GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Junior forward Casey Prather will return to action for the Florida Gators earlier than expected.
He’s been cleared to play Wednesday night when fourth-ranked UF (16-2, 6-0) faces South Carolina at the O’Connell Center.
Prather, sidelined since spraining his left ankle in the first half of the LSU game on Jan. 12, was was cleared for practice contact Monday and went full-speed the last three days, including Wednesday afternoon during UF’s shoot-around.
The target return for Prather had been Saturday’s home game against Ole Miss, but after he moved and practiced well this week Coach Billy Donovan met with trainer David “Duke” Werner and together they decided to give the swingman the go-ahead to play against the Gamecocks.
Donovan said after the shoot-around that he wasn't sure how many minutes Prather would play, but his availability means the Gators will have their full eight-man rotation for just the ninth time in 19 games this season.
The 6-foot-6, 212-pound Prather is averaging 6.8 points on 65.9 percent shooting, 3.3 rebounds and 15.5 minutes per game. Aside from missing the previous four games with the ankle sprain, Prather also missed the season’s first four games after sustaining a pair of concussions in the preseason.
UF is looking to go 7-0 in Southastern Conferences play for only the third time in school history and remain a game up on Ole Miss, which lost for the first time Tuesday night, in the conference standings.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The UF marketing department, in honor of junior forward Will Yeguete’s very unique and ... um ... pointed look, pegged Wednesday night’s basketball against South Carolina as “Mohawk Night.”
The first 1,000 students to roll into the O’Connell Center to see the fourth-ranked Gators (16-2, 6-0) square up on the Gamecocks (12-7, 2-4) will be issued faux mohawks to put on their heads and thus pay homage to the “do” that has graced Yeguete’s noggin for the better part of the last two seasons.
Yes, and the one that makes cameo appearances on junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin every now and then.
“Mine is different than his,” Yeguete said. “Mine is more aggressive. His is a little piece of [garbage].”
Wilbekin, who will be sporting his mohawk for the game, likes his look.
“His is like the power mohawk,” Wilbekin said of Yeguete’s. “Mine is kind of like Pau Gasol ... a finesse mohawk.”
OK, that did it.
We decided an informal poll was in order.
Let’s talk ‘hawk.
Whose mohawk is better, Will or Scottie’s?
* Billy Donovan: "Scottie. Will's is too high.
* Casey Prather, the first of this junior class to actually mohawk up (did it as a freshman): “I like ‘em both. They’re different. But I think I like Will’s better. It’s nice and shaped up.”
* John Pelphrey, assistant coach: “Will’s looks like some piece of armor. Like a helmet some warrior would have worn centuries ago. Scottie’s is more GQ.”
* Kenny Boynton: "Gimme Scottie's. Look at Will's. It's too big."
* Pat Young, who went mohawk for the NCAA Tournament his freshman: “I’m staying out of this.”
* Preston Greene, strength and conditioning coach: “Neither. They’re both stupid. Gimme the standard military look -- high and tight.”
* Michael Frazier: “Will’s is bigger, but I like Scottie’s. Nice and short and shaped.”
* Matt McCall, assistant coach: “Will put the patent on the thing. Look at it. He’s rockin’ the ‘hawk. With Scottie you just never know. One day he goes 'hawk, the next he doesn’t.”
* Mike Rosario: “I kind of like Scottie’s better because it’s not too much hair on top, but Will’s is definitely more legit. Just one big line on top of his head.”
* Dorian “Doe-Doe” Finney-Smith: “Will is known for the ‘hawk, man. But Scottie’s is pretty smooth. He’s got the curly hair and keeps it close and tight.”
* Rashon Burno, assistant coach: "Will. It's higher. You gotta have height."
* David “Duke” Werner, trainer. “Definitely Will’s. Bigger, more pronounced.
* Erik Murphy: “I could care less.”
In the spirit of Yeguete’s power ‘hawk and Wilbekin’s pretty boy ‘hawk, here’s a look at some other famous mohawks.
Mr. T. Went 1-1 vs Rocky.
Wes Studi as the evil Magua in "Last of the Mohicans." Killed Madeline Stowe's father ... then ate the guy's heart. Mean dude.
2012 National League Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper. Has since trimmed it back. Goin' with the mature, veteran look ... at age 20.
Actress Demi Moore. Not sure if this was before or after the pregnant nude pose (or maybe halfway to the "G.I. Jane" look).
Soccer icon David Beckham. Needed to bend his hawk a little more.
Robert DiNiro as the infamous Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver. You talkin' to him?
Chris "Birdman" Anderson. Absolutely no offensive game, but a colorful player.
NFL Hall-of-Famer and Super Bowl XVII MVP John Riggins, then with the Jets. Also colorful. "Loosen up, Sandy baby! You're too tight."
Former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson, who will never be in the Hall of Fame.
Extreme skier Glen Plake. Extreme mohawk.
Rapper P Diddy. The understated 'hawk. Probably what Yeguete's looked in its infancy.
@GatorZoneChris (at Wednesday's shoot-around). ... OK, not so famous, but you get the idea. There will be a 1,000 of 'em in the house tonight.
Sunday January 27, 2013BasketBlog: Top 5, NBA All-Stars, Corey Brewer, Halle Berry, etc.
Updated: 11:15am, January 28
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A lot of earth moved in the Top 25 last week.
As of Sunday afternoon, ranked teams had absorbed 17 losses. All but three of those 16 were courtesy of unranked teams, including five in the top 10.
Down went No. 1 Duke. Down went No. 4 Syracuse. Down went fifth-ranked Louisville twice to unranked teams. Down went No. 9 Butler.
No. 8 Florida, meanwhile, won by 17 and 35.
On the road.
When the new rankings come out Monday, it’s almost certain the Gators, winners of eight straight and quite possibly the best defensive team in the country, will move into the Top 5 for the first time since those back-to-back NCAA title years. If voters put any stock in UF’s entire body of work -- an average victory margin of 22.5 points and seventh in the RPI -- the Gators could shoot to the top three or four.
“It would be cool to be ranked that high, but it really doesn’t mean anything,” junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin said. “It might make you more of a target, but every game in the SEC we’ve got a target on our back. We’re going to get everybody’s best shot.”
Perhaps so, but what’s become evident with each game is that every Florida opponent is getting the Gators’ best shot. Or close to it.
This is a veteran team -- with three seniors, two juniors in the starting lineup -- that has grown up together, has dealt with adversity (both internal and external) the last few years, taken some very difficult defeats, and through it all has embraced the ensuing teaching moments of Coach Billy Donovan.
A ranking, even a very high one, should not affect this group.
“My thing with that is, do you have the maturity level to block it all out?” Donovan said after Saturday night’s 82-47 blasting of Mississippi State at Starkville. “I mean, as a team, what’s the difference with where you’re ranked and where you were ranked 36 hours ago? Whether you’re 2 or 3 or 4, what does it mean? If you lose a game, you’re just going back down again.”
