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March 19, 2011
Florida Â– 73
UCLA - 65
COACH DONOVAN: I think this season, you know, with our conference schedule and then our non-conference schedule, you know, our strength of schedule was probably anywhere in the Top 10 RPI.
I'm going to say this was -- people get maybe carried away. UCLA was as good as any team we've played all year long. And I've got a high level of respect for our front court because we have a lot of depth. But in the first half, I don't think we really had been out-rebounded like that at any point, and again, we played, I think, a very, very difficult schedule. I think it was 20-10 on the glass in the first half, and we fouled a lot and got them to the free-throw line. They took 15 free throws to our five.
I thought we answered that in the second half. You know, Alex did a great job on the glass. But I thought a big, big key in the game was both front courts were battling foul trouble back and forth, and I think people can see why I made some of the comments about Smith the other day that I did, because he's certainly a load. He's a terrific player, got great hands.
I think when you lose really, really good players to the draft, as UCLA has, I think Ben has done an unbelievable job. He's got a terrific team, and they are going to be really, really good going forward. Just they're all young, they're all coming back, they're physical, they're strong, they shoot threes, they're athletic, they can do a lot of different things. And certainly we were as tested by them as any team we've played all year.
So we're happy to be able to advance and for our team and for our seniors, I'm happy these guys get a chance to play next week.
Q. Erving, would you talk about the shot over Josh Smith? What was going on? Were you just trying to draw a foul and threw it up or what?
ERVING WALKER: Well, actually I thought I tried to get past him and I thought he fouled me, and I felt a lot of contact, so I just tried to get the ball up on the rim and I was expecting a call, but I didn't get it, and it luckily went in.
Q. Chandler, can you just talk about the achievement of making the Sweet 16? It's certainly a big enough accomplishment to savor, I would think?
CHANDLER PARSONS: It definitely feels good. You know, we've worked so hard all year long, and for us to accomplish what we've accomplished this year really feels good to get to this point.
But like I've said before, we're not satisfied, we want to keep going. We're excited to see who we're playing, we're excited to get back to work tomorrow and keep taking it one game at a time.
Q. Chandler, your block with about a little over six minutes in the game, how big a turning point was that in this game?
CHANDLER PARSONS: I think there was multiple plays in the game that were big, like Erving's shot and just different defensive stops that were made. But it was actually my fault on the block because I was late rotating there so I just tried to get a hand on the ball and that guy was really strong. And our guy came down there and I think either K.B. or Erv hit a huge shot. It was just a big play.
Q. Alex, in the locker room Scottie and Patric said when you get in those close games you get that feeling, that old, we've got to hang in there. And he said that they learned to embrace that from the seniors on this team. Is that something you guys have talked about or just showed how to handle and embrace that and still be able to perform?
ALEX TYUS: Yeah, we definitely talked to those guys and tried to help them out, just to give them some of the experience that we've gone through in our careers, and I feel like that just trying to get them to know that every possession is very critical and you can lose at any time.
Q. Chandler, UCLA has won more national titles than any program in college basketball history. The Gators have now beaten them three times in a row in the postseason. Anything special about beating a program that's that storied?
CHANDLER PARSONS: They're definitely a fantastic program historically and have great tradition. Any game that's taken place before our time is irrelevant between us because no one on our roster has been in those games and no one their roster has been. So it's definitely exciting to beat a team of that caliber because they're very good, and like coach said, one of the best teams we've played all year long, so it definitely feels good to beat a team that good.
Q. Erving, that turnover you guys got, you and Scott, forced at mid-court late in the game, did you see that as a turning point? What was your mentality going forward because you hit a big shot and some free throws after that?
ERVING WALKER: We were just trying to push it, force the tempo the whole game, and they was doing a good job handling our pressure, but me and Scottie got them into a speed dribble and I came from behind and we got a huge turnover, and I think that just changed the momentum for us.
Q. Erving, can you talk about the play where they went for the steal, you got the ball, kind of locked back to make sure he wasn't there and then made the three?
