Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Florida has benefit of NCAA experience

AUSTIN, Texas — Between Florida's starting five there are 38 combined games' worth of NCAA Tournament experience.

Seniors Eric Murphy and Kenny Boynton have the most with nine each and are 6-3 in those games. Junior center Patric Young is 6-2 in his NCAA appearances.

As the No. 3 seed Gators (26-7) begin their tournament run tonight against No. 14 Northwestern State (23-8), their hope is all that experience will be a big advantage when the pressure that is an integral part of March Madness mounts.

"The experience factor is huge as far as knowing what it takes to win," Young said. "We've won a lot of games in the tournament. Being able to embrace the moment together, just knowing that being together in any situation is the only way you're going to get through whatever is thrown at you, whatever adversity. That's probably the key factor there."

Florida has appeared in 13 NCAA Tournaments during coach Billy Donovan's 17 seasons, going 28-10. But for Donovan, who won the 2006 national championship with an impressive group of sophomores, experience has to be coupled with playing well.

"I would say this, to me the most important thing this time of year is maybe not the experience part of it," Donovan said. "You can have all the experience you want, but if you don't play well, a lot of that experience is wasted. I think the one good part for us going into the game is at least our guys have been in this environment, they have been in this venue, they have experienced this. … I think the experience, if you play well, can help you. But if you don't play well, I'm not so sure how much it helps."

What they've also experienced is the agony of getting close— but not close enough. The Gators have advanced to the Elite Eight the past two seasons, only to lose leads late in the game and failing to advance to the Final Four. They are trying to navigate the delicate balance between learning from the past but not letting it affect the present.

"Those things are in the past, but we have worked to fix whatever may have caused that," Murphy said. "We're just focused on Northwestern State right now. We've got to come out and be ready to play."

"I'm as hopeful as anybody can be," junior guard Scottie Wilbekin said about advancing farther this season. "We're more hopeful that we win the championship, but we just have to take it one game at a time. … We've been doing a lot of work this week and fixing the little things and we're ready.

Florida's seniors — Boynton, Murphy and guard Mike Rosario— carry a do-or-die mentality, knowing it's now or never for an NCAA title.

"I think that me, Murph and Mike, our main thing is winning," Boynton said. "We want to go out as winners. Our goal is to get to the national championship and win it. And nothing less than that."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Honeywell walks off mound with injury, Rays for now say it’s a forearm strain

Honeywell walks off mound with injury, Rays for now say it’s a forearm strain

UPDATE, 3:06: GM Erik Neander said the Rays medical team is continuing to evaluate Honeywell, and may not have an update for several days."There are times where something like this can happen and once you get your opinions from your medical people an...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning not planning to trade from current roster

Lightning not planning to trade from current roster

Everyone is wondering what the Lightning might do by Monday's trade deadline.Will they go after the big fish in the Senators' superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson? Would Tampa Bay settle for likely cheaper depth signings like rental defenseman Mike Gre...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police: DeSean Jackson’s former Eagles teammate drove truck found wrecked with bullets, marijuana inside

Police: DeSean Jackson’s former Eagles teammate drove truck found wrecked with bullets, marijuana inside

TAMPA  — With no witnesses and no video evidence, Tampa Police have stopped investigating a case from Christmas Eve that had a truck belonging to Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson found wrecked and abandoned in a mall parking lot with hollow-po...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays find taker for Corey Dickerson, get Daniel Hudson, prospect from Pirates

Rays find taker for Corey Dickerson, get Daniel Hudson, prospect from Pirates

The Rays found a taker for OF/DH Corey Dickerson, trading him Thursday to the Pirates for veteran reliever Daniel Hudson, minor-league INF Tristan Gray and $1-million cash.Hudson, 30, will compete for a spot in the Rays bullpen, coming off a rou...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Gators’ Larry Scott on Miami, ‘that other school down south’

Gators’ Larry Scott on Miami, ‘that other school down south’

GAINESVILLE — Tight ends coach Larry Scott hasn't even been with the Gators for a month, but he already understands the state's rivalries well.The former Miami interim coach referred to his old program as "that other school down south" during h...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Riverview to host Angela Slater softball tournament this weekend

Riverview to host Angela Slater softball tournament this weekend

Riverview High will host the inaugural Angela Slater Kick-Off Softball Classic, a 16-team tournament that starts Thursday and ends Saturday.The tournament is named in honor of the former Sharks softball coach who died in 2016 after a year-long battle...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lindsey Vonn scatters grandfather’s ashes near downhill course

Lindsey Vonn scatters grandfather’s ashes near downhill course

JEONGSEON, South Korea — Lindsey Vonn came to South Korea with the goal of taking home an Olympic medal and leaving something even more special behind. She did both. The American ski great said Thursday she recently scattered some of the ashe...
Updated: 3 hours ago
USA women’s hockey gives us a night to remember

USA women’s hockey gives us a night to remember

Our team.They're Americans, yes. But they are more than that.They're one of us. Adopted Floridians. Honorary members of Tampa Bay.And they gave us the signature moment of the Winter Olympics.USA! USA! USA!In the greatest moment in American hockey sin...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida Gators’ Malik Davis ‘coming along well’ in knee rehab

Florida Gators’ Malik Davis ‘coming along well’ in knee rehab

GAINESVILLE — Former Jesuit High star Malik Davis is "coming along well" from knee surgery, but the Gators still aren't ready to talk about when he'll be fully available to the team."I don't know right now," running backs coach Greg Knox said T...
Updated: 3 hours ago
For a change, USF football staff remains the same

For a change, USF football staff remains the same

When the 2018 Bulls hit the Morsani Complex fields March 5 for their inaugural spring practice, they'll be greeted by a stabilizing force of sorts.Familiar faces, all around.For the first time since 2011, USF will enter the season with the same coach...
Updated: 5 hours ago