Billy Donovan, Adrian Moss and Lee Humphrey were in Tallahassee on Monday to accept congratulations from the Florida Legislature.
Even Adrian Moss concedes that despite the Gators’ championship, UF remains a football school.
- Adrian Moss: “Ooh, there will be debate. They’ll probably have the parade after the Orange and Blue game. They don’t want to mess up that game.”
- Moss: “Florida’s not a basketball school. Florida is always going to be a football school. Whenever someone says, ‘The University of Florida,’ it’s always, ‘How’s the football team doing?’ We’re just the guys running around in shorts. I remember reading the school paper before we left (for Indianapolis). We’re leaving for the Final Four, and they’re writing about spring football practice.”
- Jeremy Foley: “You have 90,000 (fans) come every Saturday, and you have 12,000 come for basketball games. So there’s 78,000 people that probably live and die more with football. That’s not going to change. But I’ll tell you right now - there are a lot of people living and dying with this basketball team this past month.”
- Foley on Billy Donovan: “He’s embraced football from the day he’s walked onto campus. He’s not competing against it. You’ve heard him say that 1,000 times. He’s not worried about a pecking order at the University of Florida.”
- LB Brandon Siler: “Right now, to take anything from them would be nonsense. They just won a national championship, and you can’t make a mockery of what kind of school it is.”
- WR Dallas Baker: “OK, they’ve set the table. Now it’s time for us to do something.”
- Urban Meyer: “I think the gymnastics coach is going to be a little upset after all their consecutive (Southeastern Conference) championships. And then it’s kind of a volleyball school too. But am I worried that there are going to be empty seats at the football stadium? No, I’m not.”
Adrian “Uncle” Moss saved his best for last Monday, going out with a championship and keying the Gators’ play in the first half.
- Chris Richard: “I like Moss for MVP right now. If it wasn’t for Moss I don’t think we would have been as great as we were in the first half. He did all the dirty work. Hats off to Moss.”
- Moss: “I’m higher than clouds right now. It’s just euphoria. That’s the only word that I can use to describe this. It’s a euphoric feeling. You’re going out on top.”
- Moss: “I came in and brought energy and I rebounded the ball and I got easy shots. My teammates did the hard thing and that’s making the play. I just finished it. It was nothing I did.”
- Moss, who collapsed to the floor Monday after the final buzzer: “So many things run through your head. I mean you think about your family. Thought about the road I took to get here and the road my teammates took to get here.”
- Moss: “Thirty years from now, these guys can call me, wherever they are in the world, I got them.”
How amazing was Adrian Moss’s first-half performance in his final game Monday night, when he led the Gators with nine points?
- Moss: “You ask to get your chance, you’ve got to make good.”
- Corey Brewer: “He came in and gave us a lot of intensity, a lot of passion, a lot of heart.”
- Brewer: “He’s going out a winner. He can say I won my last game and I’m a national champion.”
Everybody and their mother wanted George Mason to beat the Gators last night. Sorry.
- Corey Brewer: “We kissed Cinderella, put her back in her pumpkin, sent her home to her stepmom and stepsisters.”
- Al Horford: “I don’t feel bad at all. They had a good run, they were a good story, but it had to come to an end tonight. They were playing the Gators.”
- Adrian Moss: “They wouldn’t feel bad if they beat us.”
- Chris Richard: “I guess that’ll make everybody mad at us. We had to end the story.”
- Joakim Noah: “Sometimes it feels good to be the bad guy.”
- Moss: “You can call me a villain whenever you want to. I want to be called a champion.”
Post-game reaction from Sunday’s win:
- Joakim Noah: “It’s a great feeling when you have a lot of doubters and you prove them wrong.”
- Billy Donovan: “This has been a remarkable run to this point. There was just so much uncertainty surrounding our season with people leaving early and guys having to step up.”
- Al Horford: “I remember last summer when Joakim looked me in the eye and told me we were going to the Final Four. Jo said, ‘This is our team. It’s our turn now.’”
- Horford: “We are going to the Final Four. Oh man, it’s an awesome feeling. I don’t have words to explain it.”
- Horford on Villanova: “We wanted to set the tone early. We know the way they play. They’re very physical, and you know you are going to get hit, and the refs aren’t going to call it because they are guards hitting bigs. So you just have to go strong to the basket every time against them.”
- Adrian Moss: “We knew other teams have tried to go inside on them, and it hasn’t worked. But Joakim and Al were just incredible.”
- Lee Humphrey: “It looked like it was impossible to stop them. I guess the only way to stop them was with a rock and a stick.”
The ’04s get the glory, but the Gators’ deep bench allows Billy Donovan to go nine deep and wear teams down.
- Adrian Moss: “Your team is counting on you. You have to go in there and perform to your ability not to let the team down. That’s what you prepare in practice for every day. And when you do that, good things are bound to happen.”
- Lee Humphrey on where the team would be now without stellar bench play: “I definitely think we’d probably be back in class. It would be tough to play without good bench players, and they’re not just bench players. They’re really good. I mean, they could start, and they’ve really helped us out. You can’t win many games with five guys.”
- Corey Brewer: “They are all critical for us. Adrian, he’s such a boost coming off the bench. He hustles and does all the things you don’t see on the stat sheet. Walter comes in and plays great, he always knows his role. And Chris, he comes in and rebounds, scores when he needs to. With those three added to our starters, we are a tough team to deal with.”
- Billy Donovan: “Some of the most difficult things you have to do as a coach is get them to understand their role, accept their role, focus on their role, and take pride in their role. I think Chris (Richard) and Adrian (Moss), and the guys coming off the bench, they’ve done it. They’ve accepted that and they’ve done a good job of that. That is what enables you to play to the best of your ability, when you have your team understanding, accepting and taking pride in what their job and responsibilities are.”
It’s obvious the team has a lot of love for Adrian Moss, the lone senior.
- Corey Brewer: “I’m very happy for Adrian. At the beginning of the year, we told him, ‘We’re playing for you.’ He’s been here five years, he’s put his heart and soul into this program. For him to get to go to the Sweet 16, it’s a great feeling. I’m just happy for him. And he played great today, too. Without him, we would have been in trouble.”
- Moss: “I’m happy to have this euphoric feeling today, and hopefully we can keep that feeling going for another four games, but my main focus is on the next round game.”
- Moss: “It’s a great feeling for me, I haven’t been there before. It feels good, but we’ve got a lot more work to do. Whatever we did in the past doesn’t matter. It’s always about the next game, your next opponent and preparing for your next opponent.”
- Lee Humphrey: “Without Moss today, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Adrian Moss is going out with a bang, grabbing a career-high nine rebounds Saturday.
- Moss, crediting his teammates for his rebounding numbers: “When you got that kind of athleticism flying to the boards, a non-jumping guy like me can go in there and pick up some loose change, because they are worried about the jumping dudes. I’m glad they are flying to the boards.”
- Moss: “It feels good to contribute, but if feels even better winning. As long as we come out with the win, I’m happy.”
The Gators turnaround after a midseason slump might be attributable to a team meeting before the second Georgia game, at which Billy Donovan pleaded for better defensive play.
- Taurean Green: “That team meeting helped because it made us think and made us really focus on the things we had to do to win games. We looked at the previous games why we lost and the reasons why we lost. We’re just trying to fix that and just try to not let those things happen again.”
- Adrian Moss: “Everybody expressed their opinions. We said what we had to say and that was the end of it.”
- Chris Richard: “Once we had that final talk, everyone focused in a little more.”
- Donovan: “Our kids are making the effort. Are we where we want to be defensively yet? Probably not, but we have made some strides. I think the one thing they’ve done well the past few weeks is defend the 3-point line better and that’s important because it’s such a factor in college basketball.”