ERVING WALKER: We was having a little trouble getting the ball inbounds Scottie through to me, Malcolm Lee went for the steal and I checked just to make sure I had time to get the shot off, and it was a good look and I felt that would have been a good shot for me to take, and I was able to knock the shot down.
Q. Question for Alex: 20 to 10 rebounding margin in the first half, no offensive rebounds. What was the difference in the second half in terms of your team mentality on the board?
ALEX TYUS: Just wanted to stop them from getting second-chance shots. They were really going hard on the offensive glass in the first half and just trying to get more defensive rebounds. And we realized that we didn't have a lot of offensive rebounds in the first half, and we tried to get some easy baskets for our team.
Q. Chandler, you were nodding a little earlier when Alex was talking about you guys helping out the younger guys and sort of embracing the tight ballgames and stuff. As many minutes as you've played this year, does that make it easier to play in these type of games where there's a lot on the line?
CHANDLER PARSONS: I think so for sure. I think our schedule all year long has prepared us for teams we're going to face this late into March. Like you were saying about our freshmen, they've been great all year long asking questions and being listeners and they understand their role perfectly and they've been providing us good minutes all year long and they've really been helpful and everyone has stepped up.
Q. Alex, your roommate said you talked last night about this game a lot. Your energy level seems to have been very high this weekend and in this tournament. Talk about the way you played, like you have a burning desire, and what's motivating you to play this way?
ALEX TYUS: NCAA Tournament, just wanted to come out, help the team win any way I can. Really excited to be here, really excited to help the team win, and just -- these guys worked really hard, CP especially. Myself from my freshman year all the way to now, and having this chance to come out and do well is exciting and motivating.
Q. Erving, could you talk in general about the toughness of this team? Today Chandler did not have his best game from an offensive standpoint, yet everybody seemed to pick up the slack, and how much of your New York swagger helps to spread that across the team?
ERVING WALKER: You know, like we're a team we've got a lot of depth and we don't look at no one person to carry us offensively or defensively. We try to do everything in a total team effort. As you can see, all five of our starters are basically averaging double figures, and if one person is down, we try to pick each other up, and I think coach does a good job of keeping us connected and all on the same page.
Q. Chandler, you've seen Erving hit some pretty amazing shots. First off, how would this one rank among the shots you've seen him make, and what are you thinking when you saw him basically jackknifing and kind of flipping it up high off the glass there? What was going through your mind?
CHANDLER PARSONS: Erv is fearless. Any time the guy shoots the ball, I think it's going in. He's got a knack for hitting big shots, like our game at Georgia was an unbelievable shot, and this one definitely ranks up there.
Like you said, I think he just tried to draw contact and it just was a crazy shot and just went in. But he's been doing that for us all year long, so it really doesn't surprise me because he's a gutsy player that is willing and wants to take the last shot like that.
Q. Erving, I was asking the guys if you had a nickname and Kenny suggested "Big Shot Erv." Have you ever had a nickname growing up?
ERVING WALKER: I had a couple, but we can go just with what Kenny said. I like that one. (Laughter).
Q. Billy, a couple years ago in this arena, Erving got his last shot blocked and was very distraught and emotional about it. To see him do what he did today, did you think about that at all, and just talk about the comeback like that.
COACH DONOVAN: He really played well. I thought he was out of sorts a little bit in the first half. He had a couple plays where he took a bad three and then he had a drive that got blocked, and both those plays led to free throws and fouls for our front court. I was pretty hard on him during the game and at halftime because I really felt like he was going to need to step up not so much making shots but just when he's got his engine running and he's got that fire and that passion I think it changes the complexion of our team and opens up things for other guys on our team.
