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March 12, 2009
Florida Â– 73
Arkansas - 58
CLAUDE FELTON: Coach Donovan, on opening comments on the game.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, yeah, I think to start the game, you know, it certainly appeared offensively. Both teams were a little bit uptight. I thought we settled down in the second half and played a good second half on both ends.
You know, just happy for these guys that they could move on and play again tomorrow and a great opportunity for them to play against, I think, an Auburn team that's probably as hot and is playing as well as anybody in our league. Very similar to Arkansas. It's been a while since we've last seen them. It will be a lot for our guys to get familiar with it in a very short period of time.
CLAUDE FELTON: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Talk about the full court pressure that you and Irving Walker applied there that kind of broke the game open in the second half?
WALTER HODGE: I told those guys we have to come with crazy energy in the second half and make them turn the ball over, and we did a great job.
Q. Can you talk a little about your rebounding tonight and matching up with Washington? It seemed like you took to the challenge a little bit.
DAN WERNER: I just focused on boxing out. You know, sometimes Coach was stressing me to go try to get the ball instead of boxing out. After you hit him, go try to get it, and that's what I've been trying to focus on.
Q. I guess guards are closing 39, 38th, and you guys went on a 10-0 run in a little over ten minutes. You guys talk about just leading by one and breaking out to a bigger lead there. What was going on?
DAN WERNER: I think our guys went down and got steals and got foul shots. I think that got guys going. Obviously, when you get shots, if you go down you miss a shot it's not as big a deal. Because you're getting more shots and stuff. I would say press and get defensive stops.
WALTER HODGE: We did a great job of getting the stops. And we get the game open.
Q. After last year's loss to Georgia, any sense of relief this time. It's a close game, where you guys put it away at the end and are advancing now?
DAN WERNER: I haven't thought about last year at all. You know, I was just happy for all my teammates and stuff to get this win. I don't think about that. I'm just worried about this year and what we need to do.
WALTER HODGE: It feels good. It feels good. Just getting the win, you know. And getting those guys excited for the next game.
Q. Just your thoughts on the Auburn game earlier this season, and what you'll take from it into tomorrow night?
WALTER HODGE: We just have to go back and watch film and make sure we do the right things in the defensive end. Do a better job on the glass.
DAN WERNER: I remember it was a battle. Some guys on our team stepped up and made some big shots. We were fortunate to come out of there with a win. So it's definitely going to be a big test for us. Hopefully we're up to the challenge.
Q. Washington had 18 rebounds, I was wondering what's on his play inside.
DAN WERNER: He's averaging a double-double, so obviously, he hasn't addressed it against us, it's been everyone, he's you a great player. You know, I don't really worry about him or anything.
Q. Dan, can you talk about the first half? You guys were really struggling with the ball handling. You could have put them away. They weren't shooting anything. You guys were making shots. Even though you were ahead, was there a little bit of frustration there in the first half?
DAN WERNER: Yeah, kind of. We had some open looks and stuff. And coach was stressing us to get to the rim and get to the paint. If you're an open shooter, I think a couple of times we came down and just moved the ball without getting inside the paint and shooting threes. We had to get inside and get in touch.
Q. You missed your first three. In past games sometimes you stop shooting. Tonight you didn't stop shooting, why?
DAN WERNER: I'm not sure. I've been shooting after practice and stuff. I think my confidence is up. I feel like every time I shoot it, it's going in. Even the ones I missed I felt they were right there. You know, if I'm open, I'm going to shoot it.
Q. I think Nick had five turnovers in the first half. Pretty uncharacteristic. Didn't have any in the second half. Then he talked about how he was kind of struggling, and he seemed to get it together in the second half ball handling-wise.
DAN WERNER: Nick's a great player. You know, a couple of those might not have been his fault. A couple of guys might have dropped passes. I know I dropped one for him when I got to the basket. But you know, most of the time Nick's not like that, you know. But he came back, bounced back and led our team to win.
WALTER HODGE: I think he did a great job in the second half to make sure everybody was on the same page. And he ran the team good in the second half. We told him in halftime, you know, it's over. And you have to come in the second half and do the right thing.