The Gators are going to be favorites in every game they play the rest of regular season and in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, including next Saturday when Ole Miss -- also unbeaten and atop the league standings -- comes to the O’Connell Center.
And even though UF is playing lights-out right now, there are going to be lulls and, yes, losses. It’s how the Gators handle the good and learn from the bad that will define this team down the road.
Higher ranking means higher expectations. Not that their level of play hasn’t heightened those expections.
Right now, though, the Gators’ expectations of themselves could not be any higher.
Donovan had the look of a proud father last week the day after two of his former players, Golden State power forward David Lee (left) and Chicago center Joakim Noah, were selected as reserves for the 2013 NBA All-Star, set for Feb. 17 at Houston.
Throw second-year Houston forward Chandler Parsons and Washington rookie guard Bradley Beal into the Rising Stars Challenge (second-year players vs. rookies) and the Gators will have four players at All-Star Weekend.
“I think it’s pretty impressive,” Donovan said. “I’m proud of those guys.”
Lee is averaging 19.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, has reached double-figure scoring in all but two games, and leads NBA big men with 28 double-doubles (points/rebounds).
Noah is averaging 12.1 points, 11,1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.1 blocked shots.
Kenny Boynton is UF’s active lead in games played with 126. What UF basketball player holds the all-time record for most games played in a career? Answer at the bottom in the “Free Throws” section.
EX-GATOR OF THE WEEK
Well, it would be easy to tab the aforementioned Lee and Noah for this honor, but we’ll go off the beaten path and shout out to Denver Nuggets forward Corey Brewer (left).
The former UF superstar and member of the iconic “04s,” has a part (as a basketball player, go figure) in the motion picture “Movie 43,” a comedy comprised of 12 short features and armed with cameos from heavy-hitters like Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Emma Stone, Gerard Butler, Kate Winslet, Richard Gere, Uma Thurman and Naomi Watts.
And (repeat) Corey Brewer.
Go to this link to read Brewer’s interview with Denver Westworld Blogs about his bit role alongside Academy Award nominee Terrance Howard, plus some Q&A about his bigger-picture role with the Nuggets.
As for reviews of the film, they’re out there (unfortunately, in some case). But we’ll wait for the thumbs-up or thumbs-down from the Gators self-appointed (and very tough) film critic Erik Murphy.
Editor's Note: If you're wondering about the photo to the right, hey, when you get a chance to put Halle Berry in a UF basketball blog, you do it. Period.
CHARTING THE GATORS -- Road Warriors
With Saturday night’s victory at Mississippi State, the Gators have won five straight road games for just the 11th time in school history and four straight SEC road games for only the sixth time.
Most Consecutive Road Wins
7 (twice): 1940-41, 2000-01 & 2001-02 (overlap)
5 (seven times): 1932-33; 1948-49/1949-50 (overlap); 1986-87; 2002-03; 2004-05/2005-06 (overlap); 2006-07; 2010-11
Most Consecutive Road Wins in SEC play
6: 2005-06/2006-07 (overlap)
5: 1999-00/2000-01 (overlap)
4 (3 times): 1940-41; 1964-65/1965-66 (overlap); 1988-89; 2012-13
SILLY GATOR PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Regardless of what the polls say -- I’m guessing the Gators check it at No. 4 -- the latest Basketball Power Index (BPI) has Florida, right now, as the projected No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, followed by Duke, Kansas and Indiana. ... Since that horrific shooting slump in December when he shot 25.5 percent from the floor and 12.5 percent from the arc (4-for-32) over a five-game period, Boynton has made 50.6 percent of his shots and 45.4 percent of his 3s (25 of 55) over the last seven games. Chalk that up to shot selection. ... Junior center Patric Young went 6-for-6 from the floor at Mississippi State. He’s very quietly become a tremendously reliable low-post option -- especially when he gets the ball inside the circle -- with that soft jump hook. All Young has done is make 62.8 percent of his shots for the season, including 52 of his last 76 over the last 12 games (since Florida State) for 68.4 percent. ... MSU freshman Craig Sword after UF hit 64 percent in the second half, including 8-for-14 from the arc: “We all played defense with a hand in their face, but they were still hitting shots. There wasn’t much we could do about it. I didn’t know all of them could shoot like that.” ... Trivia answer: Guard Walter Hodge (2006-2009) played in 151 games, including as a key reserve on UF’s back-to-back national championship squads, as well as a team that went to the Final Four of the NIT his junior year. The next closest to Hodge is Erving Walker (2009-2012) with 144.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- You’re only one or two players away from being called on. That’s what coaches tell reserves who sit at the end of the bench waiting their chance.
It’s no different for Florida and a trio of anxious and, yes, probably frustrated freshmen -- forward Devon Walker (pictured above), along with guards Dillon Graham and Braxton Ogbueze -- who have had to settle for spot duty, at best, but more often mop-up action at the end of games.
But they’re only one or two players away.
Or one or two plays.
That was the case for Walker, a.k.a “DeVo.” With backup forward Casey Prather out with an ankle injury, Walker was summoned to close out the final minutes of the first half Wednesday night at Georgia with both center Patric Young and forward Erik Murphy in foul trouble.
That meant the 6-foot-6, 191-pound Walker, a perimeter swingman, was needed in the post to body, bump and bang with the likes of 6-9, 225-pound Donte Williams and 6-8, 230-pound Nemanja Djurisic.
“It was a challenge,” Walker said with a smile. “I’m skinny.”
But he goes against Young, Murphy and Will Yeguete every day during UF’s oftentimes grueling practices. Skinny but ready.
What pleased his coaches was that Walker was where he was supposed to be in his few minutes of action. He didn’t touch the ball on either end, other than a tipped deflection, but that one led to a steal that helped keep things tight -- Georgia led by three at halftime -- for the Gators to break things open early in the second half.
“I think I did decent,” Walker said.
So did his teammates.
“DeVo is getting used to playing the 4,” Yeguette said. “He’s doing a really good job now helping there.”
Obviously, five minutes in what turned out to be a 17-point win is not what Walker, or any of his classmates, aspire to. They want to play.
At the same, the eighth-ranked Gators are 15-2 heading into today’s Southeastern Conference game at Mississippi State and off to just the fourth 5-0 league start in school history. It’s not like Walker can argue with those results. Or wants to.
“You have to stand by your teammates. You have to get out of yourself, especially when you’re in that tough situation, sitting on the bench,” said Walker, who is averaging less than a point and rebound in 64 minutes this season. “You have to try to be a part of the game anyway. That way, when you do get called, you are already in the flow of things. That’s how I go about it.”
Graham was called for a few minutes at LSU, when Prather went down with his injury and Mike Rosario did not dress out due to an ankle. If Kenny Boynton and Scottie Wilbekin needed to take a seat, Ogbueze could be needed.
One or two players. One or two plays.
It could happen again Saturday night.
“I’m going to be a great player here,” Walker said. “I would be lying if I said I don’t get caught up in [not playing], but this is just one of those things you have to battle. That comes from maturity. I see the big picture now.”
