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Donovan’s Reinvented Gators Face Marquette Tonight

When Will Yeguete went down with a season-ending foot injury it appeared that with him went Florida’s frontcourt game, its defense and its chances at a prolonged NCAA Tournament run.  Losing four of their last five entering the tourney, those prognostications of doom looked pretty darn accurate.

Two blowout wins over Virginia and Norfolk State later, the Gators are heading to a 10:15pm ET game with Marquette tonight (on TNT).  So what changed?

Yeguete says the team simply got “used to me not playing” and “we’ve been really good on defense.”  Head coach Billy Donovan says his players simply realized “things that they needed to do” in Yeguete’s absence.

Kenny Boynton agrees with his coach: “The main concern was who was gonna rebound?  Who was going to do the small stuff he did on the court?  I think the answer to that was basically the whole team.  It takes a whole team to equal that out.”

Freshman Bradley Beal has also emerged, averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds through two tourney games.  For the season he averaged 6.7 boards per game.  His added toughness will be needed tonight against a Marquette squad that’s a #3 seed and by far the best team UF has seen in this year’s March Madness.

For their part, Golden Eagles’ coach Buzz Williams — I still slip and call them the Warriors on occasion — says Florida may be the most dangerous offensive team his club has faced all year.

“There’s very few teams — everybody knows that they lead the country in three-point field goal makes, but there’s very few teams that have that offensive rebounding percentage that at the same time have those offensive efficiency type numbers,” Williams told the press yesterday.  “So it’s as potent an offensive team as I’ve studied this year.  And that speaks to Coach Donovan and his staff and the guys that they’ve recruited.  But it also speaks to their development of those guys and then their style of play and how it enhances their talent.”

Win and Donovan — complete with a team that reinvented itself late in the season — will reach his fifth Elite Eight in 16 years at Florida and his second in a row.  Considering how his team looked in the immediate aftermath of Yeguete’s injury, that’d be a helluva job well done.

 


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