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.”
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.
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.”