UF MEN'S BASKETBALL

Gators take it slowly


Published: Friday, January 21, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 11:21 p.m.
Florida players learned Wednesday night that life in the Southeastern Conference won't be as rosy as its 3-0 start.
The second and final bye of the season this weekend will give Florida coach Billy Donovan and his players a chance to regroup following its home overtime loss against Tennessee.
"You don't feel good about it," Donovan said. "But I'm trying to approach it the same way I did after we won against Auburn and Vanderbilt. You can't get too wrapped up in it.
"Three days ago, against Vanderbilt, we played as well as we could possibly play. We didn't play nearly as well Wednesday night."
Florida will resume its three-game homestand Tuesday at the O'Connell Center in a nationally televised (ESPN2) game against Georgia. A home game against South Carolina will follow Jan. 29 before Florida plays 6 of its last 10 conference games on the road.
The extra time will give starting guard Matt Walsh more time to heal and more time to get back into the flow of the offense. Walsh played in his first game since suffering a high ankle sprain Dec. 30, scoring six points and 13 minutes.
Donovan said Walsh probably won't start Tuesday against a Georgia team that's started 0-4 in the SEC.
"This is going to be a slow process," Donovan said. "Matt Walsh is not going to be the same kind of player the rest of the season. I give Matt credit for how hard he's worked to come back, but it wouldn't be fair to rush him back into the starting lineup."
Walsh wanted to return as early as the Vanderbilt game after taking part in individual workouts last Friday, but Donovan held him back until the Wednesday game.
The original diagnosis was for Walsh to be out 4 to 6 weeks after tearing the syndesmotic ligament in his left ankle.
"Matt put himself in the position that he's in because he was very diligent getting into the training room," Donovan said. "We felt very good about where he was at Monday and he was able to get through Tuesday's practice without any problems."
Walsh could become a big factor for Florida down the stretch, because the Gators need to find a second scoring option to support starting point guard Anthony Roberson. Roberson reverted into taking questionable shots against Tennessee, jacking up 18 3-point attempts and hitting just five. In contrast, the entire Ole Miss team took 16 3-point attempts in its 53-50 loss Wednesday night against Kentucky.
"There was no mixing up of his game," Donovan said. "He was one-dimensional and it was a little surprising because I had thought Anthony had turned the corner a little bit there in terms of driving the ball more to the basket."
Another concern offensively was turnovers. Florida committed 17 turnovers, 11 in the first half. Senior forward David Lee was the main culprit with seven turnovers and has turned the ball over 18 times in his last three games.
"We were careless in transition at times," Donovan said. "Ten of our turnovers led directly to 10 points for them. The big thing is getting back to playing the way we did before Tennessee, when we were 52 percent from the field and 52 percent from 3-point range by being unselfish and making the extra pass."
Players were confident that they will be able to regroup the rest of the homestand. Florida (11-4, 3-1 SEC) has lost three games this season at the O'Connell Center.
"We've got a lot of fight on this team," Roberson said. "We've got some players who are not afraid."
Kevin Brockway can be reached at (352) 374-5054 or by e-mail at brockwk@gvillesun.com.

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