Q. Just wanted to talk a little about your upper classmen, and kind of the lift they gave you tonight, both Walter and Dan?
COACH DONOVAN: Yeah, I thought both those guys played well. Certainly for the first half. It was a difficult first half for Nick. I really thought that both teams were anxious and excited to play. The regular season's over with. I didn't think that either team shot the ball well.
I can't tell you that looking at Arkansas's field goal percentage in the first half with the three-point shooting perk. It was like they did a stellar job defensively. I just thought that both teams had a very difficult time.
The only guy that looked to me like he was in rhythm the whole night offensively, I shouldn't say the whole night but the first half, was Rotnie Clarke. I thought he had a good first half and stepped up and made some shots.
One thing that was good was Walter did not shoot the ball well. And I think one of the things that I thought happened to our team that kind of carried over into the first half is just you have to have a really, really high level of mental toughness when shots aren't going down to be able to work through that.
And, you know, I think that if you look at Dan Werner's three-point shooting percentage, 2 for 7, you know, Walter goes 0 for 5. They were still able to have a good, positive effect on the game with the things that they did.
You know, Walter was really good in the front of our press where we got on that little bit of a run. But you look at the stat sheet and he's 0 for 5, but he impacted the game with a lot of different ways.
I give both those guys credit being older guys that they were able to mentally stay in the game. I thought Irving stepped up and had a good second half. And Nick had a better second half. Our overall team played better in the second half.
Q. Would you talk about what you did with the press? You kind of threw that on there and made a couple of changes. Seemed that you went with Walter and Irving there at the point and attacking their point guards.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, we really didn't make a whole lot of adjustments in the press at halftime. What we really wanted to do was try to get our guards more off the floor and I thought in the first half maybe we were trapping a little bit too early. I thought we waited a little bit, and we kind of allowed the floor to get balance.
Then we just tried to really aggressively trap Fortson or Welsh or Clarke when they were back there. And I thought our guys did a good job of closing down traps and we did a good job of rotating up.
We were also active on the wall. Once we got a trap, we were active with our hands and able to get a few deflections and create some loose balls, and we were able to come up with them.
Q. You always talk about with this group, learning how to win, learning how to make the plays to win. It was a close game at halftime. One-point game in the second half. And then they blew it open to a double-digit lead. Is this the example of what you've been looking for?
COACH DONOVAN: Yeah, I think it is. But for some, they've got to battle through it. You know, it was good for someone like Nick or Chandler or Alex. These guys, the mental toughness of being able when you're not doing well to not get discouraged or disappointed.
You know, it took like a halftime for them to kind of get out of it a little bit and start to focus on what they needed to do.
I think young players a lot of time have a tendency to, you know, to like woe is me and I'm not playing well. You know, there's a mental toughness that you have to have. I shouldn't say you have to develop. At least we're trying as coaches to develop that piece that they understand.
You know, a guy like Walter, I can't sit there and say we've done this great job developing Walter's mental toughness. He's kind of had that. Walter's always been a passionate, tough kid. He's kind of had that a little bit. I think some of our other guys have gotten better.
But there is still a lot of growth they need to have in those areas. But I think today was an indication in the second half that they are trying to address those things. They're trying to get better. And, as a coach, someone asked me yesterday about what makes you happy about your team? And it's that. I know we're not there, but at least I feel like they're working on the things we're trying to address.
Q. Is this, Billy, is this a different team when Walter is playing with a sense of urgency offensively, going to the hoop more? It seems that lately he maybe realizes his career is approaching its end and he's trying to do something about it?
COACH DONOVAN: I think one of the things with Walter that is a fine line is he's such a team-oriented guy and he wants to win. And he's also a guy that really sometimes doesn't take a lot of shots. He always does what you ask him to do and he gets great energy.
But there's no question, when he's shooting the ball well as he did last Saturday against Kentucky or even did some things and he scored and he's doing that, it definitely helps our team. But also Walter needs some prodding sometimes, because he doesn't want to go in there and say I'm focused on scoring. He really focuses on the things that I think ultimately impact winning at the end of the day. But there is no question when he does that it helps our team.
