Gator hoops shifts focus back to D
Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 11:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 11:58 p.m.
Florida's best offense earlier this season was its stifling defense.
Who: Florida (13-4, 2-1 SEC) at Auburn (7-10, 0-3 SEC)
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Radio: 103.7 FM, AM-850
The Gators survived a month-long stretch of seven straight games scoring less than 68 points, going 5-2 in large part due to a focus on pressuring the ball and limiting teams to just one shot.
But since Southeastern Conference play began in early January, Florida has been just an ordinary defensive and rebounding team. The Gators have been out-rebounded by two of their three SEC opponents. And in SEC play, Florida is allowing opponents to shoot 46.2 percent from the field and 42.8 percent from 3-point range.
Florida (13-4, 2-1 SEC) will look to regain its defensive edge Thursday night in a nationally televised game at Auburn.
“I don't think there's been any question there has been some slippage,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “The one thing that really has to get better is our maturity in terms of really understanding the winning aspect and what goes into it. And you say how can that be with older guys? When they win, you have to look at where you can get better.”
In other words, Florida won its first two SEC games in spite of its defense and rebounding, not because of it.
But the lack of intensity both guarding the ball and on the glass caught up to the Gators in last Saturday's 72-69 loss to South Carolina.
South Carolina grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, converting them into 13 second-chance points.
“It's just our mindset,” Florida senior forward Chandler Parsons said. “We've got to come into each game with the mentality that we're going to win the game on the defensive end. We just have to keep rebounding.”
Florida out-rebounded 13 of its first 14 non-conference opponents, including Kansas State and No. 1 Ohio State.
“We have great size and great depth,” Parsons said. “We just have to keep going to the glass on the offensive end, then keep blocking our man on the defensive end and not giving up second chances.”
Donovan said he thinks his team is strong enough and athletic enough to match up with conference teams on a consistent basis. The Gators have not pressed much in conference play, and their on-the-ball defense hasn't been as disruptive as it was during the non-conference season. Florida forced just eight turnovers against South Carolina, which started a freshman (Bruce Ellington) at point guard.
“We got beat off the dribble,” Donovan said. “We didn't guard a couple of plays correctly. There were loose balls (we didn't get).”
Donovan also was disappointed in Florida's transition defense. South Carolina scored 12 points off turnovers.
“Teams have scorers that make plays, and it's not always easy sometimes,” Florida point guard Erving Walker said. “We just have to focus and try to get back on defense.”
Parsons acknowledged that Florida's better shooting performances and improved ability to take care of the ball may have led to some letdowns on the defensive end.
“You can get a little satisfied when you are making shots that you can win the game with offense,” Parsons said. “It's never good because we understand we need to win the game on the defensive end. If we hit shots then so be it, but we need to have all our focus on the defensive end like we did earlier this year.”
Florida came into the South Carolina game shooting 50 percent from both the field and 3-point range in SEC play. The missed shots finally came Saturday in the first half against South Carolina. Florida shot just 26.7 percent from the floor in the first half against the Gamecocks and 25 percent from 3-point range. South Carolina took advantage, shooting 48.3 percent from the floor in the first half to build a 10-point halftime lead the Gators couldn't overcome.
“If we would have played defense in the first half the way we did in the second half, we probably could have weathered and battled that storm,” Donovan said. “Our guys understand that we've got to do that.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or email@example.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.
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