3/17: Gators, Donovan preview NSU game

By Adam Silverstein
March 18, 2012

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan and a number of his team’s players took the podium in Omaha, NE on Saturday to discuss the team’s upcoming third-round NCAA Tournament game against the Norfolk State Spartans on Sunday at 6:10 p.m.


Even though seven-seed Florida has avoided two-seed Missouri and will instead take on 15-seed Norfolk State, Donovan does not necessarily think the Gators have any advantage in particular. He also does not believe that the Spartans got lucky in any way.

“The best team won. In this tournament, when you’re dealing with a one-shot game, the best team on that night wins,” he said. “They were the best team [Friday] night and deserved to go on. Clearly they had a high level of confidence, belief in themselves and their system and what they needed to do, and I think it showed [Friday] night.

“When you’re dealing with a one-shot game like this, and against good teams, these teams that are in this tournament are good teams. They’re all good teams. You don’t get to this point in time unless you’re a good team. And when you’re playing against a good team, I think anything can happen.”

Donovan is also aware that Sunday’s crowd will be heavily favoring the perceived underdog but said that Florida will be prepared for the road game-like atmosphere.

“We’ve been in situations like that. Even in the SEC Tournament it was kind of like that,” he said. “It’s a great story for Norfolk State, but we can’t really control the crowd and those kinds of things. We have to go out there and play and focus on the things that you have to do well execution-wise.”

[EXPAND Click to expand and read the remainder of this post.]With many fans and analysts assuming Florida and Missouri would be meeting in the third round, expectations were that it would be a high-scoring affair between two teams that were very similar to each other. The Gators instead will take on a team that has a great size advantage in the backcourt, one that could give UF’s smaller guards fits.

“They’ve got great perimeter size all the way around,” Donovan said. “They shoot the ball very well from back there. In a lot of situations they really did a great job of shooting the ball over top of Missouri in the game. Having an awareness of the space that you give them will be very important.”

It is obvious that he already has Florida’s players in a similar mindset.

“They play hard. The guards are 6’6” and 6’7”. They’re a big team,” junior guard Kenny Boynton said. “They lost by two to Marquette and beat Missouri. I think they’re a good team. We respect them fully. We just got to go out there and play as a team. If we get the rebounds and we get the loose balls, we have a good shot at winning.”

“Probably our biggest challenge with this team […] is rebounds,” freshman G Bradley Beal added. “Everybody is going to have to box out including all of the guards. Basically our defensive rebounds are going to be our biggest issue.”

In addition to the matchup problems on the perimeter, the Gators will also have to deal with NSU’s Kyle O’Quinn in the paint. To that end, UF sophomore center Patric Young has plenty of work ahead of him.

“Rebounding was a huge key in them beating Missouri [Friday] night, and it’s definitely going to be a huge key for us [against them] because they have the size advantage on us,” he said. “It’s going to be a really difficult matchup and we’re going to have to keep them off the boards.”


» Sophomore guard/forward Casey Prather on if his confidence has improved: “I will just build off of this game, keep letting my confidence grow. You get confidence by practicing and hard work.”

» Sophomore point guard Scottie Wilbekin on how Florida can beat Norfolk State: “We got to start with defense because if we play defense it helps our offense and we can sort of get going on the fast break.”

» Wilbekin on Prather’s great game on Friday: “I was extremely happy for him. He got interviewed by Craig Sager. I don’t think anyone in here has, so he can say that.”

» Beal on if UF was rooting for NSU to beat Mizzou: “We weren’t cheering for either team because it really doesn’t matter. We were going to play against the better team and yesterday Norfolk State was the better team over Missouri.”

» Donovan on Beal: “He really, besides playing well, has handled himself in a way that has brought probably more chemistry to our team. I’ve been around some high profile guys that have come out of high school that are not like that. They think the sun rises and sets on them and that it’s all them and he’s really not like that.”[/EXPAND]

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