Q. Anything you can take from the first meeting against Auburn? Or was it just so long ago?
COACH DONOVAN: It was a long time ago for me, and I'm sure for our guys. But both teams struggled to shoot it from the three-point line. The three-point line both teams had a hard time. I think we made maybe three consecutive threes. I think Irving made two, and Walter Hodge made two, and it was a very close game. That kind of opened the game up for us a little bit. But it really could have gone either way.
It was probably a game for Auburn that I think you can probably take their first five or six games in the league and kind of probably throw them away with the way they're playing right now.
Because I think probably for the team that's a distant memory, and they're playing great basketball right now. Like I said earlier, we've got a lot that we've got to get prepared for. Obviously, a quick turnaround here.
Q. What has your message been to Nick over the last week and through the first half of tonight's game? Just helping him through his struggles a little more than he has?
COACH DONOVAN: I'm sorry, who was that?
Q. Nick Calathes?
COACH DONOVAN: You know, I think one of Nick's challenges in growing as a player is sometimes you have to just accept that you're not going to be the guy making the play. And you know what, sometimes the game calls for 11 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, that's it. You know, it doesn't call for a triple-double.
I think him understanding that -- I don't want to say -- what is the word I'm looking for. He's almost got a -- the greatest sign of respect to me when I was playing or the greatest sign of respect that I see when we go through scouting is when you talk about really trying to stop a guy.
When a team makes that type of emphasis to stop you, there's going to be other things open. And sometimes being a decoy or just kind of being out there and having a presence on the court that people have to account for opens up things for other people. And there's no need to force things.
Arkansas, I thought, did a great job guarding him tonight. Fortson was very good and aggressive in the first half. He's just trying to do too much. Sometimes it just calls to pass the ball and let it go.
But the thing you love about him is Nick is such a competitor he wants to take all that on, and I'd rather have a guy like that who is that competitive and wants to do it, and try to help him understand how to manage what's going on.
One of the hardest things for a player when you're a young player is to go into a game with a clear mind and sit there and say I'm going to play every play for what the play calls for.
Sometimes guys go into a game with their mind made up of how they're going to play and what they're going to try to do instead of allowing the game to come to themselves. Nick's got to allow it to come a little bit more.
Q. You talked about how well Auburn's been playing compared to earlier in the year. What do you know you have to do tomorrow against them given how well they've been playing?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I think it's a lot of things. Barber's been playing well up front, so our ability to handle their quickness and speed is going to be a major factor, major challenge for us. Ability to rebound the ball against him is going to be a factor.
And then being able to understand where their three- point shooters are and what they're doing. Because they have four guards out there.
Then I think the other thing, too, is offensively making sure that we get as good a looks as we can and make the extra pass movable. You know, just try to get a high level of shot, good percentage shots.
I think that will be important because I thought Auburn, when we played them there at Auburn, did a really good job defensively. And both teams really struggled to shoot the ball.
Q. Can you value looking at what happened to Pitt, Kansas, and Oklahoma today, and wins are hard this time of year. Is there such a thing as an ugly win?
COACH DONOVAN: Oh, as they say, survive and move on. Right now you want to find a way to win. Your guys have got to compete to win. That's what I was saying a little bit earlier about a level of toughness. You can work through a game and still be able to do things that affect wining.
And probably one of the greatest examples I had of that as a coach was Dave Oden was at South Carolina. I think we played him in the SEC Championship game. It was their fourth game, it was our third. I think the game ended up like 45-43, and it was just an ugly game. And both teams did not play well. But you know what, we were fortunate that we were able to win the tournament championship.
You know what, he they deserved it as much as we did. We happened to make a couple more plays down the stretch whether we were fortunate or lucky. But I cannot tell you that game was a work of beauty. It wasn't.
Sometimes this time of the year it's not the team that looks the prettiest, but it's the team that can make more wining plays. And that is something that I think that on our guys are trying to figure out.
Because I thought Arkansas's guys tried just as hard. Those guys tried, Fortson competed, Welsh competed. Washington had 14 rebounds, those guys played hard. Maybe we were able to make a few more plays than they were to open up the lead. But certainly it was close most of the game:
End of FastScripts