UF hoops looking for better finishes

Published: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 12:18 a.m.

Florida has managed to get off to fast starts in its first two Southeastern Conference games this season.

That’s allowed the Gators to overcome some less-than-inspiring finishes. Florida (15-2, 2-0 SEC) will try to figure out how to fix its sluggish second-half play Saturday at home against Arkansas.

Florida has been outscored in the second half in each of its first two SEC games. Against Auburn, Florida gave up a 40-34 halftime lead before rallying late to clinch the 68-65 win behind clutch shots from freshman Erving Walker and senior Walter Hodge.

“We just need to play more consistent, put two good halves together,” Florida sophomore forward Alex Tyus said. “Hopefully that will happen soon for us.”

Against Auburn, Florida was slow to pick up a second-half defensive adjustment the Tigers made on sophomore point guard Nick Calathes.

By double-teaming Calathes and sending a defender low to pick up Tyus and Kenny Kadji, Auburn left the wings wide open. But sophomore Chandler Parsons and junior Dan Werner were unable to knock down wide-open shots from the perimeter.

That, and some careless turnovers, limited Florida to just eight points through the first 12-plus minutes in the second half.

“It seemed like we just kept giving the ball away,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

Calathes said he felt Florida wasn’t as aggressive early in the second half.

“We settled down a little bit in the second half,” Calathes said. “It was kind of my fault for slowing down and running plays.

“I think our main strength is running the floor and getting open shots and pushing the ball.”

Florida was fortunate Auburn struggled from both the perimeter (25-of-64, 39.1 percent) and free-throw line (10-21, 47.6 percent.) Nonetheless, Florida extended its winning streak to nine games and won its first road game of the season. Of the four SEC games played Wednesday night, Florida was the only team that won on the road.

“Any time you get a win on the road, it’s a positive, but hopefully our guys can look at this objectively and see the things they need to do to get better,” Donovan said.

Note: Freshman Allan Chaney, who missed Wednesday’s game because of back spasms, was expected to practice Thursday and be available for Saturday’s game.

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