Sports and Scores
 
NCAA Basketball
Scoreboard | Standings | Teams | Leaders | Polls | Home

No. 4 Florida piling up wins with stingy defense

(AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

By MARK LONG

AP Sports Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Billy Donovan has coached plenty of good defensive teams in his 17 seasons at Florida.

None of them quite like this.

The fourth-ranked Gators have been ridiculously stingy this season, especially in Southeastern Conference play.

Florida (17-2, 7-0 SEC) ranks second in the nation in scoring defense, giving up a paltry 50.4 points a game. The Gators have held 15 teams under 60 points, 11 under 50 and three under 40.

The latest defensive masterpiece came Wednesday night against South Carolina. In winning its ninth consecutive game, Florida allowed the program's fewest points (36) in conference play during the shot-clock era.

For an encore, the league's top scoring team, Mississippi visits Gainesville on Saturday to test Florida's defense.

The 16th-ranked Rebels (17-3, 6-1) are averaging 80 points a game and should provide a tough test for Florida's stout D.

No SEC team has really challenged the Gators so far. Florida has won seven games by an average of 28.3 points, looking like the class of the field in a watered-down league.

"We're just consistent," forward Will Yeguete said. "We have a couple of breakdowns a game, but we stay consistent. We keep guarding teams every single time, possession after possession. ... It's good to say that you're a really good defensive team."

Few Donovan-coached teams even compare.

The back-to-back national champions - the ones led by Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford and Joakim Noah - used to be considered Donovan's best defensive group. And the 1999-2000 team, which advanced to the NCAA final, had top-notch defenders in guard Justin Hamilton and forward Brent Wright.

But none of those teams had as much defensive depth as this year's unit.

Between guards Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton, swingman Casey Prather, Yeguete and center Pat Young, the Gators have five players who take as much pride in stops and steals as dunks and jumpers.

"When you're a kid growing up playing the game of basketball, or if you're a kid growing up playing the game of football, I can't imagine that many guys that want to go to the park today and play and say, `I'm not going to take my ball, but I'm going to do defensive slides for two hours. I'm going to work on running back in transition. I'm going to grab some people in the school yard to run me over and take charges,'" Donovan said. "Those things that you're talking about doing are not things that are enjoyable.

"But I often find that the things that make teams successful are the players that have the desire to do the things that are uncomfortable."

Making opponents uncomfortable starts with Wilbekin and Boynton, both aggressive, on-ball defenders who have the quickness and stamina to run the press, the length to affect perimeter shots and the kind of experience that makes it easy to get them on the same page.

Wilbekin kept Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (season-low 11 points), Texas A&M's Elston Turner (4 points on 1-of-10 shooting) and Missouri's Phil Pressey (2 points, 10 turnovers) in check last month. And Boynton was equally effective the last two games against Mississippi State's Jalen Steele (scoreless) and South Carolina's Bruce Ellington (7 points on 2-of-9 shooting).

Maybe the most overlooked part of what Wilbekin and Boynton have done is how they have made everyone around them want to play better defense. Young, forward Erik Murphy and guard Mike Rosario are playing the best defense of their careers.

"It's contagious," Rosario said. "We're all feeding off those guys and what they're doing in the press and on the defensive end."

The Gators are motivated to keep it going, too.

They ended NCAA tournament runs the last two years by collapsing on the defensive end.

Florida was up 11 with about 8 minutes to play against Louisville last year, but managed just three points the rest of the way and lost 72-68. The 2010-11 season ended in similar fashion. The Gators led Butler by 11 points midway through the second half before faltering down the stretch and losing in overtime.

"This team has been to two Elite Eights and we've seen how a lack of defense will let a team back in a game," Boynton said. "It's definitely a mental thing with us: we've been there before and we're not to let it happen again."

Updated February 1, 2013

? © 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Audio On Demand

It Is What It Is Cast: Bi…

It Is What It Is Cast: Bill Barcells and Patriots Hall of Fame

WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia and Chris Price discuss Bill Parcells' Patriots Hall of Fame candidacy.

It Is What It Is Cast: Logan Mankins, the offensive line, and Brandon Spikes' guarantee

WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia and Christopher Price discuss Logan Mankins' breakdown of the offensive line and how it will look without Dante Scarnecchia. They also discussed Mankins' rebuttal to Brandon Spikes.

CSNNE's Tom E. Curran Reports From NFL Owners Meetings

Tom Curran calls the show to discuss the Vince Wilfork contract situation. After texting with Vince this morning, Curran says that Vince's camp is possibly trying to put the "genie back in the lamp" and that the possibility of the Pro Bowl DT returning to the team has improved.

Celtics President Danny A…

Celtics President Danny Ainge with Dale and Holley 4-17-14

We wrap up the Celtics season by speaking with Celtics president Danny Ainge about this past season and the team's future.

Wyc Grousbeck, Celtics Owner: Reflects on the Boston Marathon tragedy 4-15-4

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck joins Mut and Merloni to discuss and reflect on the Boston Marathon Bombings a year later.

Jackie MacMullan, ESPN Boston, on the Celtics, 4-10-14

Jackie MacMullan talks some Celtics with Mut and Merloni as the season is winding down and the team is positioned to have a high draft pick.

