1/22: Donovan disucsses bounce back victory

The Florida Gators (15-4, 4-1 SEC) put together arguably their most complete game of the season Saturday in a dominating 75-43 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks (12-6, 2-3 SEC) just two days after escaping a potentially resume-killing loss in a close 45-40 win on the road against Auburn. Head coach Billy Donovan and a few players spoke to the media after Saturday night’s game.

STRONG PERFORMANCE FROM START-TO-FINISH

For every disappointing showing that Florida has put forth this season, they have seemed to match it with an impressive performance. The juxtaposition between Thursday’s nail-biting win and Saturday’s rout could not have been greater.

“From start-to-finish, it was a real complete game for us. We’ve had some games where we’ve had some double-digit leads going into the half and we haven’t come out and handled it always the best. Our guys really did [that] in the second half,” Donovan recounted. “There was a limited amount of physical work we did, but there was a lot of mental work. Larry Shyatt, he scouted the game, I thought he really did a terrific job. There’s a fine line, when you have a one-day prep day, you can overload your guys mentally. […] He just tried to simplify it.”

He also spoke about what it took for the Gators to rebound from what was no doubt a depressing performance on the road. “Tonight was a display of their resiliency. I love that about those guys,” Donovan said. “But there’s times where I want to see more fire, more passion, more energy, more excitement, enthusiasm when the game is not going their way. I’d like to see a little bit more of that.”

VICTORY HAS A GREATER LONG-TERM SIGNIFICANCE

Aside from proving that Florida is resilient at times, Saturday’s game also showed that the Gators are able to forget about negatives and move forward as a team. Donovan, still shell-shocked by his team’s performance Thursday, explained it thoroughly.

“It was important because I thought our guys, mentally coming out of the Auburn game, had never ever been through anything like that before. I had never been through anything like that before,” he said. “I mean we shot 27 percent from the field and 19 percent from the three-point line and we scored 45 points in a game against a team that’s 0-4 [in the SEC] at the time and 7-10 in the league. And that’s not any disrespect to Auburn. When you have a game like that, I think it was important how we responded on a one-day turnaround. That’s what I was more concerned about.”

UF handled that turnaround quite well it seems, but Donovan remains concerned whether or not Florida can keep up the momentum once again on such short rest. “The goal is – we play this well tonight – can we come back on Tuesday and play better than we did today? That’s the challenge you try to get across to them,” he said. “[You try] to get them to say, ‘OK, we need to try to get better.’”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Florida rebounds with 75-43 rout of Arkansas

Two days after scoring a total of 45 points in a close win against Auburn on the road, the Florida Gators (15-4, 4-1 SEC) put up 39 in the first half alone and went on to demolish the Arkansas Razorbacks (12-6, 2-3 SEC) 75-43 on Saturday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida rebounded from the worst offensive performance in head coach Billy Donovan‘s tenure in the Orange and Blue with what can only be considered an offensive explosion by comparison.

The Gators made it a point to force the ball inside the paint to the bigs at the beginning of the game. After the Razorbacks’ first basket, redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin scored eight-straight points and senior F Alex Tyus added a layup to complete a 10-0 run. Florida would follow that up with an impressive 12-0 run to jump ahead 29-11 with 7:03 left in the first.

Looking to make a statement heading into the locker rooms, the Gators ended the opening half on an 8-0 run, which included sophomore guard Kenny Boynton’s second three-pointer of the game, to go up 23 points at the break.

Florida shot 57.1 percent from the field, 50 percent from downtown and 66.7 percent from the line in the first half. They also made 16 shots – one more than they did throughout the entire game on Thursday.

Going back-and-forth much of the second half, the Gators led by 31 a number of times before ending the contest up a game-high 32 points when freshman G/F Casey Prather completed an alley-oop dunk with the clock winding down.

Boynton, breaking out of a slump he has suffered through most of the season, scored a game-high 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting while connecting on 4-of-7 attempts from downtown. Macklin and Tyus each posted 13 points and went a combined 11-for-17 from the floor. Held scoreless in the first half, Parsons ended up with five points, a career-high 15 rebounds and a game-high five assists.

