grabs 5.9 boards per contest and is the team’s best three-point shooter on average with 44.6 percent accuracy. He scores 8.6 points per game, shoots 50.4 percent from the field and makes 82.1 percent of his shots from the charity stripe.

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Florida Gators ready for Sweet 16 tip-off vs. BYU

With the 2011 NCAA Tournament Southeast Regional Semifinal game between the No. 2-seed Florida Gators (28-7) and No. 3-seed BYU Cougars (32-4) just hours away from getting underway, there are a number of storylines being discussed going into the contest. OGGOA has compiled some of the latest news and notes surrounding the Florida-BYU game airing live on TBS Thursday evening at 7:27 p.m.

WHAT SORE ANKLE?

Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton sprained his ankle on Saturday against UCLA, but if you ask him or his teammates how he’s doing, you would never know he hurt it in the first place. “[He’s] fine. You couldn’t even tell that he twisted it,” senior forward Alex Tyus said. Boynton was 100 percent positive he would be playing without any issues on Thursday. “My status is good. I practiced fully [Wednesday],” he said. “I did every drill. I’m going to be good tomorrow. I’m confident.”

Head coach Billy Donovan provided a more substantial update on Boynton’s health and mobility. “He was in a position to practice [Tuesday], and the trainer wanted to hold him out and rest him another day. He went through practice [Tuesday] without any contact. All the running drills, moving drills, shooting drills, he did all those things. [Wednesday] he was full go. He was in full contact,” Donovan said. “He appeared to be moving well, has not said or given me any indication he’s having any issues or any problems with his ankle. We expect him to be fine [Thursday] night and to be able to play. He probably could have gone [Tuesday], but they just wanted to give him that extra time to at least get back in the flow, move, shoot, cut and then see if there was any kind of lasting effect from the injury, and there didn’t seem to be. […] I didn’t notice anything differently with him favoring it, him trying to protect himself at all today in practice. He did everything that everybody else did and was in there the whole entire time.”

REVENGE? WHAT 2010 GAME?

Like Boynton’s ankle, Florida’s loss in the opening game of the 2010 NCAA Tournament to BYU never happened if you talk to the Gators starters. Not only is UF not out for “revenge,” they are confident that there are few similarities between the two contests.

“We pretty much put that game in the past,” redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin said. “Coach Donovan told us it happened last year, and it was a great game. […] We’re just going to try to go out there and play defense because it’s a great team. We’re going to put that game in the past and just get ready to play. […] There’s no revenge. It’s just a regular game for us. And for them, also. The game happened last year was a great game. We lost first round of the tournament; they went on and won. But it’s no revenge, we just want to go out there and play against anybody and it happens to be BYU and they’re ready to play and we’re ready to play.”

Tyus and fellow senior F Chandler Parsons echoed Macklin’s sentiments on the subject. “We’re just excited to play tomorrow. No revenge. It could have been anybody we were going to play against, and we’re just ready to play tomorrow,” Tyus said after Parsons provided his own thoughts. “Us going into the game, we’re just worried about their team this year. We can’t be worried about what we did good last year, what we did bad last year,” he said. “We’ve just got to come in. We have a new team; they have a new team, new personnel. So it’s just going to be us against them. We’re playing them right now, so that’s all we can worry about. We can’t worry about the past or the future.”

Donovan remembers that game and notices that the Cougars are much improved from a year ago even though there won’t be any carry over. “They’re better because [their players have improved]. They are a physical team. They’re a very aggressive team. They’re a great steal team,” he said. “We’re not playing the same team we played a year ago; we’re playing a team that’s better than they were a year ago. So for us, and I’ve said to people, unless they’re going to take points from the last time we played them or rebounds or assists, that game has nothing to do with this game tomorrow. What we can take from the game is having a familiarity in terms of their personnel.”

That being said, the Gators have also vastly improved and are entering the contest with a different mindset. ”We’re more focused coming into this game,” Boynton said. “We’re mature. We’re focused more on defense, taking more charges than we did last year. We’re ready to play.” Added Walker, “We’ve been doing a great job all year with scouting. This week has been no different. Coach prepared us very well and we should be ready to go come [Thursday] night.”

