Gators face test vs. Arizona


Florida forward Erik Murphy (33) drives around North Florida Osprey guard Will Wilson (4) during the second half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Thursday, Nov. 17.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:14 p.m.

Florida continues a critical December stretch with some unresolved questions.

The Gators (5-2) have already dealt with adversity early this season. Florida, which dropped two spots to No. 12 in this week's AP poll, has proven to be an explosive offensive team.

But while the Gators have averaged 87.6 points per game, they haven't been able to overcome turnover-filled performances in losses at No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Syracuse.

Florida is looking to bounce back Wednesday at the O'Connell Center against Arizona.

“It's really critical for us,” Florida senior point guard Erving Walker said. “We just have to start practicing well (Monday) and prep for Arizona. We know it's another good challenge and I think we will be ready for it.”

Florida's best win from a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) standpoint this season was its 91-55 victory over UNF (135 RPI) on Nov. 17. Arizona (6-2) was ranked in the preseason Top 25, but fell out of the poll following losses to San Diego State and Mississippi State.

Florida had 16 turnovers in its 81-74 loss at Ohio State and 20 turnovers in its 72-68 loss at Syracuse.

“I'm not so sure how many teams should be favored going into both of those team's gyms, but we had a chance to play against two of the better teams in the country on the road,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “We've got clearly one of the better teams in the country coming in here Wednesday. But you've got to put yourself in a position where you don't beat yourself, so to speak.”

The Gators should get a boost in the return of power forward Erik Murphy, who has missed the past three games with a bruised knee. Murphy was cleared to practice Monday and, barring anything unforeseen, should be available to play Wednesday against Arizona.

“He worked out on his own (Sunday),” Donovan said. “He did some running. He'll probably go through half of the contact right now. Provided the next two days go as planned with him physically, he should be able to play. “

Murphy's return is welcome, considering what lies ahead for the Gators. After Arizona, Florida will face more tough tests later this month against No. 22 Texas A&M (Dec. 17, Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise) and Florida State (Dec. 22).

“We only played two (ranked teams), so we still have a lot more to go,” Walker said. “I think it would be pointless if we lost them all. I don't think that will happen.”

Walker said he thinks the Gators will fix the problem of high turnovers against high-level competition.

“We got our feet wet with that,” Walker said. “It's a totally different level of competition playing against Ohio State or Syracuse on the road.”

Said Donovan: “A turnover up 26 doesn't clearly have the magnitude when you turn it over and it's 3:30 to go in a tie game, or giving up an offensive rebound up 25 doesn't clearly have the magnitude when the game is tied with two and a half minutes to go. So it's different. And I think our guys are understanding some of those things. When you are playing good teams there is not a lot of room for error.”

Donovan also said he talked to junior guard Mike Rosario shortly after the Syracuse game. Rosario, who is averaging 10.6 points per game off the bench for the Gators this season, did not play in the second half against Syracuse because Donovan felt he “mentally wasn't into the game.”

Donovan said he would like to see the Rosario become more committed on the defensive end of the floor. Rosario, a Rutgers transfer and former two-year starter, had just 2 points in 6 minutes against Syracuse.

“It's been somewhat of a mental drain for him figuring out how to carve his niche in something he's never done before,” Donovan said. “I think it's my responsibility to try to help him through some of that.”

Walker said he's confident Rosario, like the rest of his team, will bounce back.

“We've been doing well,” Walker said. “Even though we've lost two games it's not the end of the world. (We need to) just keep playing.”

Florida announces 2012 class

The Gators officially announced their 2012 recruiting class on Monday,

Florida's three signees are all guards. Point guard Braxton Ogbueze (6-1, 185 pounds, Charlotte, N.C.), shooting guard Michael Frazier (6-4, 180 pounds, Tampa) and shooting guard Dillon Graham (6-4, 175 pounds, Orlando) all signed their letter of intents and will arrive on campus next summer.

“I'm excited about the guys that we've signed,” Donovan said. “I think with losing Erving as a senior, Braxton Ogbueze is a kid that is as good as any point guard out there. We felt like we got a really, really good player with him. Frazier is a phenomenal 3-point shooter and a guy that we've kept an eye on for a long, long time. Dillon Graham another really talented perimeter player who has range to shoot it and put it on the floor.”

ESPN.com does not have Florida's 2012 signing class ranked as one of its top 25 in the nation. But Donovan said the Gators are still involved with unsigned 2012 players for the spring signing period.

“We feel like we've addressed some needs,” Donovan said. “Obviously there are kids we're recruiting that haven't signed yet that we're still involved with. But I'm happy with the guys that we've signed and I feel like they will all be very, very good players.”

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