Notebook: Rocky start to SEC play for Beal


Florida freshman guard Bradley Beal made just 4 of his 12 shots for 9 points in his SEC opener.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, January 7, 2012 at 5:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2012 at 5:31 p.m.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Welcome to the Southeastern Conference, Bradley Beal.

It was a rocky SEC debut on Rocky Top for Beal, the heralded UF freshman McDonald's All-American guard. Beal finished with just 9 points in Florida's 67-56 loss at Tennessee, going 4 of 12 from the floor.

Beal also had 5 of UF's 15 turnovers.




“He's a freshman,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “He's going to have ups and downs. He's going to have some growing pains. That's part of the growth and development process for him.”

Since scoring 21 points against Florida State, Beal has hit a four-game slump. During that span, Beal is averaging just 10 points per game, shooting just 29.8 percent from the floor (14 of 47) and 14.3 percent (2 of 14) from 3-point range. His assist-to-turnover ratio in his last four games is 9-to-14.

“With turnovers, that I think he has to get better with that,” Donovan said. “But he's gotta go through it, he's got to learn. As good and talented as he is, he's gonna kind of have those ups and downs and he's gotta learn and grow from it.”

Beal, whose family made the trip from St. Louis to watch the game, wasn't made available to reporters after the game. But Florida teammate Kenny Boynton is confident that Beal will bounce back.

“There's gonna come a game, I can't tell you which one, where Brad is going to shoot it well,” Boynton said. “I think it's just confidence for him. His confidence is probably down right now, but I know my freshman year my confidence was down because in high school you shoot so well and averaged so many points, and you get here and it's different.”

Rosario returns

Florida junior guard Mike Rosario returned to the lineup. But like Beal, Rosario didn't make much of an impact in his SEC debut. The Rutgers transfer played just two minutes, finishing with no points and an assist.

Rosario sat out UF's previous game against UAB with a sprained ankle.

“I probably would have played Mike a little bit more, but he's got to get back in the flow,” Donovan said. “ I mean after missing two games and being in practice only (Friday), he didn't warrant playing a lot of minutes in my opinion.”

Tennessee's bench out-scored UF's bench 25-1. Florida's lone bench point came from forward Casey Prather. The Jackson, Tenn., native had four rebounds in 11 minutes, but also went 0 for 3 from the floor.

“Casey made some great plays and he had some shots blocked at the end of possessions that he's got to do a better job with his athleticism finishing at the basket,” Donovan said.

Prather left the game with an ankle injury late in the second half. Donovan said after the game he didn't know the severity of the injury.

“Our trainer is concerned about it,” Donovan said. “I don't know if there is a break or anything like that. To what level of a sprain it is, we'll probably find out more.”

Morning tip

For the Gators, it was far from easy like Saturday morning against Tennessee. Despite entering the game an eight-point favorite, Florida appeared to lack energy and focus against the Vols.

Florida coach Billy Donovan refused to use the morning tip as an excuse. The Gators had a team breakfast at 8 a.m. and had practiced all week on the holiday break during the morning to prepare for the game.

“Both teams are up, playing,” Donovan said. “If you are a competitor and you love the game, you play at 4 o'clock in the morning, or 10 o'clock. If you love playing, you play.”

Golden makes point

In the battle between the top two in assists in the SEC, Tennessee sophomore point guard Trae Golden out-performed Erving Walker. Golden had 12 points, 7 assists and 3 turnovers, while Walker finished with 8 points, 2 assists and 3 turnovers.

After the game, Golden said he took the matchup with Walker as a personal challenge. Golden even referenced Walker being named ahead of him as one of 20 finalists for the Cousy Award, given to the nation's top point guard.

“I'd be lying to you if you don't realize that Erv Walker is on the Bob Cousy list,” Golden said. “Kenny Boynton is one of the top guards in the SEC, Brad Beal is going to go to the NBA next year, Erv Walker is a professional somewhere. I'd be lying to you if I said that didn't motivate us.”

Etc.

Florida had won its previous four meetings against Tennessee. … Junior forward Erik Murphy had a career-high 4 blocked shots. Murphy has 11 blocks over his last four games. … Tennessee changed its starting lineup, with Renaldo Woolridge and freshman Josh Richardson starting for Kenny Hall and Jordan McRae. … Donovan said he was pleased with UF's ability to press and force turnovers, but couldn't press as much in the second half with Patric Young and Erik Murphy on the floor at the same time. Sophomore forward Will Yeguete (4 fouls) was in foul trouble most of the game.

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