TYUS “SACRIFICING” FOR THE TEAM

Though his numbers may be the worst in his college career, the intangibles Tyus has been bringing to the court night-in and night-out are being overlooked by many – just not his teammates. “Alex is doing a great job right now. We love the way he is playing. He brings a lot of energy from the tip to the end of the game,” Macklin said. “He’s all about winning. I don’t think numbers matter to any of us,” Parsons added. “He’s really bought in to our whole system and what he needs to do. He’s done a great job and brings energy every game, great defense. We wouldn’t be here without him.”

Tyus scoffs at the notion that he is doing any sacrificing, saying he is just doing what is needed to help the team win. “I really wouldn’t think of it much as sacrifice. Those different things of helping the team win, those are easy,” he said. “Trying to get offensive rebounds and trying to do well on defense and trying to bring energy is something that comes natural for me. That helped a lot to get just to this point. A lot of the guys have been doing well, helping me out as far as telling me they need me. We’re doing great, and I’m really happy about it.” Because of those efforts, Tyus feels his performance this year has been as good – if not better – than prior seasons. “It’s been a great year. I’ve grown a lot as a player just trying to do other things to impact the game and impact winning,” he said. “Whenever you make it to the Sweet 16 and you’re starting and helping the team get to this point, it definitely feels like my best year.”

GUARDING FREDETTE

Florida will be guarding BYU star guard Jimmer Fredette as a team, but most of the onus will fall on Boynton’s shoulders. Watching extensive film on his opponent over the last week, he has noticed changes in his game and has decided to adapt his defensive mindset against him. “He’s definitely more aggressive,” Boynton said of Fredette. “Last year he was scoring, but he’s way more aggressive this year. He’s expanded his range – shooting from very deep. Overall he’s gotten better as a player.” How will he combat that? “Last year I didn’t really know too much. I’ve seen him a lot this year. I’m going to try to pick him up at half court this year and make it tough for him – every shot he shoots. That’s the main thing – making him take tough shots.”

Junior point guard Erving Walker, who likes to shoot from well beyond the three-point line as well, noticed that Fredette takes it a step further. “We can’t pick him up at the three-point line, because he’ll shoot it just as he cross half court. That’s a strength of his,” he said.

BIG STAGE FOR THE FRESHMEN

For freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young, Thursday’s tip will be the most important basketball game – on the largest stage – that either has participated in. This is not a fact lost on the youngsters who average over 17 minutes per game off the bench.

“There was a state championship in high school in AAU, but it was nothing like being in the Sweet 16,” Wilbekin noted. “It’s still basketball, so you just got to play your game and play hard.” Young has a similar mindset. “I’m just taking it one step at a time,” he said. “Nothing in my life has been like this – on such a large scale. This is the biggest basketball game I’ve ever been in, but I’m not going to let it affect how I play.”

QUOTES

Parsons on BYU aside from Fredette: “We had so many careless turnovers where it led to easy baskets for them. People always underestimate everyone on their team. And I think we’ve got a good understanding going in there how good they are from playing them last year. And it’s just not Jimmer Fredette, the other guys are very good players and they understand their role, and they don’t get a lot of credit, but we’re not just focused on Jimmer, we’re focused on their entire team.”

Tyus on BYU aside from Fredette: “A lot of people lose sight of how good the other guys are playing off of Jimmer, and I feel like the key to doing a good job on them is to stop the other guys, too.”

Donovan on facing BYU in 2010 compared to 2011: “We realize going into the game that we’re going to have to play a lot better than we did a year ago, and in the game we played a year ago, we didn’t win. I think coming out of that game we can probably at least have a feel of size, athleticism. There’s a little bit of familiarity in terms of style of play, and I do think at this time in the NCAA Tournament where a lot of times there’s not a lot of familiarity because you’re seeing opponents that maybe you see on TV and don’t know a lot about. So we’re playing against a terrific team. We’re excited about the opportunity to play and advance to this point in time, and we’re playing against a team that you win 30-plus games in this day and age in college basketball, they’re very good.


 

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3/23: Florida’s Sweet 16 press conference quotes

Arriving in New Orleans, LA for their Sweet 16 match-up against the No. 3-seed BYU Cougars in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan along with senior Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin met with the media to discuss a number of topics. OGGOA has compiled most of those quotes for you below (click the link below) with the rest coming in a post Thursday afternoon.

