Gators Continue to Roll

It can be difficult to stir up a team's intensity for a game against a completely overmatched opponent, but the Gators came out firing nonetheless. Coming off a dominating 105-51 victory over the North Carolina Central Eagles, coach Billy Donovan was full of compliments for the attitude and effort of his young squad.

"There's a lot of things I was pleased with tonight," Billy Donovan said. "I personally didn't think we shot the ball very well behind the 3-point line. Chandler Parsons was the one guy that really made shots. I was very happy that we shot the ball maybe not as well as we're capable of and we still had 29 assists in the game. I thought, offensively, we really tried to play unselfishly."

After being harshly critical of Marreese Speights' effort in previous games, Donovan was finally able to praise the talented sophomore for the energy and intensity that had been lacking until tonight.

"The last couple days I wasn't overly thrilled with Marreese," Donovan said. "But it was great to see him tonight – I didn't even recognize his points. What stood out to me was the way he chased the ball on the backboard, the way he went after it, the way he helped his teammates blocking shots and rotating and getting over there. He didn't play a lot of minutes tonight but I thought the minutes he played he made an impact on the things outside of scoring, which was good to see."

Donovan also talked about the team's defensive performance and how they've reacted to playing against three very different offensive strategies.

"Defensively, there's still some areas I'd like to see us get better," Donovan said. "This was a good team for us to play against, in some respects, because they made us guard deep and long stretches into the shot clock. I was happy with the way we responded coming off what I would consider a good weekend."

Perhaps Donovan's biggest defensive concern was the team's inability to limit their opponents' leading scorers. In all three games, they've been able to meet or surpass their scoring average. Ben Woodside had 16 points for North Dakota State, Amadi McKenzie had 22 for Tennessee Tech and Bryan Ayala had 23 for the Eagles. It's a problem that, if allowed to continue, could be quite costly against more potent offenses and more talented players.

"We had a team the last couple years that we could take one guy or two guys out of the game," Donovan said. "We had that type of personnel. We've got to find a way, defensively, to have somebody come up as a defensive stopper that we can throw a guy on a guy and say ‘Your job tonight is to defend or do a great job on this guy.' And we haven't had that the last three games."

When asked what players on the team could possibly fill that role, Donovan was quick to name the lone player who has yet to really find his niche within the team.

"I'm hoping a guy like Jonathan Mitchell," Donovan said. "I think it'd be a great role for him. If he can evolve into that type of guy for us and not worry about points but worry about being a tough, hard-nosed competitor and defender. I think he has that type of ability. He's really good in terms of his technique and his focus. I hope he can develop into that but there's a level of mindset that you've got to take on as a player to want to absorb that type of role."

Alex Tyus had his first game in double digits, thundering home dunk after alley oop after dunk for 13 points, five rebounds and two blocks.

"We talked about trying to throw the ball more inside, look for me and Mo (Speights) and we can kick it out or go up," Tyus said. "Our guards, they do a great job. We had 29 assists so we pass the ball very well."

While Nick Calathes had another impressive outing with 16 points, 4 rebounds and eight assists, it was his high school teammate, Chandler Parsons, that really stuffed the stat sheet with 22 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals in only 18 minutes of play.

With four minutes left in the game and the score well out of hand, the team's walk-ons, Shane Payne, Hudson Fricke and Michael Weisenberg, saw their first significant playing time. This is the first year with the team for the three and the scholarship players were excited to get them in the game.

"We were talking about it before the game," Tyus said. "We were like ‘We're gonna get y'all more minutes this game' so we tried to play as hard as we could to get those guys in."

"They've worked so hard," Parsons said. "Those guys are a big part of why we're doing so well, going at us everyday as the scout team."

"Certainly, the most talented team, up to this point and time, we're playing is Rutgers on Saturday," Donovan said. "I've had the chance to see them play twice just because I've watched the games against Tennessee Tech and North Carolina Central.So I've got a pretty good feel and that's going to be a heck of a challenge for us on Saturday."

The game against the Scarlet Knights will complete the Blue Ribbon Challenge round robin. It will have been the Gators' fourth game in only eight days.

Questions or comments? Contact's Blake Bonsack

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