Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Sports

Florida has benefit of NCAA experience

RECOMMENDED READING


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

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Lightning-Blackhawks game

Every Lightning-Blackhawks game at Amalie Arena has a good representation of red in the stands. And Wednesday’s matchup was no exception, with a large contingent of transplants and travelers. "It feels like half the city of Chicago is traveling down ...
Updated: 29 minutes ago

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TodayCollege footballMississippi at Mississippi State7:30 p.m.ESPNCollege basketballMissouri vs. Long Beach State11:30 a.m.ESPN2Tennessee vs. Villanova12:30 p.m.ESPNSt. John’s vs. Oregon State2 p.m.ESPNUPortland vs. North Carolina2:30 p.m.ESPNNorth C...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

TAMPA — The Lightning entered Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks determined to avoid its first losing streak of the season. And it did in dramatic fashion, with Brayden Point’s power-play goal in overtime lifting it to a 3-2 victory. Tampa Bay (...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

TAMPA — Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov has watched plenty of film on Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.Kucherov marveled how the 2015-16 league MVP uses deception to "hide" from defenders. He noticed how patient Kane was with the puck, how well he passed ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Niederreiter stays hot for Wild in win

Niederreiter stays hot for Wild in win

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund each scored two goals to lead the Wild to a 5-4 victory over the Sabres on Wednesday night. Tyler Ennis also scored, and Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter each had two assists as the Wild snapped a two-g...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Stitches don’t cool off LeBron

Stitches don’t cool off LeBron

CLEVELAND — LeBron James shook off a blow to the face and scored 23 in the fourth quarter — including 18 straight for Cleveland — as the Cavaliers won their sixth straight, 119-109 over the Nets on Wednesday. James needed stitches in the third quarte...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Basketball: USF Bulls bounce back with rout of Howard; FSU, Miami win

TAMPA — Three nights after running out of steam in a loss at Indiana, USF had enough to steamroll Howard of the MEAC.A 17-1 run late in the first half helped the Bulls to a 75-52 win Wednesday before an announced Sun Dome crowd of 2,080. USF (3-2) he...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Thanksgiving Day NFL previews: Vikings-Lions, Chargers-Cowboys, Giants-Redskins

Updated: 2 hours ago

Sports in Brief

GYMNASTICSEx-Olympic team doctor pleads guilty to abuseLANSING, Mich. — Former doctor Larry Nassar, who was accused of molesting girls while working for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, pleaded guilty Wednesday to multiple charges of sex...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Updated: 2 hours ago