Continue Reading » 3/23: Florida’s Sweet 16 press conference quotes

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Lineup choices may decide Florida-BYU game

By Malik Grady – OGGOA Columnist

In October 2005, the Villanova Wildcats received depressing news. Forward Curtis Sumpter, who had torn his ACL that April, had reinjured himself and would likely miss the entire upcoming season. At the time, head coach Jay Wright made the unconventional decision not to replace Sumpter with a forward; instead he decided to use a four-guard lineup as his team’s base set rather than just a change of pace.

Villanova began the year ranked No. 4, lost only three regular season games and advanced to the Elite Eight, losing to the eventual champion Florida Gators.

In a bit of a parallel, BYU Cougars head coach Dave Rose has also chosen to take a somewhat unconventional route to replace suspended sophomore F Brandon Davies. Blessed with a senior backcourt of all-time BYU steals leader Jackson Emery and All-American Jimmer Fredette, Rose has chosen to the duo play all 40 minutes while going with four guards and 6’8” F Noah Hartsock to round out the starting five.

The players who have seen their minutes increase the most in Davies’ absence have been the guards and wing players rather than the two taller players on the roster: 6’8” Stephen Rogers and 6’10” James Anderson. It’s interesting to compare the Cougars’ rotation and bench compared with their Sweet 16 opponent Gators, especially when you look at how the minutes have been distributed over the last seven games:

FLORIDA (minutes per game)
5’8” G Erving Walker (32.5) – 6’2” G Scottie Wilbekin (17.1)
6’2” G Kenny Boynton (32.5) – 6’6” G/F Casey Prather (6.7)
6’9” F Chandler Parsons (33.7) – 6’7” F Will Yeguete (7.1)
6’8” F Alex Tyus (24.4) – 6’9” F Erik Murphy (11.1)
6’10” C Vernon Macklin (24.3) – 6’9” F/C Patric Young (17.9)

BYU (minutes per game – season)
6’3” G Jackson Emery (32.5) – 6’0” G Nick Martineau (4.8)
6’2” G Jimmer Fredette (35.5) – 6’6” G/F Brock Zylstra (4.8)
6’6” G Kyle Collinsworth (25.4) – 6’6” F Logan Magnusson (11.4)
6’5” G/F Charles Abouo (20.7) – 6’8” F Stephen Rogers (10.0)
6’8” F Noah Hartsock (29.4) – 6’10” F/C James Anderson (7.8)

BYU (minutes per game – since suspension)
Fredette (38.7, + 3.2) – Emery (35.4, +2.9)
Hartsock (30.9, +1.4) – Collinsworth (30.1, +4.7)
Abouo (27.7, +7.0) – Magnusson (15.7, +4.3)
Rogers (8.3, -3.1) – Anderson (8.7, -0.9)
Zylstra (3.7, -1.1) -Martineau (1.5, -3.3)

The Sweet 16 match-up between the Cougars and Gators may come down to which team blinks first. Florida has three players that normally play double-figure minutes off the bench. Since Davies’ departure, BYU has only one that does so: Magnusson.

If the young men from Provo are able to maintain the top-10 national offensive efficiency and top-20 tempo going with the 6’5” Abouo and 6’6” Collinsworth, they may force UF head coach Billy Donovan to go with a smaller lineup. Conversely, if the comparatively huge front line of Florida (starters and reserves) are able to punish BYU’s smaller lineup, Rose may be have to play Rogers and Anderson more than he’d like.

The other question that immediately comes to mind is whether Emery and Fredette can continue to play effectively without being substituted. Considering their conditioning playing in high altitude, there should not be any doubt they can do so physically. No, the question is whether the 5’8” Walker and 6’2” Boynton can manage to cause any foul trouble for the BYU backcourt at all.

