Shooting slump a concern for Gator basketball


Published: Friday, December 31, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 31, 2010 at 12:21 a.m.

Florida players remain confident that the offensive struggles will end soon.

Facts

Today's game

Who: Florida Gators (9-3) vs. Xavier Musketeers (8-3)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
TV: ESPN2
Radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM

“I feel like we're going to break out,” sophomore guard Kenny Boynton said. “We've started out slow, but I think we're definitely going to come together.”

The Gators will look to break a month-long stretch of offensive futility today at Xavier. Florida has failed to score 70 points or more in seven straight games, the longest stretch under 70 in Billy Donovan's 15-year tenure as coach.

Maybe the stretch will end today against a Xavier team that's giving up 67.3 points per game. Florida last scored more than 70 before Thanksgiving in a 79-66 win on Nov. 23 against Florida Atlantic.

“Free-throw shooting coupled with the turnovers have made us a team that has scored in the 60s,” Donovan said. “There are good turnovers where you may try to make a good decision for whatever reason it doesn't work out, and then there are times when we are making some fairly poor decisions.”

Donovan said he hasn't felt the need to tinker with the offense because Florida is shooting 46.6 percent from the field. Florida's 3-point-shooting struggles have carried over from last season. The Gators are shooting 31.3 percent from 3-point range, the same percentage that they shot when they ended last season 11th in the Southeastern Conference in 3-point-shooting accuracy.

“We're getting good shots when we don't turn the ball over and we've got to be able to find a way to put the ball in the basket a little bit more,” Donovan said. “I think it's my job to give those guys confidence when they are open to shoot the ball.”

At the free throw line, Donovan said he would like to see Florida shoot better than 70 percent. Currently, Florida is shooting 64.7 percent. Florida missed 11 free throws in an overtime loss to Jacksonville and made just 11 of 21 free throws in its last game against Radford.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons is shooting 50 percent from the free throw line, while senior center Vernon Macklin is even worse at 39.3 percent.

“The two guys that get fouled a lot are Vernon Macklin and Chandler,” Donovan said. “Those are the two guys, and I think Chandler has proven even last year that he can get better there. I think a lot of that's mental.”

Florida had extra time to prepare for Xavier and work on the offense after its scheduled game Tuesday at home against Fairfield was canceled. Fairfield, based in Fairfield, Conn., was unable to travel due to a snowstorm that dumped 15-20 inches throughout the Northeast.

Point guard Erving Walker said he thinks the extra practice time has helped the offense get in better sync.

“We've been working at it practice and we've put in a lot of time and effort,” Walker said. “I think we're doing pretty good at it. So we just got to see.”

The extra time will come in handy preparing for a Xavier froncourt that dominated Florida last season. In its 76-64 win at the O'Connell Center last season, Xavier out-rebounded Florida 44-36. Center Jason Love, who did most of the damage, is gone this season. But power forward Jamel McLean and backup 7-foot center Kenny Frease are both back.

Donovan said that Florida went through a productive double session of practices on Tuesday, the night the Gators were supposed to play Fairfield.

“You take the situation as it is,” Donovan said. “Coming out of three days off, our guys came back I thought physically fresh and well rested, and it was good they had a couple of days off for the holidays and it was good for us. I look at it as a positive that we were able to get some extra practice time in and get our legs back under us, and I thought we had a good practice when we came back.

“Our basketball IQ as a team needs to get better just in terms of making better decisions.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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