Quietly, Florida coach Billy Donovan has had the Florida Gators on the brink of the Final Four once again in the last two years as they have suffered a pair of heartbreaking losses in the Elite Eight. What makes these experiences so worthwhile is that Florida is a definition of team chemistry with several players who can hoop it up at several positions on the floor as Wisconsin saw in Florida’s 74-56 domination of the Badgers in Gainesville.
(Courtesy Univ. of Florida Athletics)
The post game fires were stoked in both locker rooms by the play of Florida’s 6-10 senior forward Erik Murphy. He was a riddle unsolved for the Badgers as he went 10-of-10 from the floor with 24 points in 33 minutes.
“We were getting good looks and we were making them,” said Murphy, who became only the sixth Gator in the history of the program to make all of his allotted shots from the floor in a single game, “That (scoring in the paint) was something I tried to work on in the off-season with the coaches.”
Murphy is known for that deft touch from three-point range. Wednesday night, he and Patric Young explored the boxes with impeccable success. Wisconsin was in trouble from an athletic standpoint to start with and when Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario started to distribute, the Badgers were in serious trouble.
“The thing I was most proud about with our guys tonight is, we turned it over too much and I probably kept Boynton on the floor too long and I probably kept Rosario on the floor too long, but those guys really fought through for not having the normal rotation out there,” noted Donovan, “They really did a good job.”
Boynton and Rosario played 37 and 39 minutes respectively and joined Murphy in double figures. Donovan had to adjust and tweak his rotation due to foul trouble, but the change in assignments mattered little as his players turned into chameleons and went with the flow of the game. With a senior-laden team, it was a welcomed sight for a team that many think will knock Kentucky out of the top spot in the SEC because of that valuable experience.
Donovan, a noted man-to-man coach went zone for most of the second half and his team continued to force turnovers and force Wisconsin into bad shots. As valuable as the athleticism and versatility of the individuals on this Florida team is, the component of change in strategy and execution on the floor by the group showed even more. Going forward, all of the facets that the Gators offer will puncture most opponents because it is impossible for most team to deal with the various dynamics of the team and the versatility of each individual player.
“We weren’t focusing on coming into the game and playing zone, but we saw that they couldn’t hit outside shots very well and they couldn’t get going,” said Rosario, “Our game plan was to play man-to-man, but we switched it up to play zone and did a good job with that.”
- Ken Cross
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