Solid win, but rebounding gives reason for worry

Published: Saturday, January 10, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 12:01 a.m.

Meanwhile, back on the University of Florida campus ...

Hey, it’s basketball season. Florida opened up SEC play with a win over Ole Miss Saturday night in a game it had to have. I know, there are no must-win games in January, but this was one because Ole Miss, with guard Chris Warren out for the season with a knee injury, will be a bottom-feeder in the SEC and the game was at home in front of a bunch of fans still fueled by what happened Thursday night.

So Florida jumped out to a 21-point first half lead and held on despite shooting 32 percent in the second half.

That’s the good news. There has never been an SEC win that was bad news.

But here is the bad news.

Ole Miss came into the game last in the conference in rebounding, but beat Florida on the boards 46-22.


“It’s definitely embarrassing,” said guard Nick Calathes, who led the team with seven rebounds.

Maybe Florida could have used the guy who watched the game in the corner for the first half. Tim Tebow has never shied away from contact.

These guys, well, it’s another story.

I don’t know if they will be out-rebounded by 24 again this year, but it will not be the last night they are killed on the boards.

It’s a combination of things. Lack of height. Lack of muscle. Lack of intensity.

Rebounding is both physical and mental and when you’re lacking at both it’s going to be exposed.

“I know we can rebound,” said forward Dan Werner.

I’m not so sure.

Billy Donovan isn’t either.

“I don’t remember the last time we were out-rebounded by 24,” he said. “We’d play good defense, but it was like the possession started once they shot the ball. I don’t know if we can or can’t get it corrected. It’s a mentality and I don’t know if we can instill that mentality.”

What was especially frustrating for Donovan was that Ole Miss, with a frontcourt no taller than Florida’s, grabbed 18 of those rebounds on the offensive glass and turned them into 22 second-chance points. Florida, on the other hand, had four offensive rebounds.

“We try to find a way to expose it every day (in practice),” Donovan said.

Maybe he should use the old Tom Izzo trick. Izzo used to have his players dress in football pads during practice so they would be more physical.

“Sometimes you think of that,” Donovan said. “We’ve got to find a way. I’d like to see more physical altercations in practice. But when you have two guys in there who won’t physically altercate, it’s hard to get physical altercations.”

Donovan even jumped Vernon Macklin, sitting out this season as a transfer, late in the game to challenge players more in practice.

But I have a feeling it’s going to be a flaw in this team that will be there all season.

This is unfamiliar territory for the Florida coach during his tenure. There has always been a Udonis Haslem, a Donnell Harvey, an Al Horford, somebody who would chase the ball once it went toward the basket.

These guys said all the right things after the game, how they have to get tougher and better on the boards. But didn’t we hear a lot of that last year?

There is no question this team has a lot of positives and Donovan said there are a lot of things his team is doing right. They press better than a year ago and shut down the return of David Huertas to the O-Dome, limiting him to 4-of-15 shooting. When they’re hitting their 3s, they can blow a team to the edge of embarrassment as they did in jumping out to a 49-28 lead with 5:20 to play in the first half. But when the 3s stop falling, there is no inside presence and the lack of rebounding will reel a team back to respectability.

Or worse.

It got dicey late Saturday night, Ole Miss pulling to within six on, you guessed it, an offensive put-back. But Calathes made a huge play when he stole the ball from DeAundre Cranston, who had rebounded a missed free throw with 1:48 to play.

“It’s a good start,” Calathes said of the 78-68 win. “But we have to get better.”

Much better.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or

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