Gator Basketball Bounces Back Strong

Just two days after losing big at home to powerhouse Ohio State, the Florida basketball team smashed North Carolina A&T 105-55 in front of an announced crowd of 8,092 in the O'Connell Center. The Gators move to 2-1 on the season as head coach Billy Donovan liked what he saw from the team effort Thursday night. This game was over early.

Florida led 53-28 at halftime with point guard Erving Walker being the only player scoring in double figures in the first half with his 11th point at the buzzer to end the period. Before the game was over, eight different Gators would finish with double figures.

Billy Donovan was happy to see his team stay focused after such a bad loss on Tuesday and with a couple of ailments to his team. Senior forward Alex Tyus sat out the game with a concussion and senior center Vernon Macklin was limited because of a knee injury.

"With the relatively quick turnaround from Tuesday you worry about the emotions that will carry over," Donovan told the media after the game. "The last 10 minutes of that game on Tuesday were disappointing for us. We needed to watch the Ohio State game and also needed to get prepared to play North Carolina A&T and then try and make corrections on the floor…then having Alex out with a concussion and Vernon's knee.

"I was really encouraged with the way our guys responded and the attitude they came out with. I think the things we focused and talked about. We only had 11 turnovers in the game and both point guards had six assists and zero turnovers. I thought we did a better job of rotating."

Donovan also liked how his team finished the second half, unlike the contest on Tuesday night.

"I was happy that going into the half with a large margin that they continued to play and we continued to stay focused on the right things and built the lead. I thought our freshmen came in and gave us good energy and played very well. Collectively as a team I was happy how we responded after Tuesday's game."

Eight players scoring in double figures was a product of the team following a game plan throughout the night, not just in the first half.

"I thought it was significant because I thought our guys played the right way," Donovan said about so many players scoring in double figures. "When you have a big lead sometimes guys try to do a little too much. I thought our guys responded well. I thought the unselfishness, the ball movement, the encouragement for one another, our freshmen getting minutes, the way Erving Walker responded coming off of a game where he had seven turnovers against Ohio State.

"These were just some things we tried to address as a team in the last 24 hours. When you see your kids trying to execute what we talked about, you feel good about where the focus was. I thought the focus was there for our guys tonight for 40 minutes was on the right things that we need to get better."

All five starters finished in double figures with senior forward Chandler Parsons and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton leading the way with 16 points each. Senior center Vernon Macklin threw in 10, while sophomore forward Erik Murphy and junior point guard Erving Walker both finished with 11 points.

The older guys got theirs, but Donovan is set on getting his young guys involved this season. A year ago, the Gators lacked depth and late in games teams would make runs that a beleaguered Gator team could not overcome. Thursday night, the Gators had four freshen play 20-plus minutes. Casey Prather (12 points), Patric Young (11), and Scottie Wilbekin (11) had good offensive nights while Will Yeguette pulled down 15 rebounds on the night.

He wants a game like tonight to go a long way in making his team a better one and a deeper one.

"I am hopeful that it will help quite a bit looking back to the Ohio State game…when a game is tight like that you are probably going to go with a little more experience. I think I have said this before, if we play Erik Murphy as our sixth man and a couple of freshman 3-4 minutes just to give those guys a blow, we're really the same team we were a year ago. We are trying to be a better team than we were a year ago.

"We need our freshmen to grow and develop. They have to add some depth for us and they have to be consistent and responsible. I thought this game was good where they can see themselves on film in a game where they made mistakes, where they did a good job, and where collectively we can improve."

Donovan praised Yeguette as a guy that likes to do everything that other players are less inclined. He could see a night like this happening for the freshman.

"This is not surprising to me, when he gets minutes," Donovan said. "His issue is sometimes he has to get better in terms of handling and passing the basketball. He rebounded the ball in the first half and tried to force the ball back to the basket, then he started to figure out when he rebounds and throw the ball back to the three point line, he can get some guys some open looks.

"He is going to be a terrific player because he is a guy that embraces the dirty work. There aren't a lot of guys that understand what kind of impact that has on winning. He has great hands and an incredible nose for the ball. He is very physical. As you look at him as a whole, he is going to be a terrific player because he does things and takes pride in things that really impact winning."

Donovan saw some maturity in Patric Young that hasn't been there yet this season. Young came to the Gators with all the accolades and while the head coach knows he has a good one, he also knows he has to slow down and think a little bit.

"He was a little bit lost," Donovan said of Young's first two games as a freshman. "I thought today he was a little more comfortable with what he was doing. He has a great motor and great energy. He gave us some good minutes and I was happy we could get him the ball in areas he can do something with it. He does a lot of things that impact our team. The more we can get him comfortable I think he is going to help us.

"It's more of a maturity issue with him. Sometimes you are the biggest, strongest, and most physical every time you step on the floor in high school. There are certain things you get away with and it's an intimidation factor. He wasn't bigger or stronger than (Ohio State's) Lauderdale or Sullinger.

"He has a different personality, but similar mentality than Joakim Noah. ‘I am going to play harder, be more aggressive, and exhaust myself. All the mental parts of the game don't mean anything because I am going to play so hard.' He is starting to figure out that he needs to get a better feel of what we are doing and how he needs to guard and defend. I think he is seeing some of that. It's just a maturing and growing process for him."

As some have suggested, Donovan wished he had played more of freshman Wilbekin in the Ohio State game. Thursday, Wilbekin logged six more minutes than anyone else on the team playing 31 on the night.

"More than anything it was getting him more minutes," Donovan said about his goals as they pertained to Wilbekin in this game. "He probably should have played a little more in the Ohio State game. He deserved to be out there and I thought he handled himself very well.

Starting forward Alex Tyus sat out the game with a concussion but Donovan said he expects Tyus to be back for the Sunday afternoon game against Morehead State at the O'Connell center at 3:30 p.m.

"I would say right now he will probably play on Sunday," Donovan said. "He will work out tomorrow, we are off because of the rules, but he will go through a workout with trainers. I would anticipate he will play on Sunday."

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