UF hoops grasps importance of foul shots


UF coach Billy Donovan has tried to create pressure situations in practice.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 12:31 a.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan has stopped practice at times this season to randomly select one of his players to take free throws.

Facts

Today's game

Who: Florida Gators (13-4, 2-1 SEC) at Auburn Tigers (7-10, 0-3 SEC)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Auburn Arena
TV: ESPN
Radio: 103.7 FM, AM-850

“We have a couple of running drills our guys don't enjoy doing,” Donovan said. “I'll throw a ball to a guy and I'll say, ‘You've got two free throws. If you miss them the team runs, and if you make them, we don't run.'

“You try to create those situations where there's something on the line.”




The Gators weren't good in the clutch Saturday, going 0-for-5 from the free-throw line down the stretch in their 72-69 loss to South Carolina. Florida will try to regroup from its season-long free throw shooting woes tonight in a nationally televised game at Auburn.

“We just have to continue to address it,” Donovan said. “We're going to be in more situations like that. We're going to have to make free throws. And guys have got to walk up, man up and make shots. They've got to be able to do that.”

Florida ranks 11th in the Southeastern Conference in free throw percentage, shooting 65.1 percent from the line for the season. The Gators are shooting just 54.8 percent from the line (23-42) over their last two games.

Chandler Parsons (52.9 percent), Erving Walker (75.3 percent) and Vernon Macklin (41 percent) all have shot below their career averages from the free-throw line.

“It's disappointing and it's confusing because I'm a good shooter,” Parsons said. “I'm shooting the ball well from (3-point range). I'm shooting the ball well in games. I just can't make a free throw. It's just something I've got to fix, and I've got to take ownership of myself. It's obviously in my head because I can shoot the ball great.”

Donovan said everyone on the Florida roster got up close to 100 free throws on Tuesday morning. He said that players take close to 500 free throws during the course of the week.

“It takes work,” Parsons said. “I think the guys need to get in the gym and get more up and take it more seriously. Free throws can definitely win or lose a game. It's a big part of the game. Our guys are taking it seriously and trying to get better at it.”

If it's any consolation, free throws haven't been a problem just for Florida. Of the 12 teams in the SEC, nine are shooting below 70 percent from the line. Auburn is shooting just 65.2 percent from the line this season.

In Florida's last three losses, the Gators have combined to miss 29 free throws.

“You always have to work on things like that — free throws — in practice,” Walker said. “Reps help. I think you just have to go to the line confident, believing that you are going to make it.”

Missing free throws late in games has hurt the Gators of late. Walker missed the front-end of a one-and-one that could have tied the score with South Carolina with 1:07 left. Against Tennessee, senior forward Alex Tyus missed the front end of a one-one-one with 41 seconds left that could have led the Gators to win in regulation instead of overtime.

“A free throw in the first five minutes of the game that people would say has no bearing on the outcome of the game is the same exact shot at the end of the game except that you are creating this element around you,” Donovan said. “And trying to help those guys see that, identify that, understand that.

“There is a mentality walking up there saying, I'm going to put the game away and I'm going to do this.”

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

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Kenny Boynton 6-2 So. 12.6 ppg 2.6 apg 76.6 FT%

G Erving Walker 5-8 Jr. 14.5 ppg 3.2 apg 75.3 FT%

F Chandler Parsons 6-9 Sr. 10.6 ppg 6.5 rpg 52.9 FT%

F Alex Tyus 6-8 Sr. 9.4 ppg 5.1 rpg 69.8 FT%

C Vernon Macklin 6-10 Sr. 10.9 ppg 6.4 rpg 41.0 FT%

KEY RESERVES

F Patric Young 6-8 Fr. 3.4 ppg 3.5 rpg 77.8 FT%

G Scottie Wilbekin 6-2 Fr. 1.9 ppg 2.4 apg 38.5 FT%

F Erik Murphy 6-10 So. 6.3 ppg 3.4 rpg 85.0 FT%

AUBURN PROBABLE STARTERS

G Earnest Ross 6-5 So. 12.4 ppg 6.9 rpg 72.7 FT%

G Josh Wallace 5-10 So. 5.4 ppg 4.2 apg 59.6 FT%

G Josh Langford 6-7 Fr. 5.4 ppg 3.2 rpg 73.7 FT%

F Allen Payne 6-6 Fr. 5.9 ppg 2.9 rpg 72.1 FT%

C Rob Chubb 6-10 So. 7.9 ppg 4.2 rpg 50.0 FT%

KEY RESERVES

G Andre Malone 6-5 So. 11.7 ppg 3.4 rpg 86.4 FT%

F Kenny Gabriel 6-8 Jr. 9.8 ppg 6.2 rpg 69.2 FT%

F Adrian Forbes 6-8 Jr. 3.4 ppg 2.5 rpg 59.1 FT%

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Taking care of the ball

Auburn has forced 16.2 turnovers per game. Though the Tigers lack size inside, their guard-heavy roster will try to get in the face of Florida's ball-handlers. Florida has been better taking care of the ball of late, committing just nine turnovers per game in three SEC games.

2. Florida's defense

The Gators haven't been as good defensively in SEC play, allowing opposing teams to shoot 46.2 percent from the floor and 42.8 percent from 3-point range in three games.The Gators will need a strong effort on the defensive end to avoid an upset against Auburn. The offensively challenged Tigers scored just six points in the first half of their SEC opener against LSU.

3. Overconfidence

Florida has played with a sense of urgency away from the O'Connell Center, going 3-0 on the road and 2-1 in neutral court teams. But the Gators are facing an Auburn team that ranks 319th according to RealTimeRPI.com, below Radford (306) and North Carolina A&T (201). Florida has had issues getting off to good starts against teams with lesser talent, with poor first-half peformances leading to losses against UCF, Jacksonville and South Carolina. It will be important for the Gators to play with a sense of urgency early and maintain it throughout the game.

THREE QUESTIONS

1. Can Florida take care of the basketball and avoid mistakes?

2. Will the Gators come out with better defensive intensity after being just mediocre on the defensive end in SEC play?

3. Can Florida shoot the ball better from the free-throw line?

Go to Gatorsports.com after the game to read Kevin Brockway's answers.

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