He, I think as Chandler said, he's a great competitor. There are just certain guys that when you're doing something competitively -- I'll never forget this story. I was recruiting him and I was in Queens at Christ the King, and I went to the school, and he and I were walking out of the school, and he had signed with us and he was going to catch the subway to go to Brooklyn to go home. So as he's walking to the subway station, I'm walking with him and getting ready to jump in my car. This guy comes over one of his classmates and says, "Do you kind of want to play cards someday?" It was like some card game. I don't know what the card game was. Erv said, "No, no, no, I've got to go home." And the guy actually started talking a little bit of trash to him, and he like bypassed even catching the train, missed the train, and went back to the school to play this guy in cards because he just is competitive like that. He's a very, very competitive kid, and I think he's always been like that. And I think when you're that small and you're always having to kind of fight for respect, I think he's adopted that kind of thing that he knows he's got to kind of earn it and he's got that kind of mentality that he realizes he's going to be a evaluated and judged on winning and losing as a point guard and as a player, and with his size he really takes on those challenges.
Q. On Alex, that last rebound, talk about that, and talk about this team since the second half against Alabama and where it's come from.
COACH DONOVAN: For me it's been a very, very emotional ride because I remember these guys just having no concept -- you know, it's really -- I'm so proud of them because they walked in here three and four years ago with absolutely zero leadership, no one to show them the way. And then you hear about the young guys talking about those three guys helping them along the way. They had zero help, and really it wasn't their fault.
And as you try to raise the level of expectation in terms of the work ethic, I mean, they had no reference point or no one to watch at practice to see how hard they practiced or worked. And it was really -- I'm really talking about, it was -- three and four years ago I've never, ever been a part of a team practicing like that. It was unbelievable how bad it was.
To see the way these guys have gone and really come full circle, because four years ago we were at the height of college basketball winning national championships and I knew as a coach we were going all the way back to the bottom and we were going to have to go back up, and these guys deserve a lot of credit, because one, they helped get us moving in the right direction, and two, they're also doing a great job providing leadership that they never had when they got there. So I think for Vernon and Alex and Chandler, I'm just happy they can keep playing because they really -- it's been emotional for me because I've had to be -- I was very, very hard on them because I think that they didn't have the right understanding of what it was about, and I think they had to learn the hard way. And as they've learned, I think they've gotten better, and they have a better understanding of what goes into it all the way around, coming to practice, watching film, preparation, individual workouts, scouting, trying to be leaders, trying to talk to young guys. And that was really a long, long process for them because they probably felt like, geez, I'm here, I can't do anything right. And I give them credit for their resiliency because they constantly kept battling and fighting trying to get better.
It was a huge rebound, as you said, I agree with you. I think when he's playing active like that even against front lines that are big and strong, he's so athletic when he plays with that kind of motor he's really a hard guy to block out. We had ten rebounds in the first half, he had six of the ten.
Q. As you were talking about your team, what does it mean that they've come from where they were to the Sweet 16? I know you're not a big guy for stopping in the middle of the road to notice where you are, but that accomplishment from where they were has to be something worth noting.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, you know what, I think sometimes the end result when you look at it, we can put a -- you know, these guys have gone to a different level. But you know what, if UCLA would have beat us today, and they certainly were in a position to do that, it was a back and forth game, it took an Erving Walker crazy shot off the back board and as couple crazy threes to create some separation but really it was a back and forth one to three point game the whole way.
If we would have lost today, my dealing with them every single day would not change at all just because we made it to the Sweet 16. And I understand how fragile winning and losing is in this tournament and even during the year.
So for me it has been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling to see these guys get to where they have gotten to up to this point in time. Because we have won and have gotten to the Sweet 16, people now want to talk about the interesting story of where these guys were coming from getting to that point. Regardless of what happened, them having a chance to win an SEC championship outright, them getting into the NCAA Tournament at a 2 seed, them winning a couple -- they really have done a lot of great things. If you go all the way back, with our strength of schedule, they go on the road and win at Xavier, they beat some very good teams in this league twice, they did a lot of things that I thought were special really during the course of the year, and I just hope that we keep trying to get better. That's been my message to them. You've got to keep getting better.
We'll have some time to prepare for our next game, so we've got to keep thinking about ways to get better.
