Here’s your post game quotes from the coaches and players on both teams after the Gators’ win over the UCLA Bruins to advance to the National Championship game against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Florida. Coach Donovan will make an opening statement, then questions first please for the student-athletes.
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I think both teams had obviously a significant amount of time to prepare going into the game. We worked very, very hard these last several days to get ready.
I thought our guys’ focus and their preparation was very good going into this game. It was a game in the first half with probably Afflalo being in some foul trouble, the fact that we turned it over a little bit too much kept it relatively close.
I thought both team did a great job defensively in the first half. I thought our defense the whole game was pretty good. I really felt like in the first half we had a lot of really, really good looks by Lee and Taurean that could have gone down that were probably the same looks that went down for us in the second half. Corey had a terrific first half, really kept us and bailed us out a few times offensively with some big plays.
Then I thought in the second half, Lee and Chris Richard, both those guys, Chris particularly up front offensive rebounding was big. Then I think Lee getting into a rhythm and a groove in the second half, got a lot of the same looks there as he did in the first half.
It was a game where two teams playing hard, getting after it. Just proud of our guys that we’re back in a situation with an opportunity to play for it all again on Monday night.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Lee, off a timeout in the first half, Billy told you to wake up. Could you touch on your second-half performance, maybe what might have been a little bit different for you in the second half.
LEE HUMPHREY: I think probably the biggest difference was just the second half I made some shots. Got really good looks the first half. Couldn’t really ask for any better looks than I got in the first half.
It was just the second half I was fortunate enough to knock ‘em down. I think that was the biggest difference, just made the shots instead of missed them.
Q. Corey, guarding Afflalo, he slapped you on the face one time when he went by you, had to take a lot out of you. How were you able to keep your energy? Chris, the low post didn’t score a lot on low-post plays, it was mostly rebounding puts them back in.
COREY BREWER: Afflalo is a really good player. I just felt like if I could run him off screens all night, not give him anything easy, I could help our team win.
I think our team did a great job of helping me. I was able to make some shots offensively. It helped us get a win.
CHRIS RICHARD: I think they did a good job as far as containing us in the post. They doubled a lot. That kind of took us away from making good moves. We looked for open shooters.
Lee knocked down a couple. Corey knocked down a couple for us early. We got it going. We just hit the boards hard on the offensive end.
Q. Corey, you scored 15 points in the first half. Second half, you seemed most excited when your teammates were making plays. What does that say about the team attitude you guys have?
COREY BREWER: Right now we’re in the Final Four. This is all about winning. There’s nothing about you. It’s all about the team.
As long as we can win, I’m happy. We’re back in the championship game. We can’t ask for anything else.
Q. Billy, after about the first five minutes you hadn’t scored from the field, but would you talk about any adjustments you made in the offense to get things kick started and get it going again?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, part of the reason why UCLA is a very, very good defensive team is because they’re very, very disciplined at what they do. Then you’ve got to be able to come up with a scheme or a game plan to go against their defense.
As Chris alluded to, we knew our post guys were not going to get any shots at all at the basket. I knew it was not going to be that type of game because every time our bigs got it, they were going to double ‘em.
We really tried to use Al Horford in the first half as a passer. He did a great job I thought throwing the ball diagonally across to Lee Humphrey, throwing it out to Corey. Corey knocked ‘em down in the first half. Lee knocked ‘em down in the second half.
Then I thought in the second half we were able to get Taurean off that middle pick-and-roll down the lane which really forced their big men to step up. We were able to slide our bigs down the backside. Al and Chris were able to do a terrific job offensive rebounding.
I don’t think for game plan-wise it really changed for us. I think it probably looked a lot better in the second half because in the first half we weren’t making shots. We turned it over a little bit too much trying to do too much with the ball.
I just tried to encourage those guys to continue to shoot the basketball and take what the defense was giving us. The defense, their defense, was taking away the low post. They were giving us perimeter shots.
We were able to—we were 5-12 in the first half, 9-22, shooting 41%. That was a big key. Shooting 53% from the field helped.
Outside the turnovers, I really felt like offensively our guys had a good understanding of what we needed to do to attack them.
Q. Chris, on your team there are a lot of guys who are free-flowing, they express themselves, they’re physical, jump up and down. It seems like Lee does that a little bit less than many of the other guys. When he started to get into the rhythm he started to do a little bit of that. What do you think when you see him doing that?
