Defense key for Gators today vs. offensive Wildcats


Florida coach Billy Donovan has been pleased with the Gators' defense over the past four contests.

Aaron Daye/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, December 17, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 12:17 a.m.

SUNRISE — Florida coach Billy Donovan is proud of how well the Gators have defended over their last four games.

Facts

Today's game

Who: Florida (7-2) vs. No. 6 Kansas St. (9-1)
When: Today, 3:30 p.m.
Where: BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV: FSN
Radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM

“I'm really trying to force home to them that we're going to have to be a defensive team, because we're going to have some nights where we're going to score and we're going to have some nights where we're going to struggle,” Donovan said. “It's going to kind of be the way it's going to be. We're going to have to find a way to get stops.”

Yet a better gauge of Florida's defensive improvement will come this afternoon when the Gators face No. 6 Kansas State in the Metro PCS Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise. In its last game against a ranked opponent, Florida allowed 93 points in a 93-75 loss to No. 2 Ohio State.

Some of those wounds were self-inflicted. Florida gave up 21 points off turnovers against the Buckeyes. Also, Ohio State consistently found holes in Florida's press, which led to easy baskets inside.

But Donovan said he believes the Gators have improved defensively since mid-November. Florida has held its last four opponents to 37.5 percent from the floor and 57 points or less. In addition, Florida has limited teams to one shot, outrebounding eight of its first nine opponents this season.

“The last four games we've defended better,” Donovan said. “We'll have a different challenge (against Kansas State), but the last four games we've done a pretty good job in terms of field goal percentage defense, number of points allowed.”

Kansas State (9-1), led by preseason All-American senior shooting guard Jacob Pullen, is scoring 76.2 points per game. The Wildcats can score both inside and outside. Senior forward Curtis Kelly is an effective post scorer. Behind the sharp shooting of Pullen and Rodney McGruder, Kansas State also is making 7.1 3-pointers per game.

“Pullen is as good as any guard in the country,” Donovan said. “He had a great junior year. Curtis Kelly has really come into his own. ... They are really a complete team. I think any time you start the season in the top five in the country, you are not too far off base.”

Florida left shooters open on the perimeter early against Kent State, which led to the Golden Flashes making five of their first seven 3-point attempts.

“I'd like to see us defend the 3-point line better than we have,” Donovan said.

The game will present a chance for Florida to return to the rankings in the AP poll and move up in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. The Gators are currently unranked in the AP poll and ranked No. 24 in the coaches poll. Florida is 2-8 in its last 10 games against ranked opponents.

“This is an opportunity for us to clearly play one of the best teams in the country,” Donovan said. “You've got to win some of those games, too. That's what you want to do. You want to put yourselves in position to win some of those games.”

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Kenny Boynton 6-2 So. 12.1 ppg, 2.4 apg

G Erving Walker 5-8 Jr. 12.1 ppg, 3.2 apg

F Chandler Parsons 6-9 Sr. 10.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg

F Alex Tyus 6-8 Sr. 9.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg

C Vernon Macklin 6-10 Sr. 10.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg

KANSAS STATE PROBABLE STARTERS

G Jacob Pullen 6-0 Sr. 16.3 ppg, 4.0 apg

G Will Spradling 6-3 Fr. 4.9 ppg, 2.2 apg

G Rodney McGruder 6-4 So. 11.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg

F Curtis Kelly 6-8 Sr. 11.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg

C Freddy Asprilla 6-10 Jr. 5.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg

Notes:Florida will be making its 10th appearance in the Metro PCS Orange Bowl Classic. ... The Gators are 7-2 in previous Orange Bowl Classic appearances, including a 56-53 loss to Richmond last season. ... Florida is 0-1 against ranked teams this season, falling to No. 2 Ohio State 93-75 on Nov. 16. ... Macklin is shooting 75 percent from the floor over his last three games, averaging 17 points and 6.7 rebounds per game during that span. ... Tyus is averaging 17 points over his last two games, scoring 24 of his 34 points in the second half. ... Florida is averaging 15.1 assists and 11.6 turnovers per game in its seven wins, while averaging 10 assists and 15.5 turnovers per game in its two losses. ... The game will serve as a homecoming for Kansas State coach Frank Martin, a Miami native and former Miami High coach. ... Former Gator forwards Brent Wright and Udonis Haslem played under Martin at Miami High. ... The game also will serve as a homecoming for Boynton (Plantation, American Heritage) and Kansas State guard Martavious Irving . ... Kansas State forward Jamar Samuels, the Big 12's sixth man of the year last season, is averaging 9.2 ppg and 6.4 rpg off the bench. ... Miami and UCF will play in the first game of the Orange Bowl Classic doubleheader at 1 p.m. ... UCF defeated Florida 57-54 earlier this season.

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