Donovan earns 400th win, Gators down Stetson 96-70By KYLE HIGHTOWER, Associated Press Monday, Nov 28, 2011
He’s never coached a minute of football in his 16 seasons as Florida’s coach, but he got football-caliber treatment from his players in the form of a Gatorade bath on the Amway Center court sideline in the seconds after he earned his 400th career win.
But as the youngest active coach to reach that milestone and with a young team that is continuing to show signs of improvement early this season, it’s a cleaning bill he said he won’t mind paying at all.
“I think more about the guys who were here and the guys that have come through (the program),” Donovan said. “It’s not just the NBA guys, it’s the really quality kids that I’ve coached for a period of time.”
Bradley Beal had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Erving Walker added 21 to lead the Gators (5-1) in the neutral court matchup. The Hatters (3-3) were led by Chris Perez with 20 points.
Retired NBA player Jason Williams was courtside Monday and Donovan said former standout Chandler Parsons also spoke to the team before game. That kind of lineage he said is what he’s most proud of.
“It’s definitely a reflection that time is moving on and you’re getting older,” Donovan said.
Even with a prime time matchup with No. 5 Syracuse Friday night looming for the Gators, it was clear early on Monday that they weren’t looking ahead at all.
Stetson stayed close early on before a 23-4 Gators’ run midway through the first half blew the game open. Florida relied on its outside shooting during the spurt, knocking down eight 3-pointers in the half and 14 for the game.
The Gators came into Monday night a little battered on the injury front after starting forward Erik Murphy tore the meniscus in his right knee in practice . Swingman Casey Prather was also nursing a groin strain, but did suit up against the Hatters.
Will Yeguete started in Murphy’s place for the second straight game and finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Even with a short bench the Gators still attack the Hatters with their press on defense and were pretty effective keeping them off balance with Stetson committing 12 turnovers in the first half alone. Florida also had 14 steals in the game.
“Our press is designed not just to get steals, but to make the offense commit turnovers,” Gators’ guard Kenny Boynton said.
Stetson coach Casey Alexander said Florida’s pressure was big, but that their hot shooting night was what was too much to overcome. But going 1 for 17 from the 3-point line themselves also didn’t help.
“The only real way for us to make that a more completive game is for us to shoot it a lot better than we did,” he said. “That, and for them to shoot it a little worse than they did.”
It all helped Florida get several open looks in transition from the outside and the Gators took advantage of them.
Florida took a 16-point lead into the break, but led by as many as 22 in the opening 20 minutes.
The Gators kept their cushion by connecting on 8 of 20 shots from beyond the arc in the half, while Stetson knocked down just 1 of 10 attempts.
Stetson trailed just 15-12 early on before Florida went on a 23-4 run that made it 38-16. The Hatters held 18-17 rebounding edge, though, and responded with a 13-0 run to get within nine before the Gators ended the period on a 9-2 spurt.
Yeguete said that the Gators are excited about playing a Top 5 program in Syracuse next.
“Syracuse is a Big East team, one of the best conferences,” he said. “They’re athletic and a great team and going on the road is a challenge for us. Those are the type of game that we call want to play in. We just want to prepare and be ready for the challenge. Hopefully we’ll come out with a win.”