Here’s your post-game quotes from today’s dominating 80-59 win over a good Ole Miss team in the SEC Tournament Semi-Finals. The Gators now face Arkansas tomorrow.
FLORIDA POSTGAME QUOTES
THE MODERATOR: All right, we’re ready to continue with Florida. Coach?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, we felt coming in here that Ole Miss was playing great basketball; tough, hard nosed team. Their kids really compete and battle. I think they’ve got a guy at the point in Abernethy that’s has good as any assist to turnover ratio for a point guard in the country. Two terrific scorers on the perimeter in Clarence Sanders. You know, obviously Curtis up front with Parnell and Williams, and being a senior laden team, we knew it was going to be a battle. I thought our guys came out and got off to a good start.
Thought we played well. Together, I thought the second half, you know, our defensive intensity was very good. I thought they made tough shots to start the second half, but our guys stuck with it. We finally got some stops and were able to get out on the break and open the game up. I’m proud of these guys and certainly feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to play tomorrow against Arkansas.
Q. Corey, I wanted you to talk about your perimeter game today, and how much that makes your whole offensive game easier when you’re making shots like that?
COREY BREWER: When I’m making outside shots, teams have to press up on me and I’m able to drive the basketball. And I’m able to make plays for our team, and it helps us out a whole lot.
Q. For both players, you come from Tennessee, lot of coaches are not allowed, but some thought you guys couldn’t play at this level. Talk about your decision to come to Florida, and how that all came about. I know you played AAU together, I think.
COREY BREWER: You know, when I looked into the program at Florida, I just felt like it was a perfect fit, because I felt like they get up and down, and I felt like that’s the way I could just drive and play my best basketball in an up and down system. That’s how I made my decision.
LEE HUMPHREY: As well, I thought Florida was a good fit for me. Personally I grew up a big SEC fan, and had a huge respect for Florida, and what Coach Donovan had done, and the program he had built. And I thought that it would be the best chance for me to come and win games and develop as a player.
Q. For Corey and for Lee, what does it say about you guys how you’re a point away from 1,000, Lee, and Corey, the other four of you guys are over 1,000, what does it say about you guys that all five of you going over 1,000 points for your career in the same season?
COREY BREWER: We just share the basketball. We feel like if we just pass the ball and get moving, we can get easy buckets, and we can win games by getting easy buckets and shooting a good percentage. And we just try to get the open player the shot.
LEE HUMPHREY: I think it shows that we’re an unselfish team, and we play well off of each other. We understand each other’s strengths and use those to our advantage.
Q. For both players, your opponents talked about the intensity that you all came out with, is that the main factor, you think, in today’s game? Or were there other things that really made the difference?
COREY BREWER: I felt like we came out with a lot of energy and a lot of intensity. We have to do that if we want to win, because we can’t come out lackadaisical or anything, because teams are going to come out playing their best basketball. So we have to come out with a lot of energy, and we did that today.
LEE HUMPHREY: We thought coming into the game, that Ole Miss, they compete hard and play about as hard as anybody in the country. So we knew today we were going to have to come in with a lot of energy and play well. For us to win, we have to do that every game.
Q. Corey, a lot of articles have been written about your decision to come back this year, and that all the other guys making that decision to support you and come back. Kind of relive that. What’s that meant to you during the course of the season, everyone coming back?
COREY BREWER: It’s meant a lot. It shows how close we are as a team. For us to bend together, and to try to go win another championship. We feel like it was the best decision for us. So far it’s worked out. We’re just trying to keep winning, keep it moving.
Q. The Arkansas game seems like a long time ago, but what did you remember about them, and how do you envision the match up tomorrow?
COREY BREWER: You know, Arkansas is a very good team. They’re long and athletic, just like us. So we’ve got to be prepared. And we’ve got to just, whatever Coach gives, we’ve got to execute to the best of our ability so we can hopefully get a win.
LEE HUMPHREY: I think Arkansas is probably one of the most talented teams in the league. They’ve got a lot of size up front and some quick guards. They’ve got guys that can put it in the hole, so it will be a tough game.
Q. As you guys get ready for tournament stretch here, NCAA, talk about the hunger level in repeating where you guys are with that.
