Macklin looks to fix foul troubles

Published: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 4:28 p.m.

For Florida to make a strong run through the SEC and return to the NCAA Tournament, the Gators will have to get things together up front. And that all hinges on Vernon Macklin's concentration.

Through two SEC games, the redshirt junior center has spent almost as much time earning fouls as scoring points. He's yet to play 20 minutes in either game, while scoring 10 points and accumulating nine personal fouls.

His counterparts? They have scored 24 (Vanderbilt's A.J. Ogilvy) and 13 points (Kentucky's DeMarcus Cousins), respectively, and have been pushing the 25-minute mark.

Oh, and the Gators (11-5) are 0-2 in conference play.

Macklin said he takes total blame for what he describes as "careless" play. It's not as if his fouls are either hard or play-altering. They are mostly touch fouls and happen when Macklin gets himself out of position, something that has his coach a bit frustrated.

"He's just got to be smarter with what plays he puts himself into and what plays he doesn't," coach Billy Donovan said.

Meaning Macklin has to to understand how, when and where to put his body in certain plays. He's got know what shots to go after and what shots he can block. It was evident in Florida's 89-77 loss to No. 2 Kentucky Tuesday that Macklin wasn't positioning himself very well.

Donovan pointed out that Macklin's early over-the-back foul could have easily been a no-call, but it was continued mistakes like his foul on Cousins during a layup, which resulted in a three-point play, that may have turned the game for the Gators.

"If I have no chance of blocking a shot then try to do something else, instead of going for a shot I can't block and I foul him," Macklin said.

Keeping himself on the floor is essential for the Gators as they prepare to face tougher — and bigger — frontcourt competition.

With sophomore Kenny Kadji sidelined with a back injury, sitting Macklin considerable shrinks the Gators' size on the court. The next viable option to replace Macklin becomes true freshman Erik Murphy, who stands at 6-foot-9, but is just 217 pounds.

Murphy averages 4.3 points per game off the bench but lacks the experience to truly fill in for Macklin.

"Erik Murphy, he's battling and doing a good job, but we don't want to have to put him in situations where he's facing Cousins and (Patrick) Patterson by himself," sophomore guard Erving Walker said.

Walker said he understands the control Macklin must use, but there are times where his conservative play gets him in trouble.

"It seems like the refs, when you try not to get a foul, that's when they call a foul," he said. "When you're a little more aggressive, they let the play go."

Macklin said he's watched film with his teammates and coaches and even took home a couple tapes to help improve his defensive positioning.

Getting in early foul trouble hinders his game as he admitted he gets "scared" of picking up another foul, causing him to give his opponents more opportunities to score and make plays around him.

Macklin knows what is expected of him and he realizes the burden he bears. It's all about his mental focus now.

"It's tough on me," he said. "I have to be more alert and not pick up those silly fouls (during) the game."

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