CHRIS RICHARD: It’s great for us. The way we played in the second half, we didn’t really have that much choice of not doing it. We wanted to win. This is me and Lee’s last year.
I think we came out and gave all we could tonight. It was nice seeing Lee get into the game, involved into the game emotionally. It boosted all of us, helped us all play a little bit better.
Q. We asked you about this briefly when the brackets first came out. There was a possibility you could meet Ohio State. How do you feel about getting to play Ohio State just like football for a national championship?
LEE HUMPHREY: I think we’re just excited to have another opportunity to play in a national championship game. It’s been fun this whole year. To be back in the national championship game is exciting for us.
No matter who we play they’re going to be a tough team. We’re just—Ohio State is tough. We’re just looking forward to the challenge.
THE MODERATOR: Corey, Lee and Chris, thank you very much. We will take questions for Coach Donovan.
Q. Can you reflect on the highs and lows you’ve had as a coach, given everything that you juggled, the talent returning, the expectations, pretty much everything that comes with being a defending national champion?
COACH DONOVAN: Part of the reason why it’s been such a great learning experience for our team, myself as a coach, is because people don’t realize that there’s a lot of baggage that comes with winning it all.
It’s a lot of times stuff that you think as a player that you want, but when you got to go through it, it’s not a whole lot that you want.
I think in order to go through a year like this, you have to have guys that remain coachable. I’ve seen a lot of kids that have a level of success, because the hardest thing to handle at a young age to me is success. It’s the hardest thing to handle.
What happens is sometimes players lose their humility, they lose their sense of who they really are, have an inflated opinion of how good they think they are. At that time can sometimes become uncoachable, where they have all the answers.
These guys are as coachable this year as they were last year. I’ve had to coach them a little bit differently, but they’re as coachable that they listen. I feel like I make headway with them when I talk to them about different things. There’s no question there was a lot to deal with coming out of last season.
A lot of people thought it may be possible for us to get back to this point. A lot of people thought it wouldn’t be possible. I really felt like the best thing I tried to emphasize to our team, the most important thing is to be the best we can become. If we do that, let the chips fall where they may. That’s what they’ve tried to do all year long.
With that there’s been all this other stuff they’ve had to handle. It’s forced them to mature as people and as players.
Q. You have guys like Horford who is a great rebounder, but also such a good passer. Humphrey, good shooter, good defender. What is that luxury like?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, a lot of times when you take away a strength of a basketball player—to me the sign of a really good player is if you take away his strength, can you still play on the court, be effective and a productive player?
Al Horford can defend and rebound and score. Lee Humphrey can defend and he can shoot. Taurean Green can shoot, defend, run the team, get guys shots. Corey Brewer can defend, he can shoot, he can slash, get out on the break. Joakim the same.
I think we have guys, if you take away an area of them, they can still do other things. Lee Humphrey, if he’s not making shots, you know you’re going to get a great effort out of him defensively. If Corey didn’t knock down those threes, I still felt like I was going to get a good effort out of him defensively.
Al wasn’t getting a chance to get a lot of scoring moves at the basket in the first or second half, but I was not worried that he wasn’t going to rebound or stop guarding. He’s going to do those things. They have a good understanding of what we need to do as a team to try to be as effective as we can.
Q. On the conference call Wednesday you mentioned turnovers and free throws were two big concerns. How does it feel to have 16 to their three, miss 12 foul shots and win comfortably? How did you pull it off?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, the free-throw shooting wasn’t good. If you look at the fact, besides the percentages, the fact we made 19 to their 11. Regardless of the percentage, it wasn’t a good percentage for us. Still eight more points from the free-throw line. The other area that we scored more points is if you take the fact that we made four more three-point shots than they did. Those two areas are very important.
Then the rebounding differential, we did not give them a lot of second shots. They had six for the game. They did a very good job blocking us. We had zero offensive rebounds in the second half. Pretty good effort by our front court in the second half coming up with eight.
They’re a good defensive team. They work very, very hard at it. They’re disciplined at it. I thought as the game went on our guys maybe were able to try to see a little bit more what they were trying to do.
Q. Did you feel like you had to settle them down at halftime?
COACH DONOVAN: No, not really. I didn’t feel like I had to settle ‘em down. I thought more than anything else I was trying to encourage them. We got good shots. Lee Humphrey drew one off his foot; Walter Hodge got out on the open floor, tried to do too much. Al tried to wheeled baseline around a double team and he traveled.
We had some carelessness, but also some turnovers, give their defense credit, they did a good job forcing it.
Q. How much do you think those games against Purdue and Butler this year, the first 10 minutes were very similar to this one, you were having a hard time scoring, physical, trying to figure out how to play the game, how much do you think that helped you tonight?
COACH DONOVAN: I think all your opponents help you. I don’t think a lot changed for us. I didn’t think that we made shots and we made some careless passes, but we did a better job in the second half of handling it.
But I think any time the more experiences you can have as a team against different styles, UCLA in my opinion is as good as any defensive team we’ve played against. They’re strong; they’re physical. They get great effort from their posts on pick-and-roll. They get great effort from their posts to block out and rebound.
But I definitely think going through this tournament, if you look at a Jackson State’s racehorse up and down, Purdue is really kind of more as you talked about physical, bang you, body you.
Butler, same way. Oregon was a little bit more wide open, running up and down. This team, UCLA, was very, very physical. Bang you, knock you, hit you, try to be disruptive in the halfcourt.
Q. You touched on this with the TV guys, that Florida and Ohio State are different teams now. Back in December both Oden and Horford had injuries. Take that into consideration. How else are these two teams different now?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I never like talking about for coach. I don’t know how Thad feels. One of the hard things, too, when we played Ohio State was Oden obviously was still recovering from his wrist injury.
Probably only had five or six games under his belt. Was still shooting free throws left-handed. The other thing is the game was on December 23rd, on the road. You have a lot of young kids, they’re away from college their first time. I know one of my biggest fears a lot of times is that game right before Christmas break. I don’t know if Thad gave those guys off any time.
Probably for them the second true road game for them was outside playing at North Carolina where they played terrific. I haven’t had a chance—I see them here. But we have so many games coming in here, you’re focused on the next game.
Our coaches have been watching them a lot. I think the biggest thing is they’re no longer a young basketball team. They’re an experienced basketball team.
When you put freshmen out there as talented and gifted as those kids are, they go through the experiences they’ve had to go through playing on the road in the Big-10, playing in the Big-10 tournament, playing at North Carolina, playing at Florida. They’re a veteran team right now.
Now all of a sudden you take a guy like Butler, a lot of their other guys who are older now, Lewis, they’ve got great chemistry and great balance. They have a great calming force with their older guys who are leadership guys.
Now maybe back in December and November, maybe people viewed them as being not that experienced a team. They got a wealth of experience right now playing however many games they’ve played. I would say the biggest difference is they’re an experienced team.
Q. Your school’s athletic department has had a lot of success in football and basketball lately. The one thing in common is the athletic director, for both teams. What is there about his management style that allows both to excel simultaneously?
COACH DONOVAN: Did he go down and ask you to ask that question (smiling)? He’s always trying to get publicity.
No, I think the one thing—again, I don’t know the way it is at Ohio State, but at Florida there is a goal by the administration to try to have one of the best athletic programs in the country. There’s great bonding and chemistry amongst all the coaches because I think the administration individualizes each program.
What does track need to be successful? What does basketball need? What does softball need? Everybody’s needs to build a program are a little bit different. That’s the one thing that’s been so great for me over the last 11 years is when you have an administration that’s totally supportive, committed in trying to help you get the program to that next step, that next step, the next step, you feel like all the challenges and struggles and battles, things you do, you feel like you’re going along with them hand-in-hand.
There’s a lot to do. I’ve told our athletic director this. Sometimes no one ever checks on the AD. They’re always checking on the coach. It’s a hard job. The relationship I’ve had with Jeremy, have with Jeremy over the last 11 years, has been terrific. It’s been great.
But also there’s a lot of hard work that he’s put in. There’s also a lot of—there’s just a lot of chemistry on our campus. I don’t know what Jeremy’s hiring style is. For whatever reason we all get along really well, and I don’t think that’s the case necessarily at all places.
Q. How much of last year’s playing with UCLA were you able to dust off and reinstall for this game?
COACH DONOVAN: I watched the game a couple times just to go back and watch the game. What I tried to take from it was basketball X and O stuff. I didn’t have our guys see or really look at any clips of the game. I told them, and I said it here, you know, the game is—the game was played last year. The game is over with. I know they talked a lot about—you know, it’s heartbreaking.
I sat where UCLA sat in 2000 losing to Michigan State. You get to that point, it’s disappointing. I can understand how they felt.
But I just thought for our team we needed to understand that UCLA was different and they were better than a year ago. So us going back and looking at that game and trying to break it apart for us was not helpful because they were better.
I thought Collison—what took their team to a different level, Collison is such a great defender. He’s not a guy that demands a lot of shots. Now all of a sudden you add Shipp at the wing spot, who is athletic, can score. I thought he was terrific in the first half.
I know Afflalo had fouls. I think any time you lose a player like that it always hurting your team. He really did a great job at taking over, making some drives, threes, jumpers to keep them there.
You add Collison, Shipp, basically you have your whole team back. Those two guys have added a dimension that has made them better. They lost two guys playing in the NBA. Hollins, Farmar, Bozeman was an experienced guy. You have to give those kids a lot of credit coming in as new guys and doing what they did.
Q. We all like to talk about history. You’ll be trying to do something that very few teams have accomplished. Duke did it in ‘92. Back to UCLA. Very few teams have gone back to back. What does the idea of doing something quite historic mean to you?
COACH DONOVAN: Well, I think right now for our team, they have to understand that everybody is going to focus on the result. That’s the result of the game. The most important thing for our team is they have to focus on the process of the game. They got to focus on the plays on the game.
I’ve said this before. A lot of times people want to take you so far into the past or they want to take you so far into the future you forget to take care of the process along the way. I think our guys know if the result is a win for us, what that means.
But we can’t focus on that and forget there’s a 40-minute game to play. We have to make sure that we’re prepared as quickly as we can to play Ohio State. We got to make sure we’re prepared as best we can to handle the course of the game. Then the result will be that.
Then I think after the game’s over with, if that does happen to us, we’re fortunate to have that happen, then I think we can comment about how we feel.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Donovan, thank you.
COACH DONOVAN: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined now by UCLA. We’ll ask Coach Howland to make an opening statement, then first questions to the student-athletes.
COACH HOWLAND: They have an outstanding team, University of Florida. You have to credit them. They did a great job tonight controlling the backboards and also defensively. They’ve been an outstanding defensive team here the last two years, holding their opponents under 40%. You have to, again, credit them. They have outstanding players. They’re very, very well-coached.
That all being said, we’re very disappointed about losing tonight and being here for the second straight year without bringing home a championship. But I’m also really, really proud of our players and the great year that we’ve had, the character that they’ve displayed throughout the season. Just really, really proud to have had the opportunity to coach such a great group of young kids this year.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Arron or Josh first, please.
Q. Arron, could you talk about how difficult that was to sit on the bench that much of the first half.
ARRON AFFLALO: Yeah, well, you know, that wasn’t the disappointing thing about it. It was the fact that I couldn’t be on the floor to help my teammates. They did a great job of fighting and staying together and playing strong. It wasn’t really about me being on the bench.
Obviously that took me out of my own little personal rhythm a little bit. I really wanted to be there for them and be that aggressive leader for them on both ends.
I committed some bad fouls, put my team at a disadvantage.
Q. You were able to hold every team you played in the tournament until today to 55 points or less because you’re such a strong defensive team. Talk about what Florida presents as a challenge for you defensively.
ARRON AFFLALO: When we got down, we had to get into a scrambling situation a little bit more in the second half. Because of that, they got some open looks and some breakdowns.
I thought we did a pretty good job defensively in the first half. We had their offense well-schemed. We were well-prepared tonight. It was about going out there and performing. We have a few lapses, did some different things which kind of turned the game for us. In the second half, they were able to get a lot more easy buckets.
JOSH SHIPP: I mean, pretty much what he said. We had the game plan that we had them well-schemed. We just didn’t go out there and execute like we planned.
Q. Did anything they did surprise you? You said you had them well-schemed. Were there any surprises they came up with in this game?
ARRON AFFLALO: Not really. You know, we knew their plays. We knew ‘em inside and out. We had about a week to prepare for them. I’m pretty sure they expected our double-teams. They did a pretty good job of passing it out, especially in the beginning of the second half.
But outside those few mental breakdowns, you know, they’re pretty much a team they expected them to be. They performed well. They’re well-deserving.