Q. Last two or three years a lot of close games lost. This year this is a team that finds ways to close out the close games. Would you talk about the transition from a team that everybody thought was soft into a team that everybody says now is pretty tough team?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, and it wasn't really their fault in a lot of ways early on. We weren't physically -- you know, like this was a game three years ago, this game the way it was played today, we'd have no shot to win. We'd have no shot. One, we weren't big one, we weren't strong enough, we weren't physical enough. But Vernon Macklin is a fifth-year senior, Tyus is now a junior, Patric Young is as strong and as physical as any freshman in the country, Chandler is a 6'9", 6'10" small forward, Erik Murphy comes off the bench, Will Yeguete. So we've added some depth and size. I think those guys really wanted to win.
We were never really able to get defensive stops and defensive rebounds at a high enough rate against really, really good teams. That eventually always broke our back. There were some games we kind of got over the hump and we won, but a lot of those games that got those -- grind out, like it was today, it was a grind out game today, we've gotten better at playing in those games than we did a few years ago.
Q. You mentioned being kind of hard on Erv during the game. Can you talk about what you said to him after the game, and then also, where does he rank among players you've coached in terms of just last-minute performers?
COACH DONOVAN: I love coaching him just because, as I said earlier, he's competitive. He's highly competitive, and I think when you're dealing with a guy that's highly competitive, you can always do things to get that competitiveness to come out. I mean, it's pretty remarkable what he does at his size and what he's been able to do at his size.
And I've got to tell you, six, seven years ago when his high school coach called me about him and he visited our campus when he was a sophomore in high school and he's telling me how good he is, I was like, listen, you've got to be kidding me. This guy is like 5'2". He's got no chance. I constantly kept watching him and he obviously grew a little bit. But he's been a great guy. You know, Erving is one of those guys that -- he's had a little bit of this in high school, kind of bides his time during the game, and I want to see his engine running a little bit earlier. But what you saw the last six, eight minutes of the game, I want that for 40 minutes when he's out there. I'm always pulling and grabbing for more time to play like that, and he's had to learn -- that's been an adjustment for him.
But he loves to compete, he really does.
Q. When you won that Legends of Coaching award a couple years ago, the Wooden, did you ever meet John Wooden, and is there anything special still about beating a storied program like UCLA?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I did get a chance to meet Coach Wooden, actually when Dr. Young who worked at UCLA was very friendly with Coach, and he came on campus and he spent some time and he gave a talk, and I got a chance to spend some time with him individually just talking to him. The most amazing thing to me about Coach Wooden is he's obviously got all these national championships, incredible success, but the thing that stood out most was just his humility. You know, he was talking about his wife, he was talking about his family, he was asking about my family. Didn't even talk about basketball, didn't talk about his pyramid of success. And then when I got called about the award and I got out there, they gave me the phone number at the house because I wanted to call him and thank him, and he wasn't up to it health-wise to even answer the phone.
And then when I got back to Gainesville after the trip, I tried to reach out again and he still wasn't even up to talking on the phone and people passed along some messages. But to receive an award like that during the last months of his life and now I will be a recipient that has received that award, the last award when he was living, and now from now on whoever receives that award is going to after he's passed. It was very, very flattering, humbling, and I was really honored.
UCLA is a great program and Ben Howland and has done an amazing job, and I understand the expectation at a place like UCLA. But I think sometimes when you have those expectations that Ben and UCLA has on their program, it's really, really hard in today's day and age, Lou Al Cinder's not staying for four years. Those guys are no longer staying. And you can do a great job recruiting and probably too good a Ben's staff too good a job recruiting in some respects because these brought these guys in and they're leaving all the time.
I think Ben's philosophy is he wants to build a program. And the thing I love about Ben is, to me, he's a meat and potatoes, he loves ball. I'm the same way, he loves basketball, a basketball junkie. But he wants to build his program a certain way and the balance between getting guys that one and dones or two and dones, I think they've done a terrific job recruiting because those kids are going to be around for a while.
I think as Josh Smith gets older, better shape, he's got a chance to leave early. But they're really -- he's done an incredible job then considering the early departures, and I think any time a storied program like UCLA, there's a certain expectation they have when UCLA comes walking out. They expect to win. That's what their program represents. And when you play against that, hopefully we've been trying to build at Florida an expectation level that we expect to win out there. But I've got a lot of respect for UCLA and Ben and the entire program.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports