Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- His team had just put together a thoroughly impressive -- and thoroughly thorough -- dismantling of Texas A&M on the road Thursday night. Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators were pretty darn giddy in the post-game locker room when the coach entered and huddled them up.
Donovan did not want to break the mood, but his message to the Gators was clear.
“I’m proud of how you prepared and how you played tonight. Great job,” Donovan said after UF’s 68-47 rout of the Aggies, who were coming off a road upset of defending national champion Kentucky. “We can feel good about this one tonight and on the plane home -- but tomorrow you need to listen to those guys. We have a game in 41 hours.”
Those guys were UF trainer David “Duke” Werner and strength and conditioning coach Preston Greene.
In facing the infamous Thursday-Saturday turnaround the duties and wisdom of both Werner and Greene became all the more pivotal as the 10th-ranked Gators (13-2, 3-0) quickly turned their focus to 17th-ranked Missouri (13-3, 2-1), which comes to town Saturday for a 2 p.m. tip-off and the first sellout at the O’Connell Center this season.
Late-night travel, next-day treatment, truncated practices, study cram sessions, early afternoon game.
The whirlwind combination is one SEC teams have dealt with since the start of the league’s lucrative TV agreement with ESPN for the 2009-10 season.
Over the past three years, Florida has faced the Thursday-Saturday scenario seven times and gone a combined 13-1. After the win over the Aggies, the Gators hope to piggy-back a victory over the Tigers and take that mark to 15-1.
Clearly, they’re doing something right when it comes to this version of crunch time.
“We have a lot of veteran guys who are used to it,” junior center Patric Young said. “We’ll take care of our bodies and make sure we get our rest. When the ball is tipped, there won’t be any excuses.”
Donovan believes Missouri has the best point guard in the country in Phil Pressey, whose vision and anticipation would be difficult to prepare for if the Gators had five days.
Instead, they have mere hours.
“It’s a great challenge for us against a team that’s clearly a terrific and explosive offensive team with a lot of different weapons,” Donovan said. “We’re not going to be able to cover everything in that amount of time, but there’s key things they’re going to do and we’ll have to handle the best we can.”
The basketball element is only part of the process.
It’s one thing if the two games/three days combo involved a pair of home dates. It’s another situation entirely when flying home from Texas late Thursday, arriving early Friday, then scrambling to prep for an up-tempo team like Missouri -- and an early afternoon tip, no less -- with precious little practice, scouting and recovery time.
Several UF’s players were in 8:30 a.m. classes Friday, too.
By the time the Gators were on the practice floor at 4:30 p.m., Werner’s training room had been a revolving door of players coming throughout the day for icing, stretching, heating, laser therapy, message therapy, whatever it took to get them ready. The ones fighting injuries, like junior forward Will Yeguete and his swollen knee, commanded even more attention.
“We throw it all at ‘em,” Werner said.
The objective is a balance between physical and mental recovery, then priming for the game.
For example, Greene put the team through stretches before and after the short practice late Friday afternoon, a workout that included two short video sessions focusing Missouri.
After practice, players car-pooled to a Gainesville hotel. Last year, Donovan started taking the team off campus the night before SEC home games, thus eliminating potential distractions.
“This way, we’re in control,” said Greene, who plays the part of barrack’s chief magnificently.
On Friday, Greene went to the local Trader Joe’s and loaded up on fruits, nuts and trail mixes to supplement the popular protein shakes players get after each practice and his training table menu.
After more meetings and more tape Friday night, a curfew of 10 p.m. and lights-out of 11 p.m. was enforced.
“Physical recovery goes from 10 p.m. to 12, with [midnight]-on being cognitive recovery,” Greene said. “If a guy goes to bed at 1 in the morning, he’s already missed two hours of physical repair and an hour of mental repair. That’s why it’s important to get your sleep and to get it at the right time.”
After another Greene-coordinated breakfast (a light one) Saturday, UF will stretch and shoot-around at the O’Dome at 9:30 a.m., followed by a pre-game meal and more rest, then be back on the home floor about 90 minutes before tipoff, hopefully in prime shape -- mentally and physically -- to run around with Pressey and friends.
“When it’s this fast, you can’t control the process,” Werner said. “But you can assist it.”
After that, it’s back in the hands of the players and coaches.
GATORS GAME BOX -- SOLD OUT
No. 17 Missouri at No. 10 Florida
Tip-off: Saturday, 2 p.m. (O’Connell Center, Gainesville, Fla.)
Records: Florida 13-2, 3-0 (SEC); Missouri 13-3, 2-1 (SEC)
TV: ESPN (w/Mark Jones and Jimmy Dykes)
Radio: Gator IMG Sports Network (w/Mick Hubert and Mark Wise) -- Click here for affiliates) / Sirius 134/XM 199
Game notes: Florida notes; Missouri notes
Need to know: Gators coach Billy Donovan goes after his 400th win at Florida. He’s 399-160 in 17 seasons. The only coaches in Southeastern Conference history with more wins are Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp (860-190 in 41 seasons) and LSU’s Dale Brown (448-301 in 25 seasons). ... The game is UF’s first sellout of the season. ... The Gators have won five straight, including a trio of SEC games by an average margin of 25.3 points, but now face a team that figures to challenge for a league championship in just its first season. The Tigers may have lost four starters from last year’s team that won 30 games, but the one starter is junior PG Phil Pressey, a preseason player of the year candidate. ... UF has been dominant in SEC play, especially on defense, where the Gators lead the league in both points allowed per game (51.7) and field-goal percentage (36.3). The Tigers, though, rate second in both those categories (64.6 and 38.3, respectively). ... ... Florida has four players averaging in double figures, but only once this season has the same Gator led the team in scoring in back-to-back games. ... Senior G Kenny Boynton (13.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg) continues to top UF in scoring, despite inconsistent shooting (40.1 overall, 34.7 from 3-point range) that has not spilled over to his duties as sometimes point guard or on defense. Senior G Mike Rosario (12.8 ppg, SEC-leading 89.9 from FT line), is coming off a terrific game at A&M, where he scored 19 points and went 4-for-7 from the arc. The Gators also had one of their most productive front-court games of the season from C Patric Young (12.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and F Erik Murphy (12.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg), who combined for 34 points on 13-for-19 shooting to go with 14 rebounds ... UF will be without F Casey Prather (6.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg), a key reserve and pivotal player on defense and in the press, with a sprained ankle. F Will Yeguete (6.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) continues to battle knee tendinitis that limited his minutes the last two games. ... Missouri, coached by Frank Haith, will bring the brand of up-tempo basketball that allowed the Tigers to go 30-4 last season -- their last in the Big 12 -- and claim a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, though ultimately falling in the first round to Norfolk State. ...The Tigers lead the nation in rebounding at 43.8 per game, but the Gators top the SEC in defensive rebounding, limiting opponents to 28.3. ... Pressey, the son of former NBA standout Paul Pressey, makes Mizzou go, averaging 12.9 points, but leading the league at 7.3 assists per game (the next-high assist guy is UF’s Scottie Wilbekin at 4.5). ... The Tigers are expected to be without 6-9, 227-pound senior F Laurence Bowers, who sprained his knee in the team’s rout of Alabama to start the SEC season. Bowers is averaging 16.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and leads the league in field-goal percentage at 58.1. ... The Tigers have the SEC’s No. 3 rebounder in 6-9, 255-pound senior Alex Oriakhi (8.6 rpg). ... Missouri is coming off a 79-62 home win over Georgia, but the previous outing the Tigers scored just 49 points in a 15-point loss at Ole Miss. Their other defeats this season: 84-61 vs. Louisville in the Bahamas and 94-91 at UCLA in overtime. The Tigers have defeated Stanford, Virginia Commonwealth and Illinois.