The eighth-ranked Florida basketball team boarded another chartered jet Friday for its game this weekend at Mississippi State. For the Gators, this is the 11th time they've taken to the road this season -- seven times by air, four by bus -- which is is easily the most in the Southeastern Conference. UF hasn't logged the most miles in the league, but the Gators didn't bite a big chunk of miles with one long haul to Maui either, like MSU and Ole Miss did. Florida has jetted to Tucson, Ariz., Kansas City, Mo., New Haven, Conn., and with this trip to Starkville will be the only SEC team to play four of its first six league games on the road (at LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Mississippi State). Don't forget those in-state bus rides to Mayport, Tampa, Tallahassee and Sunrise, also. They count.
By season's end (with visits to Arkansas, Auburn, Missouri, Tennessee and Nashville to come, the Gators will fly more than 23,000 miles. That's about the equivalent of flying from Gainesville to Texas -- heading east. The long way. And that, of course, doesn't include the NCAA Tournament.
Here's how Florida's travel stacks up against the rest of the SEC, with miles projected through games scheduled for Saturday.
Mileage source: DistanceBetweenCities.com (data assumes road trips of 220 miles or less are driven)
SCHOOL TRIPS AIR MILES ROAD MILES TOTAL
Mississippi State 7 14,230 468 14,698
Florida *11 11,518 2,740 14,258
LSU 6 11,268 0 11,268
Ole Miss 4 9,600 462 10,062
South Carolina 5 8,306 0 8,306
Missouri 5 7,974 250 8,224
Vanderbilt 6 7,924 0 7,924
Alabama 6 7,162 170 7,332
Arkansas 6 6,630 380 7,010
Tennessee 6 6,302 340 6.642
Auburn 6 6,186 0 6,186
Georgia 5 5,630 140 5,770
Texas A&M 6 5,274 194 5,468
Kentucky 7 3,824 502 4,326
*Includes season-opening trip to Naval Station Mayport to face Georgetown on USS Bataan. The game was cancelled at halftime, but the travel was not.
-- Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State took 8,000-mile trips to Hawaii for tournaments. MSU also went to Providence and Loyola-Chicago
-- South Carolina played in a tournament at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
-- LSU played at Boise State, Cal-Irvine and Marquette.
-- Tennessee played in a tournament at Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin tied his career high for points in Wednesday night’s 64-47 win at Georgia. That was a team-high for the Gators. With that, Wilbekin became the sixth UF player to lead the Gators in scoring this season. Of Florida’s regular eight-man rotation, only Will Yeguete and Casey Prather (currently out with an ankle sprain) have not been the scoring leader in at least one game. Breaking down the numbers even further, UF has four players averaging in double figures, with only 2.2 points separating those four. Only 8.2 points separate UF’s top scorer (senior Kenny Boynton at 8.3 per game) and the eighth man (freshman Michael Frazier 5.1 per game) in that eight-man rotation.
Player High Scorer
Kenny Boynton 6 games
(Alabama State, vs Middle Tennessee, UCF, T-at Florida State, at Yale, at LSU)
Mike Rosario 6 games
(T-Savannah State, T-at Florida State, at Arizona, SE Louisiana, Georgia, at Texas A&M)
Erik Murphy 3 games
(Wisconsin, vs Air Force, Missouri)
Patric Young 2 games
(T-Savannah State, at Kansas State)
Michael Frazier II 1 game
Scottie Wilbekin 1 game
ATHENS, Ga. -- John Gasaway is a college basketball numbers cruncher -- and, boy, did he crunch some digits in favor of the Florida Gators in his weekly version of “Tuesday Truths.”
The trendy metric in roundball these days is points per possession. It’s broken down on both offense and defense. The difference between the two -- points-for minus points-against -- is what Gasaway calls “Efficiency Margin.”
The No. 8 Gators (14-2, 4-0) are at Georgia (7-10, 1-3) tonight. They’re PPP against Southeastern Conference opponents is a very high 1.19 and their opponent’s PPP is an absurd 0.77.
For context, 1.10 is a good, sound baseline for offense and 0.90 is a solid score for defense.
At first glance, UF’s +0.42 “EM” probably won’t do anything for you.
But here’s what it does for Gasaway, according to his latest post on BasketballProspectus.com.
“Yes, ‘+0.42’ is indeed the most ridiculous number in Tuesday Truths history, and I’ve been the traffic cop at this particular corner now for six seasons. Who knows, maybe Florida will go the way of the 2010-11 Texas defense and flame out after having posted some early metric that defied gravity. But right now all I have is what’s already happened, and based on that I voted Billy Donovan’s team No. 1 in the nation” in ESPN’s weekly power rankings. ... Here is how preposterous Florida has been in SEC play. The Gators have hit 59 percent of their twos and 40 percent of their threes -- and their offense is actually their weak link. The defense has been even better, relative to the conference averages. ... I certainly don’t expect UF to continue to hold SEC offenses to less than 0.80 points per trip, if for no other reason that part of that numbers from opponents’ 24 percent three-point shooting. ... But Florida’s performance on both sides of the ball can ‘regress’ a long way and still be indicative of a Final Four trajectory.”
You can find Gasaway’s story here. In the meantime, I borrowed from his data to re-rank the Associated Press Top 25 in order of his EM, with the numbers reflecting games played through Monday.
Rk Team EM PPP OPPP AP
1 Florida +0.42 1.19 0.77 8th
2 Michigan +0.23 1.21 0.98 2nd
3 Louisville +0.22 1.09 0.87 5th
4 Creighton +0.21 1.22 0.97 17th
5 Duke +0.20 1.08 0.88 1st
Gonzaga +0.20 1.24 1.04 10th
7 Ole Miss +0.19 1.10 0.91 23rd
VCU +0.19 1.16 0.97 19th
9 New Mexico +0.17 1.00 0.83 15th
10 Kansas +0.16 1.03 0.87 T-3rd
11 Syracuse +0.15 1.09 0.94 T-3rd
Butler +0.15 0.99 0.15 9th
13 Wichita State +0.13 1.10 0.97 20th
14 Kansas State +0.12 1.09 0.97 11th
Miami +0.12 0.97 0.85 25th
16 Arizona +0.11 1.09 0.98 6th
Indiana +0.11 1.08 0.97 7th
18 Minnesota +0.10 1.16 1.06 12th
19 Michigan State +0.09 1.04 0.95 13th
Oregon +0.09 1.07 0.98 16th
North Carolina St +0.09 1.08 0.88 18th
22 Ohio State +0.05 0.96 0.91 14th
23 Cincinnati +0.04 1.03 0.99 21st
Missouri +0.04 0.98 1.02 22nd
25 Notre Dame +0.01 1.09 0.01 24th
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Forward Casey Prather’s high ankle sprain will keep him out at least the next two games for the Florida Gators.
Prather, who rolled his left ankle in UF’s win at LSU on Jan. 12, remained in a protective boot for most of last week and watched from the bench as the Gators rang up lopsided wins over Texas A&M on the road and Missouri at home.