LEE HUMPHREY: I think this is a new year. We’ve got an opportunity this year to win a championship tomorrow. When the NCAA Tournament starts, we’ll have another opportunity. So I think we’ve just got to focus on this year, and understand that we have a chance to win another championship.
COREY BREWER: For now, if you lose, you go home, and we don’t want to go home. So we have to come out, night in, and night out, and play our best basketball.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, fellas. We’ll continue with Coach Donovan.
Q. Billy, how important was the last 1:30 of the first half when it was an eight point game, and you guys scored seven in a hurry?
BILLY DONOVAN: I really thought the game was a game of runs by both teams. We got off to a really good start, and pulled up, pulled out maybe by 12 to 13, and they kind of came racing back and cut it to seven, then we went back. There were two runs for us. There was a run in the middle of the first half, and there was a run to close the half out. I think that those two runs, you know, were helpful giving us a cushion going into the half.
But I think if you look back at last time we played Ole Miss, we had them down by 25 points with 13 or 14 minutes to go in the game in Gainesville, and really made some poor decisions with the basketball and turned it over entirely too much and allowed them to get back into the game. But I think both teams with the way both teams played, it was going to be a game of runs. You know, some of the runs helped us.
Q. Billy, this is a real easy question: Who is your best player?
BILLY DONOVAN: I would say our team, and I think that’s what we are. It’s all inside, working parts together. They play together, they feed off each other, they all benefit off each other. You know, I can’t sit there and say that one person’s more valuable than the other. You know, if you took somebody off this team, the complexion of our team would change, and I think those guys would all agree with that as well. We’re a team, and I think that’s what they’ve thrived on, that’s what they’ve bought into, that’s what they think their identity is, and that’s the way they enjoy playing.
Q. Billy, I wanted to touch on the significance of going to the Finals four years in a row, and what that means particularly for your older guys, and your guys for Humphrey and Richard, what it’s meant for you.
BILLY DONOVAN: It’s a great accomplishment for our program, for the school. It’s hard to get here. It’s hard to get into a championship game. There’s a lot of good teams in this league. And when you play at neutral sites, there’s not that homecourt advantage, though a lot of fans show up and support us. I think that for us to go to four straight, you know, it’s a great accomplishment but the beauty of it is everything that’s happened up to this point in time, in this tournament the last three years, really has no bearing on what happens tomorrow, and I think our guys understand that.
Q. Billy, you had a run of about three or four ballgames where the defensive intensity was just really lacking, and in the last two ballgames, you guys have come out and made a statement, particularly on defense with the intensity. Would you talk about what’s changed.
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I think that a lot of people bring up the end of the season. I mean, these kids are not robots. They’re not machines. They’re kids. Whatever you want to say, the opponent played great, we played poorly, whatever it is. I just don’t know, regardless of what people think or feel, they’re kids that are not going to play up to the highest standard they can play to. I think they’re excited about playing, they’ve been excited all year long. They’ve handled everything this year great. But I think they also understand and can see that the reason we lost some games was because of our defense. We were giving up such a high percentage from the field. We were giving up high percentages from the three point line, and we’ve done a better job. It’s been a focus for us, and they’ve done a good job.
They can see from past games and past experiences that that’s the key for our team. Last two games here in the SEC Tournament and our last home game in the SEC, I think we’ve defended like we’re capable of.
Q. Billy, Arkansas was 5 9 earlier, and really struggling. Just talk about how they’re playing now, and how you see the match up tomorrow.
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I’ve always felt that Arkansas was one of the bigger, stronger, more athletic teams in this league, one of the more talented teams in this league. I think that Stan’s done a great job mixing in Ervin, and Beverley and Weems. I think a lot of times when you start off with the experience level that they have in the front court, you know, with Thomas, and Hill, and Washington and Townes. They have maybe the biggest, most athletic, and most experienced front court in the SEC. And probably maybe some of their struggles had to do with their guard play were somewhat young. Weems is a first year player in this league, Beverley’s a first year player in this league, and Ervin’s probably got to learn a new system, though he was already seasoned somewhat in this league. And I think probably some of that had to do with some back court play.