Joe and Dave postgame wit…

Joe and Dave postgame with David Ross 04-17-14

Dave O'Brien and Joe Castiglione talk with Red Sox catcher, David Ross, who had the go-ahead RBI tonight as the Red Sox beat the White Sox behind a brilliant pitching performance from Jon Lester.

Dave O'Brien with Dale and Holley - 4-17-14

Sox broadcaster Dave O'Brien checks in live from Chicago for our weekly chat about the state of the Sox.

Red Sox Manager John Farrell with Dale and Holley

We discuss the Red Sox early season woes with manager John Farrell, as well as his views and faith in MLB's new instant replay system, and the continuity in the Sox outfield.

Shawn Thornton calls in o…

Shawn Thornton calls in on gameday 4-18-14

Shawn Thornton discussed how he prepares on gameday in the postseason.

Jack Edwards with Dale and Holley 4-17-14

We preview Red Wings-Bruins with the great Jack Edwards of NESN.

Pod Man Rush: DJ Bean and Greg Wyshynski on Bruins-Red Wings

Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports joins DJ to break down the first-round matchup between the Bruins and Red Wings. Also discussed is Zdeno Chara's Norris candidacy, transparency with voting for the NHL awards and whether the Canadiens will get out of the first round.

Scott Stella on his buddy…

Scott Stella on his buddy Mark Fucarile 4-18-14

Scott talked about the fantastic E 60 documentary Dream On and how his friend is doing.

Headlines, Headlines, Headlines: Chelsea is pregnant 4-18-14

The top of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane. Today the guys discussed Chelsea Clinton's pregnancy.

Shawn Thornton calls in on gameday 4-18-14

Shawn Thornton discussed how he prepares on gameday in the postseason.

Bruins heavy favorites go…

Bruins heavy favorites going into first round Series against the Red Wings

Mut and TC discuss how almost every national hockey writer is picking the Bruins to beat Detroit. Will the Bruins be too confident?

Mut and Merloni Previewing Playoff Hockey 4-18-14

Mut and TC preview the Bruins first round match up against Detroit Red Wings

Kevin Millar, MLB Network, 4-18-14

Kevin Millar joins the show from the golf course, discussing the Sox struggles to score runs and the Jon Lester contract negotiations.

Jack Edwards previews Red…

Jack Edwards previews Red Wings and Bruins Round 1 with Dale and Holley 4-17-14

We preview Red Wings-Bruins with the great Jack Edwards of NESN.

Red Sox PbP Broadcaster Dave O'Brien joins Dale and Holley 4-17-14

Sox broadcaster Dave O'Brien checks in live from Chicago for our weekly chat about the state of the Sox.

Dale and Holley's Four at Four - '14 Celtics Wrap-Up Edition - 4-17-14

We tackle four topics that relate around the (merciful) end of the Celtics 2014 season.

Rick Middleton joins Plan…

Rick Middleton joins Planet Mikey

Nifty jumps on the Planet for an hour.

Red Sox lose to the Orioles 2-1 on Opening Day

Lou Merloni did play-by-play with Joe Castiglione today and then joined The Planet Mikey Show to talk about what went wrong, and a few things that went right as the Red Sox started their campaign to defend their World Series title.

Chris Price joins John Ryder to talk the Patriots' newest acquisition

WEEI.com's Chris Price joins John Ryder and Chris Villani on Planet Mikey to discuss the signing of Revis Island

Pod Man Rush: DJ Bean and…

Pod Man Rush: DJ Bean and Greg Wyshynski on Bruins-Red Wings

Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports joins DJ to break down the first-round matchup between the Bruins and Red Wings. Also discussed is Zdeno Chara's Norris candidacy, transparency with voting for the NHL awards and whether the Canadiens will get out of the first round.

Minor Details Ep. 79: The meaning of winning in the minors with Carlos Febles, Evan Lepler

The Red Sox' High-A minor league team in Salem recently had a 16-game winning streak that spanned two seasons. So what? From the standpoint of making prospects better and fostering player development, does that matter? Salem manager Carlos Febles (who managed Salem for the end of their winning streak, but who was also in charge of a 50-87 Single-A Greenville team in 2013) and Salem radio play-by-play man Evan Lepler discuss -- while also touching on a number of prospects in search of the next Earl Weaver and Vinegar Bend Mizell.

WEEI WrestleCast: Wrestlemania 30 recap

Scott and Ben recap WrestleMania 30 and talk about the death of the Ultimate Warrior.

Crystel the Tsnarnaev def…

Crystel the Tsnarnaev defender 4-16-14

Crystel called in to defend the terrorists.

More from this show

Buster Olney, ESPN: Sox c…

Buster Olney, ESPN: Sox clubhouse unhappy with Lester offer, 4-16-14

Buster Olney joined Mut and Merloni to discuss the Lester contract offer and the trickle-down effect in the clubhouse, the defense of Xander Bogaerts, and the slow start

More from this show

Sam Kennedy on the state …

Sam Kennedy on the state of the Red Sox 4-17-14

Red Sox COO Sam Kennedy joined the show to discuss the state of the Sox and MLB.

More from this show

Reflecting on the One-Yea…

Reflecting on the One-Year Anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing 4-15-14

Dale, Michael and Steve Lyons reflect back on the event last year, and the good that has taken place since then as Boston came together.

More from this show

Jeff Bauman on his recove…

Jeff Bauman on his recovery 4-17-14

Jeff Bauman joined the show to discuss his recovery over the past year.

More from this show

Weei Writers