Florida (14-2, 4-0), tied with Ole Miss for first place in the Southeastern Conference, faces league foes Georgia (7-10, 1-3) on the road Wednesday night, then heads to Mississippi State (7-9, 2-2) Saturday night.
“The major concern with the injury right now is bringing him back too soon and having to deal with lingering pain and discomfort, and him being hobbled by this the rest of the year,” Donovan said Monday. “Since we’ve come this far, let’s try to get him fully healthy. My guess would be that this week he’ll do rehab [and] will not practice at all.”
After missing the season’s first five games due to a pair of concussions sustained in preseason practices, the 6-foot-6 Prather averaged 6.8 points on nearly 66 percent shooting and grabbed 3.3 rebounds in 10 games, including two starts, before going down late in the first half at LSU.
As the best athlete on the team, Prather is a key component for the Gators in transition, when pressing on defense and on the glass.
Because he’s the best athlete on the team, Donovan and team trainer David “Duke” Werner want Prather at 100 percent health, rather than rolling him out at 80 or 90 percent and risk losing him to a setback.
“Having him back would be big for us [and] would help us,” senior forward Erik Murphy said. “We’re just trying to do what we can without him, and we’re doing all right.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It’s never a good idea to enter the athletic arena without at least some element of appreciation for the opponent.
Florida coach Billy Donovan and his staff do a very good job presenting to their team what the opponent does well and convincing the Gators any outcome is possible. Sometimes just putting on the tape can be enough.
Take Thursday night, for example. The Gators certainly were aware of the pitfalls in going to Texas A&M. The most recent tape of the Aggies showed forward Elston Turner going into Rupp Arena and lighting up defending national champion Kentucky for 40 points.
Against the Gators, Turner went 1-for-10 and scored four points.
“Maybe Kentucky didn’t respect him, I don't know?” guard Scottie Wilbekin said afterward. “We came in with respect for his game.”
Which brings us to Missouri.
In the post-game interview session Saturday after the 10th-ranked Gators thrashed the No. 17 Tigers 83-52 at the sold-out O’Connell Center, Mizzou guard Keion Bell summed up the program’s worse loss in nearly five years like so.
“I just think we underestimated the amount of pressure their full-court press would put on us,” Bell said.
As the words came from his player’s mouth, you could almost see steam coming out of Coach Frank Haith’s ears. From the corner of his eye, Bell may have sensed that heat in the little glance fromm Haith sent his way.
Bell immediatley tried to rally.
“Although the coaching staff has been embedding [that] in our brain throughout the whole week, we just didn’t take heed to the things that they were saying about Florida’s pressure,” Bell said. “We just weren’t ready in the beginning of the game.”
Florida, meanwhile, was very much ready, racing to an 11-0 lead and swelled to 17 by halftime. It’s definitely worth noting the Tigers were without their leading scorer and second-best rebounder, 6-foot-8 forward Lawrence Bowers, but you have to figure the Gators would have pounced on him, too.
What UF needs to understand -- and Donovan will make clear -- is an orange-and-blue beacon is now coloring the Southeastern Conference skyline. Right now, this is the basketball team that everybody is going to gear up for.
The Gators have now beaten four league opponents by 33, 22, 21 and 31 points, respectively, with their next three games -- at Georgia, at Mississippi State and home against South Carolina -- against teams with a combined league mark of 4-8.
Several UF players spoke after the Mizzou beatdown about the quest for an SEC championship, clearly a very real goal. It's true, the league may be down this year, but every team is going to be a little more focused, a little more motivated, a little hungrier when Florida comes to town.
Put the Feb. 19 trip to Columbia, Mo., at the top of that list.
The first thing the Gators pack for that trip -- and bring to every game, as they have to date -- is the proper respect for the competition.
MAINTAINING THE STANDARD
The Gators were pounding the Aggies by 30 points when Donovan emptied his bench Thursday night to let his four freshmen -- Michael Frazier II, DeVon Walker, Dillon Graham and Braxton Ogbueze -- clean up alongside walk-on Jacob Kurtz.
UF’s last five possessions produced four turnovers and a 9-0 run by A&M to end the game.
There’s a reason some players don’t play, but there’s also a standard that comes with putting on the uniform; even in a 30-point rout. The last 2:13 of that game did not approach the UF standard, even for reserves, and collectively (and very directly) the unit heard about it afterward.
Donovan addressed it publicly the next day.
“Right now, because of our injuries and things like that, our guys have to realize they’re a man or two away from being in significant roles,” he said. “In defense of them, when you’re sitting on the bench for 36 minutes and you’re not in the flow of the game, sometimes it’s hard to go out there and play well.”
But that can’t be an excuse, especially if one of those players is needed when the possessions really do matter.
“I don’t expect them to make shots and be perfect execution-wise, but I think we can go down the floor, take care of the basketball, make good decisions, get a shot up and then go down the floor and guard,” Donovan said. “They have to understand there’s going to be a time where they’re going to be relied upon. Foul trouble? Injuries? Something happens? They’ve got to give us, as coaches, some confidence that they’re going to be able to handle their responsibility.”
That same unit got another chance Saturday when inserted with 2:31 to play against Missouri and the Gators up by 31. This time, it was a 5-5 stalemate, including a rousing fallaway jumper by Kurtz (which set off the above reaction from UF’s bench) and a run-out dunk by Frazier on a feed from Ogbueze.
Wilbekin tied his career-high with 10 assists against Mizzou. What is the UF single-game record for assists in a game?
Answer below in the “Free Throws” section.
EX-GATOR OF THE WEEK
San Antonio reserve forward Matt Bonner is only averaging 3.3 points per game. In 14 games this season, he has failed to score, including a four-game run heading into Saturday night’s date against Atlanta.
Against the Hawks, Bonner scored a season-high 17, going 7-for-8 from the floor and making all three of his 3-point attempts in a 98-93 win. His 17 points were 10 more than Bonner had scored in seven previous games this month.
The Spurs have won four straight and currently are the third-best team in the Western Conference with a 32-11 record.
ANOTHER 48 HOURS
The sweep of Texas A&M and Missouri improved the Gators to 15-1 in
Thursday-Saturday games since the SEC and ESPN signed their lucrative TV contract before the 2009-10 season. That says a lot about how well the coaches and training staff use the condensed amount of time turnaround time to put themselves in position to succeed. Here’s a look back at those 16 games. Asterisk denotes home team.
