The three-seed Florida Gators (29-8) collapsed in their most important game of the season on Sunday as they got routed 79-59 by the four-seed Michigan Wolverines (30-7) in the Elite Eight of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and a number of his players met with the media to discuss what transpired in their failed Final Four bid.
“They capitalized on our turnovers. I thought we dug ourselves a hole very early in the game. … I think in the first half we missed 11 shots within three feet of the basket. They got off to a hot start and us not being able to manufacture enough points I thought really, really dug us a hole. I thought we got the ball where we wanted to go. … But I thought our guys – to start the second half came out – we battled, we fought, but we hurt ourselves with the way we played. … I just didn’t think that we did enough things there on both ends of the floor. I thought our defense in the second half was a little bit more characteristic of the way we’ve played this year. I thought our offense in a lot of ways, because we had some very, very, I thought, good quality looks deflated us around the basket. Especially against a team that’s not a great shot blocking team.”
THIRD TIME IS NOT A CHARM
Florida became the first team in NCAA Tournament history (since the field expanded to 64 teams) to lose three-straight times in the Elite Eight. Yet while the Gators did drop the game, they did not even have the opportunity to choke it away like the previous two years because UF never led at any point in the game. In fact, once Michigan opened the contest on a 13-0 run, Florida never trailed by fewer than 11 points over the duration of the contest. It is for that reason why Donovan was not emotional after the game.
“This is a totally different feel than the last two. The last two to me we gave ourselves every opportunity to win,” he explained.
“The Butler game was an overtime game, the Louisville game was a two point game. This one we didn’t play well enough or deserve to win the game. Michigan deserved this game. They played better than us. They performed better. They did things that were necessary to beat us. The other two games I was heartbroken for our team because we were really, really close. We weren’t that close here [Sunday].”
Asked how, as a coach, it felt to lose in three-straight Elite Eights and not advance to the Final Four, Donovan brushed off those concerns. “Well, it’s not really about me. I’ve been fortunate enough to be there as a player and several times as a coach,” he said. “I feel more upset for [Kenny] Boynton, [Mike] Rosario and [Erik] Murphy, [guys] who don’t get a chance and have come so close. I’ve experienced the Final Four enough. I want our program to continue to experience it and our players.”
To their credit, the players also took the loss relatively well all things considering. Boynton kept his chin up about the situation, expressing his regrets but also his appreciation for what his teammates and coach have done for him.