They’re playing great right now as a basketball team. They’re playing, very, very well. They had a great victory yesterday over Vanderbilt, great victory today with Mississippi State. They went on the road at Vanderbilt, something that we weren’t able to do. Everybody knows how tough it is to play at Vandy. They’ve had some great wins to close the season out. So I think you have to sit there and say Arkansas is playing as well as anybody in our league, or in the country for that matter.
Q. Billy, back on all those guys coming back, how did that make you feel that they felt enough about you, and enough about the program to come back and do that?
BILLY DONOVAN: I think like anything else, I’ve been through it enough. I’ve had guys tell me they were going to come back and they’ve changed their mind and that’s their prerogative. But emotionally for me, it was quite an experience, because they could have set sail, and ridden off into the sunset after winning the National Championship and left the program while being on top. And I think it says a lot about their character. That’s why I get puzzled sometimes when people talk about how they’re supposed to play every single game. I want them to have fun, I want them to enjoy this experience, because that’s why they came back.
I think in college basketball we can all be so critical of kids making quick decisions to leave and go early. We can become critical of guys making bad choices. Here’s a group of kids that chose University of Florida, one another, playing with each other, and happiness over all the materialistic things that are out there that entice kids to leave.
You know, to me, it’s an unbelievable story that I personally don’t think it’s been written enough. You know, I just think it’s a great story for all those guys.
People talk about them coming back, and it gets mentioned, but go into researching how many guys in their situation have left and what these kids have done. Because it’s totally abnormal what they’ve done. Totally, totally against the grain. Totally abnormal. I’m proud of them, and I hope this year for them so far has been a great experience and they’ve enjoyed it.
Q. Billy, coaches go an entire career and don’t have a team that cares and shares like yours does. Talk about from a coaching standpoint how rare that is, and how special that is.
BILLY DONOVAN: I really believe that in college right now, I think because of the NBA draft and the 19 year old age limit, it’s changed the culture of recruiting. The recruiting battles over the Patrick Ewings, and the Alonzo Mournings, and some of the other great players, you know, they’re only in college for a year now and they’re gone. The trick is, I think, trying to get guys that mentally have the right frame of mind competitively.
You don’t get a chance to coach guys like that all the time. And believe me, I’ve enjoyed every day being around these kids, because as a whole, their disposition, their core beliefs are so much different, because they get along, and they share the ball so well. And it is unique, and it is different. That’s not to say that any of my teams, I didn’t feel that way about. I’ve loved all of them, but there is a different make up, not better, not worse, just a different make up with them.
I can tell you right now it’s all luck, because you have no idea what you’re getting, none, until you coach a guy. And you could look at this and say you know what, if I would have said on paper, I would say no way Joakim Noah would get along with Al Horford. No way. And I can’t believe the way Chris Richard, you see all these kids gel and mesh together, it’s by luck. Not by some strategic plan that we here in Florida have figured out. It’s by pure luck. And you know what, that’s what it really comes down to a lot of times. It’s not necessarily always about getting the best players. It’s about getting guys that can be a team. These guys have been a team. Because you know what, I hear about how talented we are. If we were so talented, he would have been ranked last year in the top 25. I look at a team like Ohio State, they started immediately in the top 5 in the country, based on what they had coming in. No one thought these guys could play. No one thought they were any good, now everybody talks about how great and how talented we are. Did they just all of a sudden flip a switch and we all missed the boat last year? Because we weren’t ranked in the top 25, and supposedly with Roberson, Walsh and Lee leaving we didn’t have a scorer coming back averaging more than 7 points a game.
So there is a level of luck and dynamics and things that happen inside your program that makes this college coaching one so enjoyable. But also it’s a roller coaster ride in a lot of ways.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, would you begin.
ANDY KENNEDY: We got beaten by a superior opponent, obviously, Florida. I love Billy’s team. They’re really, really playing well. And they’re obviously very talented individually, but collectively, they’re even more impressive. And I think that’s the makings of a special group. So our hats off to them and the way they played. We had our opportunities and we certainly didn’t take advantage of those.
Q. For both the players, every time you guys seem to make a run in the second half they had an edge, talk about what that was like. Just not being able to go there.
TODD ABERNETHY: It’s frustrating, you know. We fought back, and I think cut it down to ten. But you know, they’re one of the best teams in the nation. They kept responding. Corey Brewer was great, you know, driving and hitting some huge threes. So that’s what you expect from the best team in the nation.
