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March 12, 2006

Billy Donovan

Tauren Green

Joakim Noah


THE MODERATOR: Alright. We're ready to continue on with Florida, and we'll ask Coach Donovan for some opening remarks on the game, and then we'll take questions for Taurean and Joakim.

COACH BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I think for our basketball team and for most teams, South Carolina is a very hard match-up. I think one of the things that they do and they do very well, if you really zero in and watch them, is they get a lot of easy baskets in transition off your turnovers and ill-advised shots.
They hold the ball. They hold it for about 30 seconds every possession. And we just felt like coming into this game, they had great players that have been able to make plays against us at the end of the games with the shot clock winding down, and just thought our team playing two games didn't want to chase them around. Wanted to try to allow our guys to challenge shots, keep them out of the lane, stay out of foul trouble, but they're a hard team to play against because they push it on misses and turnovers and try to get easy baskets and hold it for 35 seconds and got guys like Kinsey and trace and Tre' Kelley and Balkman. They have. They create and make plays. Just felt like maybe playing them some zone would take that away.
I thought in the game we shot ourselves in the foot a lot of times in the second half. I believe our first five possessions we turned it over four times. We were up by 11. I think Corey maybe turned the ball over in the mid definitely a possession a fast break. We had a chance to go up with 13 with the ball in our hands, gave us two back-to-back 3s.
We fouled the three-point shooter twice in the second half. I think it really came down to at least I felt like our team did not have that zip after playing for three games. I thought both teams fatigue is a game win on definitely settled in.
But I'm very, very proud of our kids. I'm proud of the way they competed, the way they played, and it was a game that really it came down to the wire, but we kind of allowed them to get back in. And get closer and defensively, I thought their quickness at times really bothered us. We really weren't able to run very many sets.
We really, when we did get the ball inside, we had a tough time with their quickness. They're a good team, very good team, and they play a style that, you know, again is unique and a little bit different than what we face. But our kids just kept battling and playing and, I mean, to win a championship game not even get to go 50 points is truly remarkable.
We talked to our guys last night just about this was going to be a game that they're going to try to shorten the game. They're going to try to take a 40-minute game and make it a 25-minute game, and they're a team that really if -- it's almost like possession football a little bit. You look at time of possession, their time of possession every game is unbelievable. They run around. You know, they get a wide open layup or shot. They're into the shooting until ten seconds.
We're fortunate to win. I'm proud of all these kids, and we'll have to move on to the next thing after we find out tonight where we're going.

THE MODERATOR: Okay. We'll take questions now for take you and Joakim. If you have questions for either, raise your hands. Let's start in the middle.

Q. Joe, can you talk about the last play, what you saw when Corey let go of the ball and exactly also the block of Balkman on the rebound?
JOAKIM NOAH: Well, it's all about being in the right place at the right time.

THE MODERATOR: Closer to the microphone.

JOAKIM NOAH: No, no. It's all about being at the right place at the right time. Luck plays a big role in that because the ball could have went in a different trajectory, and it's just a great feeling right now. I mean, I don't even -- in my mind it just went by so fast, but it just -- next thing I knew, I mean, we won, so --
Q Block? No, no block. He went up and I blocked it.

THE MODERATOR: Let's take the next question right here in the front.

Q. Taurean, if you had to do it all over, would you have pulled up and not shot the 3, the air ball he shot. If you had to do it all over?
TAUREAN GREEN: No. I mean, it was an open look. I just -- Coach also tells me to step into my shot 1, 2, but I hopped into it, you know. I think that was the reason why I air-balled it.

THE MODERATOR: Other questions, raise your hand? Down in the back.

Q. Taurean, down the stretch you guys just had a lot of trouble getting the -- getting into any kind of offense flow. Would you talk about that?
TAUREAN GREEN: You know, they were pressuring us in the second half a lot, and they were taking passing lanes away, and I think they wanted us to drive into their big guys so they get blocked shots or try to steal the ball and try to get easy buckets on the break.
I just think that's what they tried to do, just turn the pressure up on us, try to make a bad play.

THE MODERATOR: Hands up? Where are we.

Q. You don't know, but I'm going to, hypothetically for the two players, if you find out you're going to Jacksonville, what would be your reaction?


TAUREAN GREEN: It doesn't matter. I mean, we're just -- we're going to have take play a team, you know. It really doesn't matter where we go to us.

THE MODERATOR: Same for Joakim? No.

JOAKIM NOAH: It would be great to play in Jacksonville because of the fan base, but at the same time, we can't be worried about where we're going to play. Those things we can't control. So, of course, it would be great opportunity for us to play in front of a big Florida Gator fan base, but, at the same time, I mean, we have to be prepared for anything.

THE MODERATOR: Okay. Other questions for either? Hands up. Any others? Okay. We'll excuse take you and Joakim to the locker room. Thank you. We'll continue on with questions for Coach Donovan. If you have one, raise your hand.

