Gators set for visit to Carrier Dome


Florida players Bradley Beal (23), Patric Young (4), Mike Rosario (3) and Kenny Boynton (1) laugh as they walk onto the court against Catholic University on Nov. 3.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, December 2, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 5:06 p.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan understands the atmosphere will be different for Friday night's SEC-Big East showdown at No. 4 Syracuse.

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Who: No. 10 Florida Gators (5 -1) at No. 4 Syracuse Orange (7-0)
When: Tonight, 7
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Gainesville TV: ESPN
Gainesville radio: 103.7 FM

Donovan knows No. 10 Florida is just the second game on Syracuse's schedule since the school fired associate basketball coach Bernie Fine after he was accused by a third victim of child molestation.




Federal agents searched Fine's office in Syracuse, N.Y., this week. Longtime Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has come under fire for initially defending Fine while questioning the motives of the victims. Boeheim back-tracked from those comments when Fine was fired last Sunday.

“It really has nothing do with us, as sad as the whole thing is for everybody involved, I think the players for both teams are just going to go out there and play,” Donovan said. “And I think we've got to go out and do the same thing.

“We're playing against a really good team that's a top-five team in the country that's got a lot of length and athleticism, that's really talented and gifted. We're playing them on the road and it's a difficult place to play. So I think we've got enough that we've got to prepare for just to get ready to play a quality team.”

Florida (5-1) will be making its first trip to the Carrier Dome since 2000, when it won the NCAA East Regional with victories over Duke and Oklahoma State. The Gators advanced to the first of three Final Four appearances under Donovan.

Donovan also played at the Carrier Dome as a visiting player with Providence from 1983-87.

“Hopefully the memories I had in the (Carrier) Dome we don't have, because we never won at Providence when I was playing there,” Donovan said. “But it's a great venue for college basketball, a great environment.”

Florida junior guard Mike Rosario, a Rutgers transfer, played twice against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome when he was in the Big East.

“It's a crazy atmosphere,” Rosario said. “It's loud and it's a lotta orange, lotta orange. It's a dome and those guys love to go out there and just have fun out there and their fans are loyal. So it's gonna be a good atmosphere for us to play in.”

The Gators are facing a top-five opponent on the road for the second time in less than three weeks. Florida suffered an 81-74 loss at No. 3 Ohio State in its second game of the season on Nov. 15.

Turnovers (16) proved costly in the loss. Donovan said it will be important for Florida to be strong with the ball and make smart decisions against Syracuse's staple 2-3 matchup zone defense. Syracuse is forcing 22.8 turnovers per game.

“We've got to try to eliminate those careless passes, careless shots that really get them into what they do well and that's play out in transition,” Donovan said.

Florida junior guard Kenny Boynton said he feels like Florida has improved its decision-making with the ball since the Ohio State loss.

“We've gotten a lot better,” Boynton said. “I think we've practiced a lot being pressured. We've played against the 2-3 zone. I think we've done our best to prepare to play against a team like this.”

The Gators are shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range and lead the SEC in 3-pointers made per game (12). But Boynton said the Gators can't fall into the trap of trying to shoot over Syracuse's zone on every possession downcourt.

“You can't settle,” Boynton said. “That's what they want. They want you to hit your first two 3s and eventually they know you are not going to hit them all. They try to capitalize on that so we know we have to get the ball inside to Patric (Young) and penetrate their zone.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Jr. 18.5 ppg, 4.0 apg

G Erving Walker 5-8 Sr. 13.7 ppg, 5.3 apg

G Bradley Beal 6-3 Fr. 17.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg

F Will Yeguete 6-7 So. 6.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg

C Patric Young 6-9 So. 10.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg

SYRACUSE PROBABLE STARTERS

G Scoop Jardine 6-2 Jr. 7.0 ppg, 4.1 apg

G Brandon Triche 6-4 Jr. 11.0 ppg, 3.6 apg

F Kris Joseph 6-7 Sr. 14.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg

F Rakeem Christmas 6-9 Fr. 4.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg

C Fab Melo 7-0 So. 5.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg

Notes: Florida coach Billy Donovan is 1-2 lifetime against Syracuse. The Gators suffered an 85-73 loss to Syracuse two seasons ago in the SEC-Big East Challenge at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. … Florida has made 10 or more 3-pointers in each of its first six games and leads the Southeastern Conference in 3-pointers made per game at 12.0. … Erving Walker (1,412 points) needs just six points to pass Brett Nelson for 18th on UF's all-time scoring list. … Junior guard Mike Rosario is averaging 12 points and 3.3 rebounds per game off the bench for the Gators this season. … Kenny Boynton is shooting 48.9 percent (22-45) from 3-point range.

— Kevin Brockway

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