Florida’s reserves were just as efficient as the starters with Prather, sophomore F Erik Murphy and freshman C Patric Young each scoring six points on a combined 14 shots. Tyus added seven boards while Macklin, Young and Prather contributed four apiece.

UF also excelled on defense Saturday, holding Arkansas’ leading scorer G Rotnei Clarke scoreless on two attempts. Forwards Delvon Johnson and Marshawn Powell led the Razorbacks with 12 and 10 points, respectively.

The Gators dominated every aspect of the game; they not only shot better but also out-rebounded their opponent 41-26, dished 13 more assists (18-5), grabbed two more steals (6-4), blocked four more shots (5-1) and committed six fewer turnovers (7-13). Florida held Arkansas to 30 percent shooting from the field and 15.4 percent from downtown while keeping their second-straight opponent from scoring 45 points. In fact, the Gators’ two-game opponent point total of 83 points is the lowest ever in Southeastern Conference play under Donovan.

Florida hopes to keep the momentum going as they travel to face Georgia on the road on Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN.

Photo Credit: Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun-Associated Press

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Florida Gators vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Gameday

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: FSN/FSNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Sirius/XM: -/199
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Pelphrey
Record: 14-4 (3-1) Record: 12-5 (2-2)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -9

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Arkansas 13-10, is 9-2 in the last 11 meetings and 3-0 the last three times the teams have met including a 71-66 victory on the road in 2010. Donavan is 13-5 against the Razorbacks, which includes a 7-0 record at home.
» The Gators finished 6-0 against the SEC West last season, are 52-16 since 2000 (30-4 at home) and are 2-0 this season including wins over Ole Miss and Auburn.
» Struggling offensively most of the season, Florida scored 77.3 points per game in three games from Jan. 8-15 while shooting 46.9 percent (23-for-49) from three-point range. However, all of that changed Thursday as the Gators scored only 45 points while shooting 28.3 percent (15-of-53) from the field and 19.2 percent from downtown (5-of-26) against Auburn in the worst offensive performance in Donovan’s UF career.
» Florida has won 9 of its last 11 games with six victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» The Gators are 10-1 when holding an opponent under 60 points this season.
» Florida has out-rebounded 14 of 18 opponents this season but only one of their four opponents in SEC competition, doing so by a +6.8 rebounds per game advantage.
» Arkansas is a defensive machine this season, leading the Southeastern Conference in blocked shots (6.8 per game), steals (9.4 per game) and turnover margin (+2.9).
» The Gators best the Razorbacks in three of four major statistical categories nationally. Florida holds advantages in rebounding 64th-180th (37.9-35.2), assists 85th-173rd (14.4-13.1) and field goal percentage 82nd-158th (.459-.441), while Arkansas scores more points 112th-165th (72.2-69.8) on average. The Gators rank 17th in RPI (.6316) and 11th in strength of schedule nationally compared to the Razorbacks being 102nd (.5397) and 180th, respectively.
» Donovan will face Pelphrey, a former assistant of his for eight years at Marshall and UF, and assistant coach Brett Nelson, a former player under Donovan at Florida.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.4 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (44.9%) and three-point percentage (42.7%). He has single-handedly accounted for 41 of Florida’s 104 treys this season. Walker became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points, accomplishing the feat one week ago.
» Senior forward Chandler Parsons…who is back to averaging double-digit points (10.3) while leading the Gators with 6.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-high 56.4 percent as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 10.7 points and 6.3 rebounds a game while being a major presence for Florida.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably UF’s most talented player but has been marred in a slump this year. Boynton is only shooting 36.2 percent from the field and 28.9 percent from beyond the arc. He is second on the team in scoring with 12.4 points per game and hits a team-high 77.1 percent of his free throws.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are the Gators primary reserves averaging 17.6 and 16.0 minutes per game, respectively. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads Florida in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.4:1), while Young is the team’s most efficient scorer at 57.5 percent.
» Arkansas G Rotnei Clarke…who leads his team in scoring at 13.0 points per game and is second in free throw shooting, hitting at a 80.5 percent clip.
» Razorbacks F Delvon Johnson…who leads his squad as a shooter and rebounder. Johnson hits 56.1 percent of his shots and grabs 8.0 boards per game.

DONOVAN’s FRIDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY

After Thursday’s close win against Auburn, Donovan spoke to the media and had some interesting thoughts about his team’s performance.

On his team’s poor shooting Thursday: “I felt watching the film that our guys had pretty decent looks. Were there some ill-advised threes? Absolutely. Were there some ill-advised post moves that guys tried to make in traffic? Yes. Overall I thought we had pretty decent looks. Our guys got pretty good looks from the perimeter. The more shots don’t go down, the more they can back up into your post.”

On how he feels in general looking back on the game: “Happy it’s over. I’ve never been a part of a game like that. […] Hopefully it drives home a message to our guys. This was a game in which our offense was not there, we didn’t shoot the ball very well, it was a difficult grind for us offensively, but our guys managed to play relatively good defense.”

On the shooting problems: “I felt, in the game, that our guys were not shooting the ball with confidence when they were open. What you try to do is, you try to keep encouraging, trying to instill confidence that they have to take those shots and shoot the ball with confidence when they’re open.”

On the team taking so many threes: “You can want to throw the ball inside as much as you want to throw the ball inside, but if they’re going to send two and three guys inside on a post guy and you got Erving Walker or Kenny Boynton or Chandler Parsons or Scottie out there on the perimeter open… I don’t want our post guys shooting out of triple teams. I don’t want Vernon Macklin taking a turn-around jump shot with two guys on him. You always have got to take what the defense gives you.”

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Walker leads Gators past Razorbacks, women lose

Sophomore point guard Erving Walker turned in a career-high 27 points to lead the Florida Gators (13-5, 2-2 SEC) over the Arkansas Razorbacks (8-10, 1-2 SEC) 71-66 on the road at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, AR. Walker began the game by hitting his first five shots (four from downtown) and finished 7-of-12 (5-of-6) on the night.

Junior forward Alex Tyus started 0-for-5 but finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds for the eighth double-double of his career. Tyus hit the boards hard in the second half, as did fellow junior F Chandler Parsons who left with 11 rebounds but only six points on 1-of-8 shooting after initially going 0-for-7. Razorbacks’ guard Courtney Fortson completed a double-double of his own with 14 points and 11 assists, while G Rotnei Clarke led Arkansas with 17 points shooting 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.

The Gators started the game 2-of-12 from the field and 0-for-3 from downtown until Walker made a three to tie it up at 11. He finished the half with 15 points while the rest of the team was only 4-of-25 from the field and 0-for-6 from three for 11 total points. Walker continued his dominance in the second half with an opening trey, a shot that gave him Florida’s last 10 points on both sides of the break.

A 10-2 run by the Razorbacks would tie the game, and a three-point play by Fortson gave Arkansas the lead back for the first time in the second half. Clarke would go on to score 11-straight points for the Razorbacks including a three that put Arkansas back up 56-55 with 6:40 remaining. However, the Gators countered with a 9-0 run, would eventually take a game-high nine-point lead and were able to hold on from there.

Freshman G Kenny Boynton contributed 13 points but was only 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. Senior F Dan Werner and freshman F Erik Murphy were a combined 0-for-7 from the field; Werner was ineffective throughout the contest while Murphy was tentative in the paint and missed a number of easy layups and put-backs.

Florida was able to out-rebound Arkansas 42-29. The Gators only shot 35.5 percent from the field compared to 44.2 percent by the home team, but made 21-of-26 free throws against Arkansas’ 12-of-17 from the charity stripe.

The Gators return home to face the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN.
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The Florida women’s basketball team (10-9, 3-3 SEC) lost 82-58 on the road in Tuscaloosa, AL, to the Alabama Crimson Tide (9-10, 1-5 SEC) at the Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide were previously winless in conference play before absolutely throttling the Gators Thursday night. Florida’s 24-point loss was their worst this season. Tierney Jenkins led Alabama with a double-double on 28 points and 12 rebounds while Celiscia Farmer and Ericka Russell added 19 and 18 points, respectively. Senior forward Sharielle Smith was the Gators’ most productive player with nine points and nine rebounds.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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