Jan. 21-23: UF 71, *Arkansas 66 and *UF 58, South Carolina 56
Feb. 4-6: UF 66, *Alabama 65 and *UF 69, Mississippi State 62
Feb. 18-20: *UF 78, Auburn 70 and UF 64, *Ole Miss 61
Jan. 20-22: UF 45, *Auburn 40 and *UF 75, Arkansas 43
Feb. 24-26: *UF 71, Georgia 62 and *Kentucky 76, Florida 68
Jan. 26-28: UF 64, *Ole Miss 60 and *UF 69, Mississippi State 57
Feb. 2-4: *UF 74, South Carolina 66 and *UF 74, Vanderbilt 66
Jan. 17-19: UF 68, *Texas A&M 47 and *UF 83, Missouri 52
SILLY GATOR PHOTO OF THE WEEK
With 14 points, UF senior guard Kenny Boynton now has 1,801 for his career and is 130 points from passing Andrew Moten (1,930 from 1984-87) for No. 2 on the school’s all-time scoring list. ... Got a kick out of the Missouri writers, who watched Wilbekin utterly dismantle future NBA point guard Phil Pressey (1-for-7, career-worst 10 turnovers) and promptly nicknamed the UF point guard “Scottie Wildebeast.” ... Then there was David Whitley, of The Sporting News, who described Wilbekin as a “6-foot-2 Doberman who’s convinced his opponent has a T-bone under his jersey. ... UF’s 21 assists against the Tigers was a season-high, with almost (10) from “Wildebeast,” who has 32 over his last five games. ... Haith said after the game that Florida was “right there” with the best teams Missouri had played this season. That list includes Louisville, which rose to No. 1 last week. ... The loss to Florida was Missouri’s worst since a 100-63 annihilation at Kansas State on Feb. 16, 2008. ... Trivia answer: Jason Williams had 17 assists in a 99-66 win against Duquense on Dec. 3, 1997.
Thursday January 17, 2013Gators getting Johnny Football, "White-Out" treatment tonight
Updated: 12:55pm, January 17
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The largest home crowd to watch a Texas A&M basketball game this season was the 6,416 that came to Reed Arena to see the Aggies play Army on Dec. 29.
That will change Thursday night.
When the 10th-ranked Florida Gators (12-2, 2-0) put their four-game win streak on the line against the Aggies (12-3, 2-0), with A&M pulling out all the stops -- including “Johnny Football” -- to hype the atmosphere for the biggest game here in years.
During UF’s morning shoot-around (photo above), arena staff members were placing T-shirts over seats in the lower bowl as part of a “White-Out” campaign, what with ESPN2, with Rece Davis and Bobby Knight on the mikes, in the house.
Amid the season of A&M white, the Gators will be in their home white uniforms, with the Aggies going with a special dark uniform to commemorate the night.
Prior the game, Aggies fans will have a photo opportunity with the quarterback Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy in the arena concourse, with Manziel (left) and his A&M teammates, two weeks removed from a rousing blowout of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, being introduced at halftime.
School officials are hoping to seize on the program’s momentum after the Aggies, in their inaugural Southeastern Conference season, went to Kentucky last Saturday and beat the defending national champion Wildcats 83-71 behind a 40-point eruption from forward Elston Turner.
In going 14-of-19 from the floor and 6-for-10 from 3-point range, Turner became just the third player in Rupp Arena history, joining Navy’s David Robinson and LSU’s Chris Jackson, to hit the 40-point mark.
Tuesday January 15, 2013Chart: A&M forward Elston Turner on a short, special list
Updated: 9:13am, January 16
When 10th-ranked Florida (12-2, 2-0) takes on Texas A&M (12-3, 2-0) Thursday night at College Station, the Gators will have their hands full with the Aggies, but particularly with small forward Elston Turner (pictured left), who Saturday joined an elite group of visiting players to hit the 40-point milestone at Lexington. LSU's "Pistol Pete" Maravich did it three times.
Here’s a list -- and it’s short -- of the others.
* Denotes game was at Rupp Arena, which opened in 1976. Others were at old Memorial Coliseum.
Points Player Team Date Outcome
55 Pete Maravich LSU 1/24/70 L 109-96
46 Johnny Neumann Ole Miss 2/6/71 L 121-86
45 Pete Maravich LSU 2/22/69 L 103-89
*45 David Robinson Navy 1/25/87 L 80-69
44 Pete Maravich LSU 2/3/68 L 105-93
43 Ernie Grunfeld Tennessee 1/10/76 W 90-88 (OT)
42 John Mengelt Auburn 2/3/69 L 105-93
41 Clyde Lee Vanderbilt 1/5/65 W 97-79
*41 Chris Jackson LSU 2/15/90 L 100-95
40 Henry Wilmore Michigan 12/5/70 L 104-93
*40 Elston Turner Texas A&M 1/12/13 W 83-71
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The X-rays were negative, which was good news for Casey Prather.
He certainly was due some of that.
As the Florida junior forward limped from the locker room to his team’s bench in the second half of the 11th-ranked Gators 74-52 road defeat of LSU, teammate/classmate/close friend Patric Young broke from the huddle during a timeout. Young sat down next to Prather, put his arm around his buddy and together they took a moment to pray for a quick recovery.
“I’m just thankful it wasn’t that bad,” Prather said Saturday night after suffering what trainers believed to be a high sprain of the left ankle. “I want to get back as soon as I can.”
The 6-foot-6 Prather was playing the best basketball of his career over the last few games when he scored off an offensive rebound and injured the ankle coming down to the floor late in the first half. Prather had six points (on 3-for-5 shooting) and two rebounds to that point, having started his second straight game.
While being examined on the bench, UF feared Prather may have broken a bone, but at least the news wasn’t that bad.
“He’s had a pretty tough year so far,” Young said of Prather, who missed the first five games of the season after suffering two concussions over a nine days in the preseason. “I just hope he can bounce back from this quickly.”
The Gators already were down one starter, with senior guard Mike Rosario hobbled by an ankle sprain suffered in the second half Wednesday against Georgia. Prather started that game because of Erik Murphy’s broken rib, then Saturday because of Rosario did not suit up because of his ankle.
More thna likely, another shakeup in the starting lineup, that's what. More on that below.
“We’ll see what happens with these guys this week,” Coach Billy Donovan said.
Florida will take both Sunday and Monday off from practice and return Tuesday to prep for the toughest two-game stretch of the season.
The Gators (12-2, 2-0) go to Texas A&M (12-3, 2-0) Thursday night. All the Aggies did over the weekend was blast Kentucky 83-71 at Rupp Arena behind 40 points from guard Elston Turner. A home date with 10th-ranked Missouri (12-3, 1-1) follows on Saturday The Tigers are coming off a loss at Ole Miss.
For UF, that’s two games against two very good teams in less than 48 hours -- and with the status of two players, Rosario and Prather, uncertain.
“That’s adversity for you,” Young said. “We’ve definitely had our share of it this year.”
Maybe a few more prayers are warranted.
REVOLVING DOOR STARTING LINEUP
Here’s a breakdown of UF’s six different starting lineups this season, a shell game that includes five combinations over the previous eight games. If Rosario and Prather are out, the Gators are guaranteed to start a seventh combo -- and sixth in nine games -- at A&M.
Alabama State-Win; Wisconsin-W; vs. Middle Tennessee State-W; Savannah State-W; UCF-W; at Arizona-Loss; Southeastern Louisiana-W
at Florida State-W; at Yale-W
at Kansas State-L; vs Air Force-W
EX-GATOR OF THE WEEK
For the second straight week, gotta go with Washington rookie guard Bradley Beal, who hit an up-and-under game-winner with three-tenths of a second left to beat the reigning NBA West champion Oklahoma Thunder Monday then Saturday night got to play his first game with former No. 1 overall pick John Wall. Wall, after missing the season’s first 32 games with a knee injury, joined forces with Beal (16 points) to fashion an upset of Al Horford and the Atlanta Hawks for the Wizards’ first two-game winning streak of the season.