CLARENCE SANDERS: Like Todd said, it was real frustrating. Once we make a run, they were making runs, and we just couldn’t seem to cut the lead. But I feel like we came out the second half, we played hard, and we lost them.
But we’re going to keep our heads up. We accomplished a lot this year, and we’re going to keep moving.
Q. Todd, you guys knew you almost had to play the perfect game probably to beat Florida. In the second half did you feel like you were in the game early on? What was it like just watching them just continue to take charge?
TODD ABERNETHY: Yeah, definitely. I felt like we were in the game, just building momentum when we cut it down to ten. Our big boys came in, stepped up, got some big rebounds. We were making some shots. But you know, they just answered back and last night we played great defense, and got stops when we needed to. But tonight, you know, when we were scraping back, we just couldn’t make the defensive stops.
Q. Clarence, did you feel like the game kind of got away a little bit also at the end of the first half when they scored like seven in the last minute and a half? What did it mean to you guys to go in down 15 when you could have been 10 or 8?
CLARENCE SANDERS: We have been in that situation before. To us, we came out a little flat, little timid. We came back the second half, fought back, cut the lead down but we fell short.
Q. For both players, again, it’s been talked about a lot, do you feel like now it’s probably the NIT, or do you still hold out hope that maybe a slim hope, I guess?
TODD ABERNETHY: We think NIT. Tonight, you know, if we would have won, it would have been big, but…
CLARENCE SANDERS: To us, NIT.
Q. This is for both players: I’m wondering how you think of the way Florida’s playing. Do you think Arkansas’ got much of a chance tomorrow? How do you see that match-up?
CLARENCE SANDERS: Well, I mean like Coach said earlier, they’re a superior team. If Arkansas comes in and plays their A game and come on top of their game, they’ve got a chance to beat them.
TODD ABERNETHY: I definitely agree, especially with Arkansas’ height. Steven Hill down there will be able to probably do a good job against the big men. You know, it was a close game when Arkansas and Florida played earlier this year, so I don’t expect anything different.
Q. Yesterday Florida got off to a fast start, and they did again today, too, what is it about this team that enables them to get off to such a quick start? What does that mean to you guys? Make that for Clarence.
CLARENCE SANDERS: Well, they’re a fast team. We’ve just got to plan them, come in, and match their intensity and match their energy. We sort of did that during the second half. Like I said, we came off flat the first half, we couldn’t do it the first half, but we did it in the second half though.
Q. This is for either player: What is it about Corey Brewer that makes him such a match-up nightmare for driving the lane and hitting the outside?
TODD ABERNETHY: Man, I don’t know. He’s really long. He’s really athletic. And, you know, he showed tonight he can finish in there. He just did a great job, also, stepping out. Hitting some threes. It’s really hard to stop him.
Q. For both guys: If it is NIT, chances are probably a home game. Talk about maybe the positives of coming back and playing one more game at Tad Smith.
TODD ABERNETHY: This is the first time I’ll be playing in postseason, so I’m excited about that. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and, you know, we’ve done some big things this year at Ole Miss for the basketball program. So I think it’s going to be fun being at home, hopefully. Just to see how many more wins we can get and how far we can go.
CLARENCE SANDERS: This is my first time also playing postseason. So I’m just happy to be playing at home again.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, fellas. We’ll continue with questions for Coach Kennedy.
Q. Andy, how important was that series there the last minute and a half of the first half when they went on a 7-0 run?
ANDY KENNEDY: They obviously have spurtability in their ability to score so quickly. Their athleticism in the open floor is as good as we’ve faced all year, and I think the score, I think we had it maybe to six or to eight. We didn’t finish any plays at the basket. They ran out, got in the open floor and finished the half on a very strong note. It certainly took a little wind out of our sails, and built what ended up being an insurmountable lead.
Q. Andy, I was curious, are you as resigned to an NIT fate as your players?
ANDY KENNEDY: I’m a realist. We’ll play in a tournament but it won’t be the four-letter one.
Q. Andy, as a coach when you’re preparing for Florida, what makes it difficult? They’ve got so many weapons and so many matchable parts.
ANDY KENNEDY: I’ll tell you this, I think Billy does a great job. Their spacing offensively, their ability to pass the ball, Joakim and Horford pass the ball so well. They’re big, they’ve got great length. Corey Brewer, as Todd says, has the ability to slash by you. When he’s making perimeter shots, as he was tonight, he’s really a handful. You’ve got to press up on him, and his first step is like anybody in the league. Taurean Green puts the right ball in the right place at the right time. We don’t even talk about Humphrey, because he’s as good an open jump shooter as there is in the country. I think what separates them, quite frankly is their defense. They did it to Georgia last night, and we talked about it ad nauseam over the last 24 hours to our guys. And lo and behold they did it to us. They get you standing and you go try to create plays without moving the ball off the bounce, and you just drive right into their length and their athleticism. You have nowhere to go.
Then when you do break through, which you do at times, you’re looking for somebody to jump out of the rafters and block the shot so you miss shots. Dwayne Curtis is an angle scorer, but he had six shots within four feet of the basket, and couldn’t score, because I think he was so conscious of guys flying around and deflecting balls. So then we have to revert to taking contested jumpshots, and as the result, you shoot 31%, you give yourself no chance.
Q. Coach, just wondering how you see the Arkansas/Florida match-up, and the way the Gators are playing?
ANDY KENNEDY: I think they’re the two most talented teams in the SEC. Arkansas certainly has the physical ability to match up, and if they come out and make shots early, it’s going to be a very tightly contested game, if they make plays. You know, looking as you scout opponents, and it’s frightening when you start really looking at Florida, because the deeper you get, the more disconcerted you get. You’re looking for a fly in the ointment and you don’t see any. They shot for the season, I think, 53% from the field. They got a little bored with us and missed some shots at the end. But they’re so efficiently offensively and you have to match that or the game will get away from you. I think the key is Arkansas being efficient offensively to stay in the game. I guarantee you Florida will be.
Q. Just the first five minutes, kind of the tone they set in there, and how difficult is that to overcome? I know this is two games they’ve done that.
ANDY KENNEDY: You know, they press up on you, and as I said, if you don’t get ball movement. We tried to emphasize making the ball change sides on the floor, strong side to weak side, weak side to strong side so we could get an angle to exploit them off the dribble.
We didn’t do a very good job of moving the ball. So we ended up trying to dribble and drive and create off the bounce. We were so much smaller than them that we couldn’t get the ball over the top. Once we did get some clean looks, I thought we rushed so much, because we were so far out of rhythm trying to catch up. We’re looking for that mysterious eight-point shot. We couldn’t seem to find it.
Q. Maybe you just answered this, but how does their defense get you standing on the perimeter like that?
ANDY KENNEDY: Pressure, you don’t let easy turns of the ball, and they’re able to do so because they are so long. When you talk about Brewer and Noah most especially, their length is so tremendous that, and their ability to help and recover, I think is what really is going to pose them for another long run here.
Q. Coach, earlier this week we asked you about the tournaments that you’ve been in, Big East, C-USA and all those, you had never been to the SEC, what are your impressions now after playing a couple of games here, and the crowd and all that stuff?
ANDY KENNEDY: I’ve always said, it’s an honor and privilege for me to be coaching in this leg. This is the best league in the country, bar none, in all sports. And I think people that run this league are at a level all their own. So certainly I enjoyed having the opportunity to be here and to—for these kids to come in and have an opportunity to experience some success. We won 20 games for the sixth time in the history of our 98-year program. We won the SEC West for the fourth time, so these kids have accomplished a great deal, and I’m hopeful that the performance tonight doesn’t mar that at all.
Q. Andy, a lot of teams that have had the success Florida’s had, they lose that hunger that second year they come back and try to defend. Talk about that aspect, and how they’ve handled it.
ANDY KENNEDY: I think I’m a basketball Jones, and I follow the game quite a bit. I know much was made about Florida losing some games at the end of the regular season, but now those kids know it’s one and done. Their focus is certainly at a very, very high level. Billy is not going to allow them to lose focus.
As I said in my opening statement, individually they have talented players, but collectively they’re a special group.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
ANDY KENNEDY: Thank you.