|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
March 12, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Florida. We'll go ahead and take an opening statement from coach.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, it was a team that we were very familiar with because a week ago today, we played in Nashville, and obviously, it was a week removed from playing them. So probably coming on a quick turnaround for both teams playing yesterday, the preparation on the short prep day where you don't have a lot of time, it was probably a game where both teams knew each other pretty well.
I really thought that Vanderbilt came out and played really well. They were the aggressor. I thought we turned the ball over way too much in the first half. We had 11 turnovers, and a lot of those turnovers led to some baskets for them, just about half their points in the first half came off of our turnovers.
I thought physically at the basket we didn't get a lot done and Ezeli, Tchiengang, Taylor, all those guys played very, very well. I thought we probably could have been down a lot more at the half. I thought our team collectively did about as good of a job as you could do, on Jenkins in particular. Kenny did a great job on him. When the ball leaves his hands, it's always got a chance to go in, and maybe they weren't going in, and maybe as the game wore on, their third game fatigue could have been an issue for them.
But in the second half, we came out and I thought, really for most of the half, played pretty well. And I think the big key was that we got stops and we held them to certainly a low percentage from the field. And that helped us because we just got into a situation trading baskets down by eight, that that would have been probably hard for us to overcome.
So we're excited about the opportunity to win and excited about the opportunity to play tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Take questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Erving, what did you think or how do you assess the way you played in the first half and what was going through your mind as you went into the second half?
ERVING WALKER: I would say that I didn't play bad, but it wasn't great. But I just tried to be patient. And Jenkins, I mean not Jenkins, but Taylor was on my back the whole game. And I tried to be patient and work and get good spots, and my teammates found me for some good looks, and I was able to get in a little rhythm.
Q. For both the players, can you talk about the fact that you beat two teams that are going to the NCAA tournament three times in the same year?
KENNY BOYNTON: I think it's a great accomplishment for us. But I think that the key to these games were our focus to get one win and move on to the next. We have had a problem with that this year and winning big games and then losing to other teams. But I think that lately we have been doing well just moving on from wins.
ERVING WALKER: I would say that's a great accomplishment for us. Any time you can win in this league is a great accomplishment. Then when you throw in top teams like Tennessee and Vanderbilt, that's hard to beat a team like that three times in a row. So we just proud and thankful for that.
Q. Your scoring has gone up in the past couple weeks especially this week, why do you think that is? What's kind of going right for you now?
KENNY BOYNTON: I want to say it's the confidence. Confidence level. In practice, I been shooting after, me and Erving, I think I'm taking good shots, not forcing anything pretty much. And I think that when I get in the rhythm, they just fall.
Q. For both players, you just talk about taking good shots but y'all, a lot of times y'all take shots for most players you would go, Wow, I can't believe he's pulled up from there. Can you talk about the confidence you have to take those shots and the confidence Coach Donovan has to not jump up and go, what are you doing .
KENNY BOYNTON: I think that coach has a great, a lot of confidence for us and for us for him to give us that freedom. We love that, to take those shots. But I think that he gives us the freedom to take those shots because he knows that we can make them and go on runs.
ERVING WALKER: I would say we take those shots, we just two players that play with a lot of confidence and it always helps when your coach don't yank you if you miss one (Laughter). And I would say he's been real generous to us and we just got to keep shooting with confidence.
Q. For both of you, Erving you talked about rhythm, you guys, that nice streak in the second half, I believe you had nine straight points, and then Kenny had 10 straight. Talk about the run that you had first your nine and then your 10-point run?
ERVING WALKER: I would say it started on the defensive end and we were able to get out in transition. And Vanderbilt defense is real tough, and I was able to get some clean looks out of transition and some lay-ups, and just defense I think sparked it over for us.
KENNY BOYNTON: I say also defense, I think Erving, he gave us a spark coming out. We finished the half with a low intensity and we needed someone to come out and give us an offensive spark, and I think that Erving started it off, and I think I just carried it on.
Q. For both you guys, the second half of both games since you've been here seems like it's been night and day. Is that just the intensity of the second half? Knowing you got to step it up or why is it a tale of two halves for you guys?
KENNY BOYNTON: I think it starts on the defensive end. I think in the second half, for me that I have been getting fouled more and it starts with free throws, and that's how I'm getting my rhythm. And with Erving, I just think that he did a great job tonight on both ends.
ERVING WALKER: I say that the second half we have been down the last two games, so it was square in our face that we had to come out with a lot better intensity and defend. In the first half we got a bad habit of waiting to see how hard we got to play and we got to get out of that.
Q. For Kenny, John Jenkins scored I think 29 last night and you really held him in check today. How tough is he to guard and how were you able to kind of keep him under wraps?
KENNY BOYNTON: He's a very tough player. Every shot that he releases, it has a possibility of going in. He's a great shooter. I was aware of he had 29 points last night and my job tonight was just to come out and try to take him out of the game, and I think I did a great job of that.