Kenny Boynton started the season as the No. 8 scorer in school history with 1,589 points, but has now climbed to No. 3, passing both Erving Walker and Udonis Haslem with his 20-point effort at LSU. “It means a lot, especially to pass Erv, a guy I hung out with everyday when he was here,” Boynton said after Saturday’s win. “It means more that we got the win.” Some Twitter followers wanted to know who’s left on the list, so here’s a list of UF’s all-time top 10 scorers. Boynton, the senior from Boca Raton, Fla., needs 309 points to pass former forward Ronnie Williams at No. 1, which means an average of 18.2 over the team’s final 18 guaranteed games. That number, of course, would drop depending on how many games the Gators play in the postseason.
Rank Player Years Points
1 Ronnie Williams 1981-84 2,090
2 Andrew Moten 1984-87 1,930
3 Kenny Boynton 2010-present 1,782
4 Udonis Haslem 1999-2002 1,781
5 Erving Walker 2009-12 1,777
6 Stacey Poole 1989-93 1,678
7 Dwayne Schintzius 1987-90 1,624
8 Neal Walk 1967-69 1,600
9 Gene Shy 1973-76 1,573
10 Matt Bonner 2000-03 1,570
After Boynton, which active UF player has the most career points?
Boynton was profiled in The Baton Rouge Advocate on game day. Nice headline (although some may agree with it, given KB's, um, willingness to let it fly at times). Give him credit, though. The same day that headline ran, Boynton had one of his more efficient overall games of the season. He went 7-for-13 from the floor, including 4-for-8 from the arc and also had seven rebounds (three on the offensive end) and two assists in 35 grueling, up-tempo minutes.
Saturday was a nice RPI day for the Gators. Marquette went to Pittsburgh and won to improve to 3-0 in the Big East, while Wisconsin blasted Illinois by 22 points. Those wins didn't look so good a couple weeks ago. Now they're looking better. ... UF’s game against Kansas State, played in Kansas City, Mo., was originally classified as a neutral-site game, but that’s been changed. It’s now an official road game (and loss) because K-State controlled the ticket distribution. ... Some coincidence regarding Prather and his two starts this season. They came Wednesday at home against Georgia and Saturday at LSU. The only two previous starts of his career came during his 2010-11 freshman season -- at home against Georgia and at LSU. ... Trivia answer: the current Gator with the most points is Murphy with 768, followed by Young with 681. Murphy, who is averaging 12 points per game, has a shot to be the 49th player to join UF’s 1,000-point club.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Another game, another injury, another starting lineup.
Senior guard Mike Rosario will be sidelined when 11th-ranked Florida (11-2, 1-0) faces LSU (9-3, 0-1) Saturday afternoon due to a left ankle sprain that has prevented him from practicing the last three days.
Rosario, the second-leading scorer for the Gators at 12.3 points per game, rolled the ankle Wednesday midway through the second half of UF’s win over Georgia, but still managed to finish the game.
UF’s coaching staff held out hope Rosario would be able to play against the Tigers in the team’s Southeastern Conference road opener, but Rosario’s foot never came out of the protective boot; not even for the Saturday morning shoot-around at Maravich Assembly Center.
Instead, the Gators will go with their sixth starting lineup in 14 games, with forward Erik Murphy, who did not start against Georgia and is still nursing a broken rib, back in the first unit, alongside center Patric Young and forward Casey Prather up front, with Kenny Boynton and Scottie Wilbekin in the backcourt.
Junior Will Yeguete, whose minutes were scaled back to 14 against Georgia because of tendinitis in his knee, will come off the bench again.
Thursday January 10, 2013Walk-on Kurtz has a moment in the orange and blue sun
Updated: 6:13pm, January 10
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Late in Florida’s lopsided road win Sunday at Yale, sophomore walk-on forward Jacob Kurtz got the call to help finish out the final two minutes.
With the clock winding down, Kurtz found himself with a wide-open look from the 3-point line -- and passed the ball, instead.
“SHOOT THE BALL!” teammate and best friend Erik Murphy screamed from the bench.
Fast forward three days.
Kurtz, along with UF’s four freshmen, were subbed into Wednesday night’s 77-44 rout of Georgia with 3:11 to go. Not only did Kurtz drive to the bucket for a finger-roll layup for the first basket of his college basketball life, but with 50 seconds left, there he was open again from behind the arc.
This time, Kurtz let it fly from the top of the key.
As he back-peddled on defense, Kurtz pointed at the UF bench, which was going nuts.
“I was pointing at Murph, but really pointing at all of them,” Kurtz said. “They were all happy I shot it and I was happy it went in.”
Such is the life of a walk-on. He kills himself at practice every day, then shows up at the gym for games with virtually no hope of getting on the court. That’s just part of the deal.
But so, sometimes, are these memorable rewards; like a career-high five points on 2-for-2 shooting, and all your teammates -- plus the UF student section -- cheering your name.
“I love it,” Coach Billy Donovan said. “Jake is such a great kid.”
A motivated one, also.
Kurtz, the 6-foot-5, 195-pounder who averaged 13 points and nine rebounds during an all-conference career at Oviedo (Fla.) Hagerty High, came to the UF basketball office as a freshman three years ago and expressed his desire to be involved with the basketball program -- at any level. So Kurtz was granted permission to sit upstairs and watch practice and eventually was given some manager-type duties and became more involved with day-to-day operations. Including practice.
When the Gators were dealing with some injuries last year, Donovan put Kurtz on the court.
“We threw him in there -- and he wasn’t bad,” Donovan said.
Now Kurtz, a mechanical engineering major, is an integral part of the team, whether that means give the Gators the best opponent with the scout team or filling in as a body when needed. He’s so in tune with what the Gators do both offensively and defensively, having immersed himself in the program, that Donovan and the staff have the trust and confidence he'll do exactly what's needed.
For that, “Jake the Snake” was rewarded with a few glorious, well-deserved minutes.
“That was fun,” Kurtz said through a huge smile. “Really fun.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Junior forward Casey Prather will be in the starting lineup when the 11th-ranked Florida Gators (10-2) open the Southeastern Conference season Wednesday night against Georgia (6-7) at the O’Connell Center.
Prather, who last started a game as a freshman in the 2010-11 season, is being called on after the practice time of two frontcourt regulars, senior Erik Murphy (broken rib) and junior Will Yeguete (knee), was scaled back the last two days.
Both Murphy and Yeguete will play against the Bulldogs, however.
With the 6-foot-6, 212-pound Prather in the first unit, UF will be rolling out its fifth different starting five in 13 games.
Prather, out of Jackson, Tenn., is averaging 6.5 points and three rebounds per game, but is coming off one of the best all-around performance of his career.