- Green: “We knew we had to tighten up defensively because defense wins games. If you’re not shooting the ball well, if you’re not having a good night, then you have to have defense. You have to play defense to create offense. Defense means a lot to our team.”
The UW-Milwaukee game provides the Gators yet another chance to break into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000.
- Corey Brewer: “We’ve got to win that game. People are going to talk about if we lose, ‘They can’t get past the second round.’ We have to win that game to quiet everybody up.”
- Adrian Moss on the team’s NCAA history: “It’s already behind us. Other people dwell on it more than we do.”
- Humphrey: “This year is not determined by what happened in the past. We have a chance to make a run this year.”
- Brewer: “We’re just looking for our shot. The next game, if we win we go to the Sweet 16, we get over that hump. That’s what we have to do, get over that hump.”
The Gators’ lack of success in the NCAA Tournament is a little troubling, but Billy Donovan wants to move on.
- Billy Donovan: “It’s like taking a doctor and defining him by one surgery. It’s saying, ‘If this surgery doesn’t go well, you’re a bad doctor.’”
- Donovan: “Everybody wants more; I want more. If we got to three Sweet 16s, people would say, ‘Jeez, they can’t get to the Elite Eight.’ If we got to the Final Four, people would say, ‘They can’t break through (and win it).’”
- Adrian Moss: “(I want it) as bad as I want anything,” he said. “This is my last chance. We’ve got to get further this time.”
Jacksonville is close enough to home for the Gators that the opening rounds might seem like a homestand. But let’s not forget 2003, when Michigan State destroyed the Gators in a second round game in Tampa.
- Billy Donovan on the downside of playing close to home: “There may be some truth to that where kids say, ‘There are so many people here. I want to do so well.’ That can happen, whereas if you’re out in San Diego you’re just kind of playing.”
- Donovan: “If you say they’re going to play in the O’Connell Center, that may excite (the team). In their minds, I don’t know if some of them know how far Jacksonville is from Gainesville.”
- Adrian Moss: “The perfect way to end my career would be to win (the tournament). It really doesn’t matter where we start. It’s nice to have your fans and your friends and your families there, but they don’t score any points. The guys in jerseys and suits help win the basketball game. … We can go anywhere in the country and still have a chance to win.”
It’s now crunch time for the Gators, but the team has been adept at keeping things loose all season, alleviating some of the pressure March brings.
- Adrian Moss: “We’ve always had a loose team, a free-spirited team. We’re going to take that into the NCAA Tournament, and we’re going to ride with that.”
- Moss on Joakim Noah: “Joakim’s spirit epitomizes the spirit of our team. Look at him, he’s a funny looking dude. He’s definitely a free spirit. I love him to death.”Billy Donovan: “I wouldn’t say we’re a loose team as much as we’re a confident team.”
- Noah on his team’s nerves going into the tourney: “Sometimes it’s good to be nervous. When I see that we’re nervous before a game, we’re going to be fine. Because when you’re nervous, you’re on edge. And eventually, when you’re on the court, that nervousness, it goes away, that two to three minutes right after tipoff. You realize that, OK, this is the game that you’ve been playing since you were 6, 7 years old and this is what you love to do, so just seize the moment.”
South Alabama is coached by former assistant John Pelphrey. Pelphrey left the program in 2002, so don’t expect a ton of Pelphrey nostalgia among the Gators.
- Chris Richard: “None of us (except Adrian Moss) really know Pelphrey, so we don’t have that extra drive like some people may think. When we played Louisville (and coach Rick Pitino) in the past, the feeling was like that.”
- Moss on the Jaguars: “They are a carbon copy of us. They like to run, they like to press, they are a very good ballclub. They’re athletic, they’re strong and they play very, very hard.”
- Pelphrey: “I think the NCAA has a funny sense of humor, with regards to pairing us up with Florida.”
- Pelphrey: “I have tremendous respect for Billy and his program, and he is a good friend. Like anyone else at the No. 3 position (seed), we will have our hands full. Florida is an outstanding basketball team.”