Q. For Erving, aside from winning this tournament, what's at stake for you guys playing against Kentucky tomorrow?
ERVING WALKER: Beating another good team, and Kentucky's a great team. And it's always a great rivalry. We still trying to get better, because everybody knows the NCAA tournament is real. That's the main tournament we want to win. We want to win the SEC tournament and just keep getting better as a team.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for coach.
Q. Talk about the lift that the kids gave you coming off the bench in the first half and they continued to give it to you in the second half.
COACH DONOVAN: We needed that. I think emotionally, for our team, there's been some championship games, so to speak, that we had to play the last couple weeks playing Alabama at home, and senior night. That was an emotional game to at least have a share of the SEC championship. And then going on the road and having to play at Vanderbilt, to have the opportunity to win outright. That was kind of a championship game as well.
And then you come here, too, to Atlanta. You're in a one-and-done situation, so every game is a game where you want to try to move on and advance, and that becomes very important. So I think that in those situations you cannot just rely on -- sometimes it's going to be some games where maybe some key guys don't shoot it well or play particularly well, and you try to you utilize your bench as best you can.
And I thought energy-wise, when we got down 11-2 when we subbed, I thought Scottie Wilbekin, I thought Pat, I thought even Erik Murphy, Will Yeguete, Casey Prather, they all gave us really very good minutes that we could at least sub in and rest a little bit of our older guys.
And then in the second half, I thought the three guys Erik Murphy and Patric Young, and Scottie really came in and made our rotation a little bit deeper for us.
Q. You heard Erving say we have to wait to the first half to see how hard we have to play. Do those kind of things drive you crazy the way they played in the first half?
COACH DONOVAN: I think they say that because that's my line to them. I say that to those guys all the time. It looks like we're seeing what we got to do instead of just coming out with great energy. So I think probably he's repeating what I think when I watched him play some times.
But they're, like I said before, a pretty resilient group. They battle and they fight pretty hard. I thought Vanderbilt was really well-prepared and they certainly seemed more excited about the opportunity today with the way they came out and played. And then I think our guys were able it regroup at half and comeback and play a little bit better there in the second half.
But I don't know, when you're playing against good teams if for 40 minutes, you're going to look great the whole 40 minutes. I think you got to give Vanderbilt some credit because they really battled and fought that first 20 minutes so much that they were up eight points at the half.
And they really caused us some problems on offense, because we turned it over 11 times. They got out on the break, that hurt us. And then Taylor really, really played well in the first half. And if Jenkins just makes a couple threes, instead of maybe being down eight, you go into the half down 15. And now you start talking about a real serious margin.
So we probably really dodged a bullet in the first half because I think Jenkins was 1-7. And that certainly is uncharacteristic of him and how well he shoots the ball. And probably a combination of him just being a little bit off and I think Boynton's defense.
Q. How comfortable are you with the fearlessness that Walker and Boynton have to shoot away?
COACH DONOVAN: I have a lot of confidence in those guys because there's a high level of accountability I put on those guys on the defensive end of the floor. And the worst guys to play with are guys that love to shoot the ball and love to score, which every player does. And they don't give it to your team on the defensive end of the floor. That's really a hard pill for your team and the other guys to swallow. And there are times they take some tough ones and there's some times, like you say, Boy...
But when Boynton's doing what he's doing defensively at the other end of the floor and he's working the way he's working, I'm going let him take a couple, because he can get going. And he made two or three in a row there, and the fourth one he took was not a good shot.
But you're going to live with it because you know that he's doing a heck of a job at the other end of the floor defensively.
I think the same thing with Erving, he's a smart guy, understands scouting, he understands scheme, and they're both highly competitive winning kind of guys. They can make winning plays for you on offense and/or defense.
And I think they have gotten better, both guys. And I think Erving said it of just being a little bit patient and see how they're being guarded, what's available, what's open. And I thought Erving bought his time a little bit in the game and then worked to get free later in the game.
But I know as a guard, one of the toughest things to do as a guard when you're a shooter is to constantly look over your shoulder and say, Geez, am I coming out of the game for that shot?
They're more likely to come out of the game if they're tired or they're not giving it to me on defense because then I don't think that that's right. If they're going to have that kind of freedom, I always tell guys, with freedom comes responsibility. I'll give you all the freedom you want, but you got to be responsible in some other areas that you and I both know you can control.
And once they give you that responsibility, then you're more inclined to give them a little bit more freedom.
Q. Erving said that you were generous. Was Rick Pitino generous with you when you played?
COACH DONOVAN: He was generous. He kept me on scholarship (Laughter). Yeah, I think that I played my first year with Otis Thorpe, who was a 14-year NBA player, one of the best low-post players in the Big East my freshman year, and everything was to go inside to him. And I can remember standing out there trying to pound the ball inside to him the very sparing minutes I played my first two years, and like guys are like four feet off me, and I like shot the ball and I'm looking over at the bench to one of them coming out of the game.
