Defining Florida's fast break


Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 at 12:57 a.m.
With the ball in his hands, sophomore Florida forward Corey Brewer feels as comfortable starting a fast break as he does finishing it.
"I see a lot of different options," Brewer said. "I see Jo running, Lee spotting, Taurean spotting, Al running. Everything flows."
Like a jazz improv, Florida's ability to run the floor is fluid, with different players serving as different instruments. Sometimes, it's 6-foot-8 center Al Horford racing down the court like a point guard after he grabs a rebound. Other times it's Brewer. Other times, it's point guard Taurean Green or shooting guard Lee Humphrey.
The break has been a big part of No. 2 Florida's undefeated start (14-0) heading into tonight's Southeastern Conference home opener against Mississippi State.
"We feel like we're unstoppable when we're on the break," Brewer said. "It's just our game."
The seeds of that game were planted the season before, when then-freshmen Green, Brewer, Horford and Joakim Noah scrimmaged together on the same team in practice. To counter the experience of Matt Walsh, David Lee and Anthony Roberson, the four tried to turn the practice games into a track meet.
"We always played like that," Noah said. "Even though it's new to the fans and stuff because we weren't always in the game together, we knew from the start since we got here that would be the style that we would play."
It took little to convince Florida coach Billy Donovan, who prefers an up-tempo style. Donovan acknowledged he felt hamstrung at times with Walsh, Roberson and Lee last season because of their penchant to wear down late in fast-break games.
"I feel that this team really fits the way we would like to play here at Florida," Donovan said. "We've got guys that can get out and run. When you're a transition offensive and defensive team, you've got to have tremendous pain-threshold for fatigue and playing tired and running while you're tired. A lot of those guys on our team have that. They'll play tired. They'll fight through fatigue."
On Saturday at Georgia, the break keyed both an early 16-5 start and the 52-point second half. Early, it was the 6-foot-11 Noah beating Georgia's big men down the floor for easy baskets.
"Jo is a bad matchup for anybody," Brewer said. "It's not just that he's fast, (it's that) he runs every single play. He doesn't take a play off."
Later, it was everyone getting into the act, with Humphrey spotting up and shooting 3s in transition and Brewer and Horford finishing with some thunderous dunks.
"We're probably at our best when we're on the break," Humphrey said. "I think all the guys on the team would rather play in transition than they would in the halfcourt."
The key to starting the break has been at the defensive end, where Florida ranks second in the SEC in scoring defense (61.3) and third in opponents' field-goal percentage (.393).
It's a style of play that's prone to turnovers at times. Florida has finished with more than 20 turnovers against Providence (24), Florida State (21) and Bethune-Cookman (21). But overall, Florida is averaging 1.38 assists for every turnover, making the trade-off of having big guys handle the ball from time to time worth it.
"It makes it that much more difficult to guard us coming out of transition," Donovan said. "We don't have a primary ball-handler on a missed shot. We have five guys who start the break for us on a missed shot. It's a lot more difficult to get back."
Donovan said the big guys will continue to have the green light to start the break, as long as they continue to make good decisions.
"If they start trying to do things they are incapable of doing, we've got to make some corrections and maybe take away a little of that freedom," Donovan said. "Right now, they have kept a pretty good level of responsibility on the break with the ball in their hand."
You can reach Kevin Brockway by calling 374-5054 or by e-mail at brockwk@gvillesun.com.

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