With Murphy sidelined Sunday at Yale, Prather hopped off the bench to score nine points (on 4-for-6 shooting from the floor) to go with six rebounds, two assists, plus a blocked shot and steal in a career-high 26 minutes.
Just as promising, Gators coach Billy Donovan was very pleased with the energy Prather provided on defense and in the press. That's what the UF staff will be looking for more of the same against Georgia, too.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Forward Erik Murphy has a fractured rib, X-rays confirmed Monday, but his status for Florida’s upcoming games remains uncertain.
Murphy, the 6-foot-10 senior, lifted weights and did some light running and shooting at practice Monday afternoon, as the 11th-ranked Gators (10-2) prepared for the start of the Southeastern Conference season Wednesday night against Georgia (6-7) at the O’Connell Center.
UF trainer David “Duke” Werner pinpointed Murphy’s injury as the eighth rib on the left side. As of Monday night, he remained doubtful for the game with the Bulldogs, but the staff will see how much he can do Tuesday and probably at Wednesday's shoot-around before making a final call.
“Nothing’s determined for sure yet,” Werner said. “We’re going to see how he feels.”
Murphy, Florida’s second-leading scorer at 12.1 points per game, suffered a bruise to his side on the second possession of UF’s win over Air Force on Dec. 29, but went on to play one of his most complete games of the season: 21 points on 8-for-10 from the floor, seven rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots and MVP honors of the Orange Bowl Classic.
He took part in every practice last week, including a pair of two-a-days, but on Friday took a forearm to almost the exact same spot and rib cracked.
Two hits to the side, two different injuries.
The pain was bad enough to scratch Murphy from Sunday night’s game at Yale, where several dozen fans made the trip from his hometown of South Kingstown, R.I., to see him play.
“It’s in a really bad spot. It’s right by his lat [muscle],” Coach Billy Donovan said. “Any time he raises his arms up or reaches his arms up, there’s a significant amount of pain.”
How much that pain subsides will be the determining factor whether Murphy plays against the Bulldogs in two days or Saturday afternoon in UF’s SEC road opener at LSU.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Sofie Oyen has played for the No. 1 women’s tennis team the last two seasons, but she’ll start 2013 atop an altogether different poll.
It should come as no surprise the two-time defending national champion Florida Gators will open the NCAA outdoor season as the nation’s top-ranked team, but the individual spotlight will shine on Oyen, the junior from Leopoldsburg, Belgium, who will debut as the nation’s No. 1-ranked singles player.
Oyen played her freshman and sophomore seasons at No. 4 singles for the Roland Thornqvist machine, posting a 55-16 record, but a breakout fall campaign rocketed her up the computer rankings. She’s the 10th UF player to be ranked No. 1 since 1988 and the sixth under Thornqvist, now in his 12th season.
“I think she’s always known she was really, really talented, but there’s still a difference in thinking you’re talented and being validated as so,” Thornqvist said. “She bridged that gap last semester, frankly. Sofie had a tremendous fall. Not only did she play at a high level, but played at that level consistently and it allowed her to beat some really good players.”
Oyen went 13-3 in the fall and because she faced -- and defeated -- some of those really good players the computers recognized her accomplishments and rewarded her in the rankings.
Worth noting: Lauren Embree, the UF stalwart who literally willed the Gators through the past NCAA tournament matches with amazing gut-check performances, has never been ranked No. 1, mostly because she goes into tournaments ranked so high and faces a slew of bottom-seeded opponents. Embree, 97-14 for her career, will play No. 1 singles for the Gators this season.
Oyen is expected to alternate with freshman Danielle Collins at the Nos. 2 and 3 singles spots, having battled through some tough draws in the fall. Her coach thinks those experiences will carry over and manifest themselves with confidence in the outdoor season.
“Just watching her the way she’s looked in practice today, you can tell she has an aura about her that perhaps wasn’t there,” Thornqvist said Monday. “That’s big for a tennis player.”
FLORIDA WOMEN RANKED NO. 1 SINCE 1988
PLAYER TIMES RANKED 1 FIRST TIME
Halle Cioffe 3 Feb. 16, 1988
Nicole Arendt 3 March 12, 1991
Lisa Raymond 9 March 10, 1992
Jill Craybas 1 1995-96 Final Rankings
Jessica Lehnhoff 3 April 17, 2002
Alexis Gordon 2 April 20, 2004
Jennifer Magley 1 Fall 2005
Diana Srebrovic 1 Jan. 10, 2006
Allie Will 4 Feb. 6, 2012
Sofie Oyen 1 Jan. 3, 2013
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- So much for his happy homecoming.
Forward Erik Murphy has been scratched from Sunday night’s game against Yale due to bruised ribs suffered during practice Friday.
Murphy, the 6-foot-10 senior and team’s second-leading scorer at 12.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, tried to work through the Gators’ morning shoot-around at Lee Amphitheater, but had to fall out.
The team had held out hope its sharp-shooting big man would feel better after a day of rest and treatment, but Murphy was in pain Sunday merely reaching his arms above his head.
Murphy will be X-rayed when the team returns to Gainesville, with his status now in doubt for Wednesday when Florida (9-2) opens the Southeastern Conference season at home against Georgia.
“It’s tough for us and certainly disappointing for him,” UF coach Billy Donovan said.
The injury is blow to the 13th-ranked Gators and really ill-timed for Murphy, who grew up 85 miles from the Yale campus and whose family -- two busloads worth -- caravaned from his hometown of Kingstown, R.I. for the game against the Bulldogs (5-10).
With Murphy sidelined, UF will start junior Will Yeguete (6.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg) at the power forward spot and also look for more minutes from Casey Prather (6.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg), along with options to go small with freshman Michael Frazier (6 ppg, 40 percent from 3-point range) likely seeing time at both positions in the frontcourt.
The first installment of my weekly random basketball, et al, ramblings and such.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Somewhere in the Murphy household in South Kingstown, R.I., there’s some some old tapes that Erik Murphy and his father have dusted off a few times and popped in the VHS player.
There’s Jay Murphy, star forward at Boston College, scoring, rebounding and dominating during the early days of the Big East Conference.
“Love the shorts,” Erik said.
The elder Murphy (pictured right) was a 6-foot-9 post player whose 1,795 career points and 763 rebounds still rank sixth and seventh, respectively, in BC history. The Eagles won 88 games in Jay Murphy’s four seasons, played in three NCAA Tournaments, advanced to two Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight. Along the way, they beat up on league rival Providence a bunch of times, including the 83-84 team that included a little-used point guard who Gators fans know well.
“Jay was really, really good,” UF coach Billy Donovan said of the three-time All-Big East big man. “There are definitely some similarities there, but they’re different players.”
Donovan, whose formidable years as a Friar came after the arrival of Rick Pitino for his junior and season seasons, recalled Jay Murphy working both high and low for Coach Gary Williams and alongside lightning bug future NBA point guar Michael Adams.
