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Motivation can make the difference


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2000

GAINESVILLE -- Coach Billy Donovan has used all sorts of tricks to motivate his team before big games, including showing tapes of boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Gen. George S. Patton. Against Oklahoma State in the East Region final, he had his players dedicate the game to someone special in their lives. So, what motivational gimmick will he cook up for Saturday?

"I don't know, maybe the Flintstones or something," Donovan quipped. "We'll have something motivationally for them.

"I'm a firm believer that when you get to this point and time in the season, you've got so many good coaches, so many good players, and so much of this game is mental and playing at a confidence level. I just think that motivating the players is as important as the X's and O's and everything else."

CONTROLLING THE MIDDLE: One key will be Florida's ability to combat UNC's frontline that includes 7-foot Brendan Haywood and 6-11 Kris Lang. But even more than that, the game likely will hinge on which team can control the game's tempo. Florida likes to run and UNC likes a half-court game.

"What they are going to try to do is slow it down and play a half-court style of basketball and utilize their big men up front," said Gators sophomore forward Mike Miller, who was recruited by UNC. "They've got a great basketball team and if we get them running up and down the court, I'm sure they'll play with us for a while, but hopefully our style of play will win out in the end."

NO BIG DEAL: Florida senior forward Kenyan Weaks grew up in North Carolina. But playing against the Tar Heels won't be any more special to him than if Florida were playing Slippery Rock.

"I didn't grow up a North Carolina fan. I was an N.C. State fan, so it's not a big deal to me," said Weaks, who's from Concord. "I'm just looking at it as another opponent we have to face."

GIVING COTA HIS PROPS: Donovan said point guard Ed Cota makes Haywood and Lang so dangerous.

"Cota, to me, is as good a post feeder as I've ever seen. I mean, he gets the ball to those guys in the right area, at the right time when they catch and score and do things," Donovan said. "Certainly Brendan Haywood is a force on the offensive glass the way he rebounds, but his scoring opportunities come from Cota and (Joseph) Forte and those guys in the backcourt who do a great job of getting him the ball in the right areas."

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