Florida doesn't feel pressed to always turn up the pressure

Gators were selective during regular season

Notebook

NCAA's Men's Tournament

April 03, 2000|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Those who have just started watching Florida during the NCAA tournament might believe the 94-foot, all-out pressure style was there throughout the season.

But Florida coach Billy Donovan said he evaluates whether to use the press before every game, and whether to call it off during the contest.

Take the Arkansas game in mid-February, where the Gators hardly pressed at all, choosing to play a half-court game. The same held true against Tennessee and other Southeastern Conference foes.

"A lot of times within your league, the officiating has a tendency to challenge a little bit and certainly for us, pressing without fouling is a major key," Donovan said.

"For us, when we played against Arkansas they play at warp speed compared to us. It's very, very difficult, and I mean that as a tremendous compliment to [Arkansas coach] Nolan Richardson because his system and the way they play is very difficult to go against. There wasn't a need to press because the game was going to go up-and-down because that's the way they want to play, too."

Since the start of the NCAA tournament, though, the Gators have been pressuring after every basket for the bulk of the game.

Part of that is because, unlike in conference games, these teams have not seen Florida before. The press has less of an effect on the SEC teams, many of whom Florida faces twice a year, than it has on a team not used to seeing it.

"I think our style of play is unique," Donovan said. "And there's not a lot of teams out there that play the way we do. So when you see us for the first time, it can be difficult and a little bit different."

Magic attends

Michigan State will be able to draw on a little magic for tonight's game.

Former Michigan State point guard Magic Johnson will be in attendance, as he was in the semifinal win over Wisconsin on Saturday.

Johnson led the Spartans to their only national championship, as a sophomore in 1979, over Larry Bird and Indiana State in what still is the highest-rated televised game in NCAA finals history.

"In the five years I've been the head coach, we've tried to bring the past and present together," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said.

"When we are asked how do you build a good program, if you look at the Kentuckys and Dukes and North Carolina and Kansas, it's the players from the past that are so important. They're the ones that really start everything."

So Izzo also will have former Spartans and NBA players Steve Smith and Eric Snow in attendance.

Iron Mountain's values

Though Izzo makes $700,000 a year as coach at Michigan State, he said his life has not changed much from his days growing up in Iron Mountain, Mich.

Often, he says, he forgets he has so much money because of the values instilled in him in the small community in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

He said every television in town will have tonight's game on.

"It's a unique place," Izzo said. "It's got core values. The principal lives on one side of me, the chief of police on the other and the dentist across the street. So you're kind of raised by the community.

"We have 11 months of winter and one month of poor sledding. We have the world's largest man-made ski jump. It's a miner's town, we put our hats on, flick the little light out in front."

A Flint flavor

Gators guard Teddy Dupay could very well be an honorary Flintstone.

The Flintstones is the name given to Michigan State starters Mateen Cleaves, Charlie Bell and Morris Peterson, all from Flint, Mich.

Dupay, too, spent some time in Flint, although he was very young, and was unimpressed by the Flintstones.

"They make a big deal out of those guys from Flint," Dupay said. "I lived in Flint for six years, up until the third grade. Welsh Boulevard, ask them, they'll know where that is. My point is, it doesn't matter where you come from or how old you are. The game is played between the lines."

Peterson, though, takes a lot of pride in his hometown.

"People outside of Flint see Flint as a bad, rundown city. Flint is a great city. Through all the negative things, Flint has taken pride in athletics. The adults have supported us so much. We've brought some glory back to Flint. When I get a chance to go back, I hear the kids say they want to be better than us."

A thanks to Butler

Florida forward Mike Miller wanted to give a special thanks to tournament first-round foe Butler, not for allowing him to hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating shot, but for not holding a grudge against him.

The Bulldogs allowed Florida to use their facility in preparation for Saturday's win over North Carolina.

"I just think it shows a lot of class in what Butler did," Miller said. "They allowed us to go in there and practice on their floor after a game which a lot of people thought they should have won."

Free throws

This is only the second meeting between the two schools, with Florida winning, 83-59, on Dec. 30, 1987. But the football teams did meet earlier this year in the Citrus Bowl, which Michigan State won, 37-34, off a 39-yard field goal from Paul Edinger as time expired.

Florida's 29 victories ties the 1994 team for most in school history. That team advanced to the Final Four before losing to Duke in the tournament semifinals.

Michigan State has a current 10-game winning streak in which opponents are shooting 36.4 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three-point territory.

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