With the Murphy clan (and others) making the 85-mile trip for today's date against Yale, seemed like a good time to make some father-son basketball comparisons:
* Size -- Erik is 6-foot-10 and 235 pounds, where Jay went 6-9, 195. The game, though, was a little different than, players different physically. Jay was more mobile and active around the basket. Edge: Father.
* Shooting -- Jay had very good range around the paint and could score in a variety of ways. He also was left-handed, which naturally made him a difficult cover. Erik, quite simply, might be the best pure shooters at the power forward spot in college basketball. Edge: Son.
* Rebounding -- Jay averaged 6.2 for his career, including 7.3 as a senior. Erik is at 3.2 for his career, but a career-best 4.7 as a senior. Edge: Father.
* Passing -- Could not find Jay’s assists total, but really didn’t have to for this category. Ask Donovan about Erik’s ability as a passer. On second thought, do not. Erik has 61 assists for his career. Donovan, though, recalled Jay as a very good passer in both the high and low post. Edge: Father
* Defense -- Jay was a very good defensive player. Erik struggled at times in halfcourt defense, especially against bigger and quicker players, but really worked on upgrading his size and quickness for his senior year. Edge: Father.
* Shorts -- No explanation necessary. Big Edge: Son.
“Though I can’t say a whole lot about that,” Erik smiled. “I wear mine pretty short."
BOYNTON’S REMAKE CONTINUES
In going 3-for-7 from the 3-point line in UF’s defeat of Air Force eight days ago, senior guard Kenny Boynton climbed a few steps -- repeat: just a few -- in looking to emerge from a six-game shooting abyss that shows him at 27.8 percent (17 of 61) overall and 17.9 percent (7-for-39) since the Nov. 19 victory against Marquette. That’s 39 days. Maybe a flip of the calendar year will do Boynton some good. “This is an important stretch,” he said. “I have to be aggressive.” That’s what Donovan is telling him. But the type of aggression UF coaches are looking for is Boynton taking advantage of the defense -- more shot fakes and dribble penetration -- that ultimately could lead to easy, closer shots or Boynton finding open teammates. He doesn’t need to settle for contested 3-pointers. Think about this: of Boynton’s 113 field-goal attempts this season, 68 have been 3-pointers. That’s 60.1 percent; and that’s a pretty easy scout for the opposition. “When you become one-dimensional, you become a lot more predictable to guard,” Donovan said. “When there’s a guy on top of him, put it on the floor, get in the lane, create help and then start to make the game easier for guys.” For Boynton, who basically has been a 3-point shooter since arriving on campus (825 of 1,416 career shots -- 58.2 percent -- have been 3s), that’s quite a transition to make with 20-some games to go in his career.
EX-GATOR OF THE WEEK: Bradley Beal
He came to his new team with all sorts of credentials and accolades from the previous level, yet struggled to meet expectations early on. Sound familiar? That was Beal’s story when he came to Florida in the fall 2011 as a McDonald’s All-American and USA Today National Player of the Year. Beal needed a couple months to learn the college ropes, free his mind of pressures and allow the game to slow down. Well, that’s exactly what’s happened in Washington, where the Wizards first-round pick -- the third overall in last June’s draft -- had some really difficult rookie moments, but last week was named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month and is now averaging 12.9 points and 3.6 rebounds for the bad-beyond-belief Wizards who are still without franchise star point guard John Wall. Beal is averaging 20 points in three January games and in Friday night’s double-overtime loss to Brooklyn scored a career-high 24 points, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force a second OT, to go with six rebounds, four assists and three steals. And the monster dunk below, too.
Yale sent Calvin Hill, Dick Jauron and Doug Fencik to the NFL, but who is the school's most accomplished basketball alum? (Answer below in the “Free Throws” section)
OFF-BEAT GATOR PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Thought: Who the hell took this picture?
The Gators could have three players in the NBA All-Star Game this year: Joakim Noah, Al Horford and David Lee. If that happens, we'll check on how rare that is (though North Carolina, for openers) comes to mind. ... UF opens the Southeastern Conference season Wednesday night at home against Georgia (6-7). The Bulldogs finished last in the SEC East in 2012, but will have the best player on the floor in former McDonald’s All-American and sophomore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. ... Of the 14 players on the Yale roster, 12 are from different states. ... John L. Lee Amphitheater, site of Sunday's game against, Yale seats only 2,532. Be interested to know the last time the Gators played in a road gym -- not a neutral site holiday tournament, but a true road venue -- of that size. ... Yale’s most decorated basketball player is 1987 grad Chris Dudley, who played 16 seasons in the NBA, bouncing from Cleveland, New Jersey, New York, Phoenix and Portland from 1987-2003. Along the way, the three-time All-Ivy Leaguer scored 3,473 points and grabbed 5,457 rebounds, but he’s probably best remembered as being the worst free-throw shooter in the league. A career 45.8 shooter from the line.
NEW ORLEANS -- Gator greats Emmitt Smith and Danny Wuerffel will represent Florida during the ceremonial toss of the coin Tuesday before the 79th Sugar Bowl. Louisville, meanwhile, will roll out a couple legends of its own in former linebacker Tom Jackson and -- get this -- Muhammad Ali.
Smith, the Gators and Dallas Cowboys icon and all-time rusher in NFL history, attended UF’s walk-through Monday at the Superdome and addressed the players during practice.
Before the walk-through, Smith visited with GatorZone.com.
[Note: I did not ask him about Tony Romo]
GZ: What do you think of the Gators being back in what their fans would think is their rightful spot near the top of the polls and the bowl bigtime?
EMMITT: “We’ve been in our rightful spot since I left college. It’s just continuing on and carrying on a legacy that’s been there, and just building upon that rich tradition. It’s a wonderful thing to see it. Yeah, we’ve had some lean years, just a few in there, but we’ve had some plentiful years. To see it continue on is a wonderful thing. It makes all the alumni proud.”
GZ: What are your thoughts on the job Will Muschamp has done?
EMMITT: “I think he’s done a helluva job. He really has. He’s come in and turned the program around and got the guys believing in his system, playing for one another and playing for him. That’s what you’re supposed to do -- inspire your players. I think he’s done a wonderful job with that, especially considering the odds that were against him and the projection of where this team was supposed to be going into the fall. He was coming into a situation with the letdown of Urban [Meyer] leaving and depletion of some talent, but at the end of the day he’s more than held his own. He’s excelled.”
GZ: A year ago, this program was in Jacksonville at 6-6 and fighting to finish with a winning record. Today, a BCS game and shot to finish in the top two or three in the country. Tough to see that coming?
EMMITT: “I can understand it was difficult for people to see it. Anytime you bring in a new coach there’s a period of transition that takes a little longer than others. But when you’re able to come in and inspire players to another level of greatness and get them to buy into your system and earn their trust -- which is a tough thing to do for coaches ... . I think he’s been very consistent with his words, his actions, what he expects and his standards. Very consistent. He has not wavered one way, and I think that’s what the players have bought into. He’s shown he’s going to be the coach and that he means what he says, does what he says and if you fall in line we’re going places. That’s the way it works. And the results are starting to show on the football field -- much faster than everybody anticipated, definitely.”