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Gators coach Billy Donovan improved to 31-10 in NCAA Tournament play on Friday night.

Saturday March 30, 2013Gators Notebook: Donovan Surpasses Rupp, Murphy's Shot, More Tidbits

Gators coach Billy Donovan improved to 31-10 in NCAA Tournament play on Friday night.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Whenever you pass former Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp on any wins list, the milestone is newsworthy.

Rupp spent 41 seasons as Kentucky's head coach and won 876 career games and four national championships from 1930-72. The "Baron of the Bluegrass" coached in an era when the NCAA Tournament was born.

By the time Rupp retired in 1972, March Madness wasn't quite the spectacle it is today and there were fewer teams and games involved, but it was college basketball's premiere event and Rupp had a 30-18 record in the tournament.

Rupp's 30 NCAA Tournament wins were the most in history for an SEC coach, a record that stood 41 years until Florida's 62-50 victory over Florida Gulf Coast on Friday night sent the Gators back to the Elite Eight for a school-record third consecutive season. Florida is the only program in the country to make the Elite Eight the last three years.

Gators coach Billy Donovan improved to 31-10 in NCAA Tournament games, surpassing Rupp as the SEC's winningest coach in the Big Dance. Friday's victory also marked the 17th win for Donovan in his past 18 tournament games against lower-seeded teams.

The loss was to Butler in 2011. Donovan's impressive NCAA Tournament record isn't by accident.

"We probably watch a lot more film and do a lot more in a shorter period of time,'' senior Erik Murphy said of the postseason preparation. "It's kind of crammed in there. He makes sure that we're ready. He knows if we're ready or not, and if not, he'll keep going.

"He's good at that regardless if it's a short prep or if it's a regular-season game."

Added junior center Patric Young: "I have a lot of confidence in Billy Donovan. He knows exactly what he is talking about through experience. He prepares us the right way."

MURPHY READY

Murphy refused to blame his shooting woes Friday on anything health-related or the backdrop at cavernous Cowboys Stadium.

"It was just a couple of my shots didn't fall. I didn't get than many looks,'' he said Saturday. "They guarded me pretty well. That's it really. Some nights it's your night, some nights it's not. All that matters we came out with a W."

Murphy finished 2 of 7 from the floor and missed his only 3-point shot, finishing with four points and four rebounds. He isn't concerned about any lingering shooting woes from playing in a dome as the Gators prepare to face Michigan on Sunday.

"I love it. During the game players don't really often notice [the backdrop]. They are just playing,'' Murphy said. "It's a sweet set up. It's something special to play in this arena."

STAYING CONNECTED

Former Gators standout Joakim Noah attended the Gators' win over FGCU on Friday night. Noah was in town with the Chicago Bulls, who played the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons tweeted he plans to attend today's game against Michigan. Parsons played in the Elite Eight with the Gators in his final season in 2011.

While Noah's former roommate and teammate at UF, Atlanta Hawks star Al Horford, is not expected at Sunday's game, his little brother will be there.

Jon Horford is a sophomore forward for the Wolverines. He visited UF and considered following in his older brother's footsteps before opting to play closer to home.

Which team is Al rooting for?

"I'm hoping he's a Wolverine, but if he's a Gator, I understand," Jon Horford told reporters. "He has a history there."

MUTUAL RESPECT

Michigan freshman Mitch McGary visited UF on the recruiting trail and had the Gators in his final three choices along with Michigan and Duke. He broke away from a vacation in the Florida Keys to make a special trip to Gainesville.

"I enjoyed my visit,'' McGary said Saturday. "The coaches and players I met were awesome and they made a great impression."

Donovan was equally impressed with the 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward from Chesterton, Ind.

"I love Mitch as a kid,'' Donovan said Saturday. "What a great kid. The thing I loved about him and just watching him and recruiting him, phenomenal teammate, great enthusiasm for the game, incredible personality."

Now that he is in shape, McGary could be a huge factor in today's game. He scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Friday's win over Kansas.

Over the summer McGary tipped the scale at more than 270 pounds. His fondness for pizza and candy -- "I like M&M's because of my initials" -- slowed his development.

But McGary is now playing his best basketball and has moved into the starting lineup.

"One of his bigger issues early was learning how to play defense without fouling,'' Michigan coach John Beilein said Saturday. "There's several times he could have started. He did not mind coming off the bench, and we frankly loved him coming off the bench because you can see he gives us a great deal of energy."

When Jordan Morgan was injured, McGary moved into the starting lineup and appears a lock to stay there.

TIDE OF TURNOVERS

The Gators forced FGCU to commit 20 turnovers in Friday night's victory. That was the most turnovers caused by the Gators in an NCAA Tournament game since a 67-62 victory over Ohio in 2005.

NOTES AND NUGGETS

The Gators are in the Elite Eight for the sixth time since 2000; they are 3-2 ... Florida can clinch its third 30-win season in school history with a victory over Michigan ... Florida faced Michigan in the 1988 NCAA Tournament, losing 108-85 in Salt Lake City ... Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. is 9-for-13 from 3-point range in the NCAA Tournament ... The Gators' win over FGCU was the 450th of Donovan's coaching career ... The Gators are 25-0 when holding opponents to 60 points or fewer ... Michigan is 12-0 when scoring 80 points or more ... The announced attendance of 40,639 at Friday's South Region semifinals is the fourth-largest crowd ever for a NCAA regional semifinal session.

Check GatorZone.com later for more notebook items heading into Sunday's game against Michigan.

 

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