Fredette is notoriously uninterested in playing defense (managing, for example, to escape without being called for a single foul vs. Gonzaga), but Emery’s reputation as a defensive standout will at least be tested by the often unpredictable decisions of Walker in the lane and on the break.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Parsons, Fredette, Larson

1 » With Kyle Orton as a veteran “starter,” and Tim Tebow as a second-year up-and-comer and Brady Quinn as an emergency safety valve, the Denver Broncos will not be drafting a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft…or will they? Denver has been taking a very close look at a number of athletic rookie QBs including Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick…even though they already have one in Tebow on their roster. Asked why they are paying so much attention to the position, Broncos president John Elway said the following to the Denver Post: “We’re always looking for that guy. We may already have the guy who can pull the trigger and win us a championship someday. We may have him. We don’t know. We believe in Tim, but he’s not there yet.” Elway and Denver are also taking a look at defensive tackle, a position they will likely end up drafting – or so Tebow should hope.

2 » Speaking with Chris Dortch for an article posted on NBA.com, Florida Gators forward Chandler Parsons praised the game of former Boston Celtics star F Larry Bird, someone who the writer brought up in conversation because of the way he impacted games as a facilitator. “Oh, I’m a big Larry Bird fan,” Parsons said of the player’s NBA spread. “I always thought Larry Bird played basketball the way it ought to be played.” Dortch put Parsons up against his “Bill Russell Test” to determine if he has the chance to be successful playing at the next level. He also spoke with NBA director of scouting Ryan Blake about Parsons. “One of his advantage is that he has a number of skills he does well,” Blake said. “He shoots the ball. He’s got size. He passes very well. He’s a rebounder. And he’s a hard worker and has a professional approach.”

3 » Though BYU Cougars guard Jimmer Fredette had his way with Florida in 2010 – especially in the two overtime periods – he is well-aware that the Gators are a much improved team this time around. “They’re just better because they’re more experienced and have played together for two years,” he told the Associated Press. “They won two games in the NCAA Tournament together as a team and they’re used to winning.” He also discussed how Florida might guard him. “I think they’re just going to be really tenacious…run at my ball screens hard, maybe double them and try to get the bal out of my hands,” Fredette said.

4 » Freshman F Cody Larson will be redshirting this season and has spent every game from the bench watching his teammates achieve great success. Donovan praised Larson’s contributions during a media availability at the beginning of March, but assistant Larry Shyatt expanded on those comments to The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway. “He’s been terrific,” Shyatt said. “He’s helped our frontline get better this year. Great work ethic, improved offensively, inside and out. We’re excited he’s going to be eligible next season.” Though Larson himself says sitting is “tough,” he understands the reasoning. “I’m looking at it like I’m not going to play if I don’t get better,” he said. “I just need to keep improving.”

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3/21: Donovan on Boynton’s ankle, facing BYU

Two days after his team advanced to the Southeast Regional Semifinal of the 2011 NCAA Tournament after defeating the No. 7-seed UCLA Bruins 73-65, No. 2-seed Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to discuss his team and its upcoming game against the No. 3-seed BYU Cougars on Thursday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the press conference.

SIGNS POINTING TO “GO” FOR BOYNTON

As sophomore guard Kenny Boynton laid on the court in agony Saturday with the game up for grabs, Florida’s chances of advancing looked to have suffered a setback. Just minutes later, Boynton returned from getting his sprained ankle taped up by the trainers and continued to play as UF took down UCLA. Immediately after the game, Donovan noted the Boynton had suffered a mild sprain and would likely miss practice this week but be good-to-go on Thursday against BYU. He reinforced that opinion on Monday.

“We fully expect him to play. He’s not going to do anything [Monday] in practice,” he said. “He definitely has some discomfort there, but I don’t feel like it’s a discomfort that will prevent him from playing. […] I’m still a little bit cautious of where he’s at because I haven’t seen him sprint, cut, change direction, do those kind of things. Kenny has had some ankle problems during his career. He has sprained that ankle quite a bit; he’s had to deal with it at different times during his career. I also think there’s probably a mental hurdle for him that he’s going to need to get over.”

Boynton, who is neither wearing a walking boot nor utilizing crutches, has already seen the swelling go down. Like in the 2010 match-up, he would have been tasked with defending Cougars star G Jimmer Fredette the majority of the time on Saturday. With a tender ankle, Boynton will probably have some help in that endeavor this time around.

“There’s going to be a lot of guys on [Fredette],” Donovan said. “Last year, because of our lack of depth, Boynton was having such a good offensive night he got worn out as we got into the first overtime, second overtime. I don’t think it can be one guy. Whoever’s going to be on him, they’re going to be on an island by themselves.”

That being said, Donovan does believe Boynton is the team’s best on-the-ball defender, comparing him to Corey Brewer and Justin Hamilton in terms of athleticism and ability to avoid screens. “What makes him good is he’s got great, great feet and he’s got great lateral movement. He can play close enough to people and keep people out of the lane,” he said. “He can really spread himself out, and athletically he can really move his feet. Because of his feet and his speed, he’s a guy that can get off and around screens.”

FIGURING OUT FREDETTE

Donovan had a chance to see Fredette last year, months before the hype machine surrounding him really got underway. Since then, he has been enthusiastic about what Fredette has been able to accomplish. “It’s pretty impressive what he has been able to do coming out of last year, taking his game and his team to a different level than they were a year ago,” he said. “I always have great admiration and respect when somebody can do what he did last year, have the publicity and exposure that he had last year, and then do it even better this year.”

Due to his experience coaching against Fredette, Donovan knows that there is no stopping him – but it is possible to contain him. “I really thought we did a pretty nice job defending Fredette last year. In regulation he had 23 points and then he exploded in the overtimes and ended up with 37,” he said. “If you look at the stat sheet, it was really the other players. They made 10 three-point shots in the game a year ago, and Fredette made three of them. There were other guys on that stat sheet that played well.”

That being said, Donovan also realizes that there is no underestimating or overlooking what Fredette brings to the table. “He’s going to make some very difficult shots,” he said. “Every game that he’s played, everybody’s trying to stop him, everybody’s trying to slow him down. He still averages 28 a game; he still does it regardless.”

TYUS THE UNSUNG HERO

With a career-high 13 rebounds on Saturday, senior forward Alex Tyus’s contributions against UCLA were certainly overlooked by the majority of fans and analysts. What Tyus was able to do throughout the game did not get past Donovan, who provided him with plenty of praise on Monday. “The one thing that got lost on the game that no one really talked about was Alex Tyus’s rebounding the last two minutes of the game – where we limited them to one shot and at least we closed the gap on the rebounding margin,” he said before discussing Tyus’s performance as a whole this season.

“I am really proud of him. People hear me talk about Chandler [Parsons], and there’s been a lot of talk about Chandler just because he was [SEC] Player of the Year and there was a lot more attention on Chandler and the way Chandler was playing the last eight games of the year. But I have an enormous amount of respect for Alex, just his attitude and the way he’s approached this year.

“He has been all about the team. He has been all about winning. The one thing we’ve tried to explain to Alex is, because of his athleticism, he can have an impact on the game regardless of if he gets the ball or doesn’t get the ball. His impact on the game was huge; we were getting killed on the backboard. We had 10 rebounds in the first half; Alex had six of them. And then he got seven in the second half.

Erving Walker’s points overshadowed really a big part [of the win]. Those plays kind of get lost. Alex has had a great year. His points may not be what they were, but he’s given up very similar to what [Joakim] Noah, [Al] Horford and Brewer have done for the betterment of our team. He could score more points, but I’m not so sure our team would be where it could be. I do have confidence that, on any given night, Alex could get 20 points. We do need his energy, we do need his rebounding, and we do need his defense. When he does that, it really adds a dimension to our frontcourt.”

QUOTES

On the game being a rematch from 2010: “We could play better than we played last year in the NCAA Tournament and still not beat these guys. […] For us to even think about last year, we have our hands filled just worrying about this BYU team this year. Because this year, they’re better than they were a year ago. We could play better than we did a year ago and still not beat this team.”

On whether or not Florida has improved as well: “We are better as a team, but that does not necessarily mean we are going to play better in the game. […] We’re a little bit of a deeper team than maybe we were a year ago.”

On BYU as a team: “They’re a better team than they were a year ago. Jimmer certainly gets a lot of publicity and a lot of exposure, but it’s really their whole team. He’s certainly a hard guy to defend and stop, but they’ve also got some other good players.”

On Walker controlling the game: “What Erving’s got to understand is, he can’t just think at the end of the game, ‘OK, I’m just going to go right now,’ because he’s got to make the right decision. He can’t allow his competitiveness put our team at a disadvantage.”

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