And I think as a shooter, the one thing about shooting is I think the coach has got to at least provide a level of confidence. And then I think it is my job to teach them what are good shots and what are bad shots and get them to understand that. And I think Kenny's shot selection and understanding of that has gotten better as time has gone on.
And I think Erving the same thing. But you know what, if those guys tonight are playing tight and afraid to shoot the ball and just worried about if they're coming out of the game, we probably don't win tonight. So there's a little bit of give and take there. But I don't want them looking over their shoulder.
Now do I want them looking over their shoulder when Jenkins is cutting off screens and getting wide open threes. Then I'm probably going to say, Listen, you can't have it both ways. You're going to have to come down and sit down for a little bit. You got to give it to me at the other end of the floor.
So I would say the same thing is true with Chandler, Chandler's a smart player. He doesn't really take a lot of ill-advised shots. But try to give those guys confidence offensively. I think that that's important as a coach, provided guys are taking shots that you feel pretty comfortable they can make.
Q. You've been pleased lately with the connectivity you say of the team and everything, when you see walker take-over for a stretch and then Boynton take-over for a stretch. Does that fit within the framework of that cohesion you're talking about?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, yeah, because I think you can tell when a guy's really, really in the right mindset to go out there and play. And Kenny Boynton was in the right place mentally because, you know what, his total focus, you heard him say, was Jenkins had 29 points, I had to come out there and I had to play.
So his focus wasn't on, Okay, I'm going to try to match Jenkins point for point. It was like, Okay, I need to try to shut this guy some and make it hard for him.
And our guys understand that. Our guys understand what those two guys do physically on the defensive end of the floor. And our guys also understand the way Chandler rebounds the basketball. So there is a role where there's an acceptance where they all kind of do some things that impact our team and help our team.
I didn't think we played particularly well in the first half. I think Vanderbilt had a lot to do with that. I thought we were more connected as team in the first half than we were against Tennessee, I just didn't think that we played as well.
Q. High turnovers in the first half, but in the second half, they took care of the ball better. What did you do to kind of try to settle them down with regards to that?
COACH DONOVAN: I think just awareness. We had a couple careless turnovers. Patric Young grabbed the rebound and tried to pick the ball up and double-dribbled. Vernon had a ball knocked out of his hand, Alex did, too. Chandler drove down the lane and tried to throw a tough bounce pass to Vernon.
And it wasn't one guy that was turning it over, it was just a collection of five or six guys having one or two careless plays and before you know it, you have double-figure turnovers in the first half.
But I think that they understood the importance of taking care of the basketball because it was pretty clear that about half their points in the first half came off our carelessness. And sometimes when you turn the ball over in certain areas of the floor, it's really, really hard to recover, your defense to recover to at least get back in transition and get a stop.
Q. What can you say about defensively what you get out of Patric on a night like this where Vernon kind of struggled against Ezeli?
COACH DONOVAN: Yeah, well the one thing about Patric is he likes contact, and he's not afraid to play in contact, and Ezeli is probably one of the most physical players in this league. He's a hard matchup guy because he's so big and tall. I don't know if there's another guy in the league physically built like him with that kind of length.
So with Vernon maybe not having the kind of game that maybe he's had against Vanderbilt, it's just nice that we have an answer that we can put somebody in there. And Patrick played physical. I thought Vanderbilt a couple times, when we switched and tried to do some things in the second half, they hurt us on the backboard, not so much Ezeli, but even Goulbourne had a great rebounding game because we got caught a couple times with some guards on him.
But Patric's a guy that can physically, as a freshman, go in there and battle and play in and around the basket against a guy like that and that certainly helped because it takes some pressure off of Vernon.
Q. When you played them up at Kentucky, Miller was a matchup problem for you, particularly if they moved him to a four. What you got to do with him tomorrow?
COACH DONOVAN: I have said this about him. To me, I think he's one of the most versatile underrated players in this league. I love him as a player because I think he's got a very, very high basketball IQ. He really, really understands how to play. I think that the thing that's been the biggest difference from him from two years ago is he really has consistently worked on his shooting and he's become a very, very good 3-point shooter. Where maybe earlier in his career you could always just play him for the drive and now you have to come up there on him.
And then as you mentioned, John plays him in some different spots. He plays him at the three and at the four. So he's got the size against some guards to get in around the basket to shoot over people. And then when you put some bigger people on him, he's got the ability to go by you. And he's one of those X factors for their team because he's one of those guys that you could look down at the stat sheet and Kentucky can win, and he scores eight points. Then the next night, you look down at the stat sheet and Kentucky wins again and he has 20 on the stat sheet.
But he's a heck of a player. Listen, we spent time recruiting him. I really liked him a lot as a player and thought he could play at the level he's playing at right now.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports