Wednesday, June 20, 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
For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

UPDATE, 6:43: Cash said the key to how the pieced the lineup together was the opportunity to give Cron (who is struggling) and Duffy (who is doing well) back to back days off. … Looking ahead to the weekend, the Rays will use RHP Ryne Stanek as...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Phil Mickelson apologizes four days after hitting moving ball at U.S. Open

Phil Mickelson apologizes four days after hitting moving ball at U.S. Open

NEW YORK — Phil Mickelson has apologized four days after intentionally violating golf rules by hitting a moving ball on the green at the U.S. Open, saying his frustration got the best of him. The apology came Wednesday in a statement released by his ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox Sr. was watching the NFL draft 24 years ago when the phone rang. Buffalo coach Marv Levy was on the other line."Marv said they were taking me," said Knox Sr., a standout receiver at FSU.Soon after, Knox Sr. saw his name scroll across ESPN'...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Tough questions are mere child’s play for Kevin Knox

Tough questions are mere child’s play for Kevin Knox

Growing up, Kevin Knox II watched videos or listened to motivational tapes during car rides to and from school so he could learn how to expand upon answers in interviews.That was all by design.His father, Kevin Knox Sr., knew about the spotlight as a...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning announce home opener: Oct. 6 vs. Panthers

Lightning announce home opener: Oct. 6 vs. Panthers

The Tampa Bay Lightning will announce their full 2018-19 schedule on Thursday, but the league announced each home opener Wednesday, with Tampa Bay playing host to the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Oct. 6.The Lightning will know their ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Florida State will host Florida Gators to open this basketball season

Florida State will host Florida Gators to open this basketball season

For the first time in almost two decades, Florida and Florida State will open the men's basketball season against each other.The Seminoles will host UF on Nov. 6, both programs announced Wednesday morning. FSU has won four in a row in the series."Any...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Kevin Kiermaier returns to the Rays

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Kevin Kiermaier returns to the Rays

Times sports columnist Tom Jones joins Rick Stroud to discuss Kevin Kiermaier's return to the Rays, whether Victor Hedman should win the Norris Trophy for the NHL's best defenseman, Bucs expectations for this season and Barry Trotz's next c...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Hillsborough County girls basketball team

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Hillsborough County girls basketball team

Player of the Year: Kaliah Henderson, Jr., RobinsonFirst teamG Brylee Bartram, Jr., Seffner ChristianG Jacquelyn LeVay, Sr., AlonsoF/G Tarriyonna Gary, So., Carrollwood DayF Tiasia McMillan, So., Carrollwood DayC Kendal Cheesman, Fr., PlantSecond tea...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Pinellas County girls basketball team

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Pinellas County girls basketball team

Player of the Year: November Morton, Sr., CountrysideFirst teamG Paris Williams, Sr., LakewoodG Summer Quigley, Jr., East LakeF Toi Smith, Sr., LakewoodF/G Carrie Lee, Sr., ClearwaterC Macey Zeh-Arndt, So., LakewoodSecond teamG Misha O'Neal, Sr., Cou...
Updated: 10 hours ago
How the Rays really won Tuesday’s game over Astros

How the Rays really won Tuesday’s game over Astros

There was some interesting inside baseball elements that factored into the late innings of Tuesday's 2-1 Rays win.* First, on Matt Duffy's double off reliever Hector Rondon to lead off the eighth.Duffy said he doesn't like "to guess" what a pitcher i...
Updated: 10 hours ago