THE MODERATOR: Arron and Josh, thank you very much for coming down. Questions for Coach Howland, please.
Q. All last week you were talking about Florida being maybe one of the great teams of recent college basketball history. After getting a chance to see them now for the second straight year, is there anything they do that makes you even feel more so about that?
COACH HOWLAND: They’re very, very impressive. It will be an interesting game Monday night. I have not had a chance to really study Ohio State at all because everything was geared towards Florida.
But in terms of Florida, I mean, as I said coming in, they have no weaknesses. They have a great inside attack. They have outstanding perimeter shooting. They’re very good defensively.
Really, we were down six at halftime with Arron three fouls playing five minutes the first half. It was our inability to score that caused us the most problems, to score inside. Again, you have to credit their defense.
We shot 39% for the game. You have to shoot and do better than that to beat a great team like Florida.
We held them in the first half to zero offensive rebounds. They had 10 turnovers to our one turnover, yet we’re still down six because of our inability to score.
But, again, I’m really proud of our team and the great year they’ve had. Really proud to have had such good kids to coach this year.
Q. You were up against it enough playing a good team like Florida. Some of the calls that went against you seemed really weak, that the referees made, especially some right under the basket. Can you comment anything about that, being a part of the problem for tonight’s game?
COACH HOWLAND: Not really. I don’t think the officiating—it was unfortunate Arron had three fouls. I’m not going to put any blame on the officials at all. I won’t—you know, that’s not the case. We were beaten by a great team tonight. You have to credit them.
Q. While it’s a great accomplishment to get here, do you think there needs to be any tweaking of the system to get you over the hump? Do you think down the road, any examination from these last two years needs to be done?
COACH HOWLAND: We were beaten both years by Florida, last year in the national championship after beating a very good LSU team in the semifinals, and then again tonight by Florida. You have to credit them, a great team.
Yeah, I’ll always look to go back and try to learn and see what we can do better. Our biggest inability, and I take responsibility for it, is that we didn’t attack their switching man defense very well.
We’ve got to do a better job of being able to get better spacing and also to not be so reluctant to throw the ball in the post. We didn’t have that many post feeds.
They are a very long and athletic team inside. I was just looking to see, they blocked six of our shots tonight. Again, we’re playing against, I really do believe, one of the better college teams that has been around in a while when you look at what they’ve done over the last two years.
You’re talking about two lottery picks inside. Brewer is going to be a top-20 pick when he decides to come out. I love Green and Humphrey as their guards. Richard coming off the bench is a great player. You got to credit them.
But, yes, to answer your question, we’re always looking to tweak and to try to get better at what we’re doing.
Q. Not to comment specifically on the referees, but it seemed early on they were calling a close game as opposed to more of a loose game. Did that hurt your style? You’re a vigorous defensive team. Did that hurt what you had hoped to have? And the second question, look ahead to next year.
COACH HOWLAND: I really thought I answered the officiating question, so I’ll skip that answer.
Yeah, I’m excited about our team next year. We have no seniors in the program. I’m thinking that we’re going to be a very good team and competitive next year, especially with the addition of Kevin Love, who is one of the top players in the country, if not the best kid in the country. He gives us a very good inside presence.
Then also we’re getting the Los Angeles city Player of the Year in Chase Stanback out of Fairfax who did a great job again leading his team this year to the state championship and city championship for the first time, city championship time I think for 20 years in Fairfax.
Our players are hurting right now. They’re deeply disappointed. We have great, great kids, high character. You know, we’ve got to bounce back. Again, there’s only one team that’s going to be truly happy leaving Atlanta, and that’s going to be whoever wins the game Monday night.
We were there as the bridesmaid last year on championship night. Obviously we would have liked to have gotten past Florida. Again, credit Florida. They have a great team, very well-coached. Outstanding players and outstanding coach.
Q. Could you talk about how when Arron goes out that early you have to change rotations? What’s the domino effect of losing a guy like that?
COACH HOWLAND: We’re losing our leading scorer and our best defender, perimeter players. Obviously it’s a lot to overcome when Arron is not in the game. I thought we did a pretty good job of it for the most part to only be down six, again as I spoke to earlier, and to have the ball coming out of halftime there.
We cut it to four there a couple times. Then they went on a nice run and that hurt us. I have to go back and examine the tape and look at those plays.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Howland, thank you very much.
COACH HOWLAND: Thank you.