Q. Billy, when you look at the stat sheet, are you more surprised that you won or that you only won by two?
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: Well, probably a little bit of both. Tonight -- today we won because of our defense and they didn't shoot the ball particularly well. I would say it was a combination that we did at times challenge their shots, and there was maybe also some shots they just didn't knockdown.
I felt like the game was coming down to -- I told our guys last night the game is going to come down to one, our ability on the fast break to take care of basketball and go inside and work inside to out. We really did a poor job in that area but give South Carolina credit. Their quickness turned us over.
We had 18 turnovers in the game to 11 assists. We haven't done a good job in this turnover tournament taking care of the basketball. What we've done in this tournament, if you look at the one thing that's been the constant, our 3-point field goal percentage defense. Teams are shooting 25, 26 percent against us, and I think the 3-point line is one of the keyest, maybe the keyest stat on any stat sheet in tournament play.
They took 27 3s, many, almost half their shots, were 3s. They didn't make them. We, on other end actually shot a very high percentage against their defense, but you look at -- when you play against South Carolina, it's about statistics. And what I mean by that is you got to eliminate their second shots hustle plays offensive rebounds, which in the first half, we really did a pretty good job on except there was about two possessions where they got about four, five offensive rebounds.
For the most part, we limited them in the first half to one shot. We didn't let them get out on the break, and we made them, you know, hold on to the ball, and we kept them in front at the end.
In the second half, I thought our turnovers, fouling the 3-shooters, kind of lead into them really getting back into the game. It was our turnovers that lead them back in the game.
So it's one of those things where I think you look at the fact that they took so many 3s, they didn't shoot a big percentage. That's going to give you a chance. They took 19 more shots than we did because they grabbed 15 offensive rebounds to our four.
So really probably for us it's totally different ends of the spectrum, when you look at the stat sheet, that we're trying to do. If we have could have taken better care of basketball and gotten another -- turned it over 12 times against 14 times, had another four, five possessions, maybe we would have had a little bit of a bigger lead coming down the stretch. Also, they didn't make shots which unfortunately didn't allow them to have the lead.
I knew it was going to be this type of game because I just told our guys, "We're going to have to grind it out." It was going to have to be an ugly game. We were not going to allow them to -- I thought that they -- I think that they fatigued. They got experienced guys that are older and run you around in the half court.
You get caught playing man-to-man. You run around the floor. All of a sudden you give up a second shot. I thought the zone allowed to -- not rest, but prevented us from having to chase them all around the floor.

THE MODERATOR: Question on the aisle.

Q. Billy, I'm just wondering, have you contemplated at all this curious history you guys have had with the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament? Seemed like you couldn't do in the SEC Tournament, you did well in the big tournament, and now it's been kind of opposite lately. Have you contemplated that at all? What do you make of that?
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: No. I think every year is different. I mean, for many years here in the beginning of my time here at Florida, you know, we really never got out of the quarter finals with some pretty good teams. Now it's been three consecutive years in the finals.
I think the thing with the NCAA Tournament that people don't realize, the seedings don't mean anything unless you are really a 1 or 2 seed. If you're a 1 or 2 seed, there's going to be a huge talent discrepancy. Once you start moving into 3, 4, 5, 6 -- you look at a team like Michigan State, you know, or a Seton Hall or somebody that's going to get -- an Alabama that's going to have like an 8, 9, 10 seed. I mean, on a neutral site when I don't remember playing against a school from a major conference, anything could possibly happen.
I look at the teams that we've played and in particular here of late, Villanova was a travel away from upsetting North Carolina, and North Carolina maybe was the best team in college basketball last year.
Villanova has obviously been ranked in the top, you know, five all year long. I think that the trick in the NCAA Tournament is no one has got the NCAA Tournament figured out. I think the trick -- in the NCAA Tournament, the best team doesn't necessarily win a national championship. It's not the NBA where you play the best out of seven. It's a one-shot deal on neutral site. I think the trick from the NCAA Tournament is get, for example, in regular consistent basis and giving yourself an opportunity to make something special happen.
I can't sit here and say we have some magic potion now because we've been in the three straight finals here in the SEC Tournament, that we got it all figured out and we'll be back again next year and the year after and the year after that. If that was the case, you would have, you know, the same teams in the Final Four every single year. You have the same team -- there's no secret formula. There's luck, there's match-ups, there's guys making keep shots. Look at the way we won today. Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah is in the right place and tips it in.
Sometimes there's things that are out of your control. I'm appreciative and thankful that we have an opportunity and we've had an opportunity for the last eight years to even get into the tournament, and I'm excited about the opportunity the last three years to be.
Sometimes you're downtime allows you to appreciate a little bit more the good times.

THE MODERATOR: Okay. Question in the back.

Q. Billy, in the first half, they come out and they went 3 for 25, and you guys couldn't put them away. What was Florida's problem there, because you had the opportunity?
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: Self-inflicted wounds, you know? It was all just self-inflicted. We're up by 11 and get a stop, and Corey Brewer has got the ball in the middle of floor and tries to be inbetween three guys. He gets it stolen. They throw to the 3-point line. Now the lead goes from 11 to 8.
Then we come back down the floor, we miss a shot, we don't do a good job getting back. They knockdown those 3. Now all of a sudden, it's 5. Within 30 seconds, we went from an 11-point lead to 5-point lead.
Noah fouls a 3-point shooter. Brewer is running down the right-hand side. He fouls a 3-point shooter. I really thought we contributed to them getting back in the game would with our mental errors. We had an opportunity to start the second half to take the lead from 7 to 15, and we turned the ball over four of our first five possessions.
Now, they did a very good job pressuring us, and I'm not taking away because they were disruptive, and our point guard had 8 turnovers in the game. But I didn't like how sharp we were. This was really -- this game for both teams was just kind of more about wills these kids competing. Because they were very, very aggressive and they -- their quickness caused us problems, but also we played good enough defense, and we struggled taking care of the basketball.
So I thought some of the reason we couldn't put them away was because we made mistakes in crucial times. They're a team to me that because of their Kelley being a senior; Balkman, junior; Kinsey, senior; just their team, Tisby, senior, they prey upon mistakes of a youthful team, and we made some mistakes at inopportunistic times that allowed them to hang around and give themselves a chance to win.

THE MODERATOR: Question over here.

Q. Will you just follow-up to what the gentleman asked over there. Not many teams other than Kentucky has won back-to-back tournaments here. What's the significance of that that you've been able to do that?
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: I'm very, very thankful. I think there's a lot of people that contribute to it. I think it's the players. It's the assistant coaches. It's the administration. It's really the University of Florida and the commitment that's been made. But I think more than anything else, the more and more I do this, so much of being able to get to championship games is so much based on the guys that you recruit's mentality. Just their mentality and their makeup.
That's the unfortunate and most difficult part in recruiting is you can evaluate shooting, passing and handling, you can evaluate all the physical skills, but I would be lying to you if I thought that Joakim Noah was the competitor that he is and Al Horford is the competitor that he is.
Taurean Green is about as tough and hard-nose of a point guard as I've ever coached, and I would have thought anything but that when I met him during the recruiting process. Very mild and meek kid who handles himself very well.
I just think so much of being able to win championships is you've got to have good talent, but the talent has got to have some serious character and makeup internally. That's what you try to do is find it.
We've got a group of guys. I don't know what's going to happen here going forward, but in terms of competitiveness, toughness, physicality, play to compete, play to win, emotional, unselfish, all things that you can't see and evaluate, that's what's allowed us to come back has been those type of kids.

THE MODERATOR: Okay. We got time for two, three more. Did you have one come in on down to the front right here? Mike, go ahead.

Q. Billy, you've said before that teams that play on Sunday shouldn't open the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. If you go to Jacksonville, you would play on Thursday. The fact that it's a bus ride, that travel schedule has got to make it a lot easier for you.
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: I think it does. Again, I've said this before about our tournament. I just think that sometimes it's better off finishing on Saturday. But TV and everything else, you know, dictates some of that.
If we're playing on Thursday, you know what? We've got to be prepared and ready to play. That's the hand, and you know what, I'm hopeful that we can rejuvenate our guys. I am a little bit concerned right now the emotional level our guys went through for the last three games and really the last week and a half of the season, just the emotional level of being able to regroup and get out there. We've got to be able to do that.
Whatever it is, whenever we're playing, if it is Jacksonville, certainly the travel is a little bit more convenient. But my biggest thing right now is I felt like coming down the stretch these games, we were able to get our guys mentally and physically rejuvenated. I feel like today we looked worn.
I think South Carolina looked worn, too. But you know what? After playing three straight games, you're supposed to be worn. I would be disappointed if they felt fresh. That means they didn't leave it here. We've got to find a way to get them back physically.

THE MODERATOR: Last question right here.

Q. Coach Donovan, in relation to the offensive strategy that you talked about, how much emphasis was placed on your kid's movement without the ball?
COACH BILLY DONOVAN: We wanted to create some ball and player movement against them. But they -- Balkman does a great job and Wallace. They're long and quick, and sometimes your post people look like they're open and they shoot the gap. I think you've got to give them moment. I think they've got too much quickness that if you become a little stationary and stagnant, they're just too good. You got to keep them involved in screening action.
Really at the end of the game, I thought that they were taking us out of our offense. And what we really try to do is with a little dribble weave, and I had Taurean try to drive it to Corey and pitch it back to him. All I wanted Taurean to do at six-foot-eight is downplay any great penetration, try to force some help, and get the ball up the on the glass and maybe one of their bigs stepped up. He kind of turned the corner. I think Wallace or somebody went up to block it. But we really weren't able to run very much offense. Probably us trying to run offense -- when we did a good job of it, we scored, but you got to give them credit.
I thought that Dave is a class guy. His team did an unbelievable job here. We're very fortunate to win. Part of me really feels bad that their team can't get to the NCAA Tournament. That may sound crazy. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad we won the championship and wouldn't give it up for anything. But when you see their kids play the way they did and then you have to see the faces after, that's the thing that's hard. I'm really happy for our team, but you know what, their team, their coaching staff, their kids deserve a lot of credit. Because you know what? What I talked about in the recruiting process, the makeup of kids. South Carolina kids have that. Kinsey's got that. Balkman's got that. Tre' Kelley's got that. So you got to give them a lot of credit for our inability to run the offense and score.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.


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