Donovan says Florida depth situation ‘dire' heading into Alabama
Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 13, 2012 at 11:30 p.m.
Florida will be short-handed heading into its matchup tonight at Alabama.
But the Crimson Tide also are depleted.
Alabama coach Anthony Grant has decided center JaMychal Green and forward Tony Mitchell will remain suspended for tonight's game against Florida. Guards Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele have been re-instated from a one-game suspension against LSU.
The Gators will be without their two top scorers off the bench as forward Will Yeguete (concussion) and guard Mike Rosario (hip pointer) are out for the game. Florida coach Billy Donovan said reserve forward Cody Larson (flu) practiced Sunday and will make the trip, but isn't 100 percent.
Florida (19-6, 7-3 SEC) dropped six spots to No. 14 in this week's AP men's college basketball poll. The Gators are coming off consecutive losses for the first time this season.
“We just have to react appropriately and come together as a team,” Florida sophomore guard Scottie Wilbekin said.
Grant, a longtime former Florida assistant under Donovan, has not been afraid to teach lessons to his players at the expense of his team's talent level on the court. Green and Mitchell are Alabama's two leading scorers. Green, a senior physical presence inside, is averaging 14.1 points and 7.2 rebounds this season.
“It's put a little strain on us, but it's part of life, it's part of dealing with 18-to-22 year old kids,” Grant said. “We've got to go with what we have and build the character of our players.”
Donovan said Florida had a strong practice Sunday and prepared as if all four of Alabama's suspended players would be available.
“The last thing I'd want to have happen for our team is to assume something or somebody not playing and then all of a sudden they're out there and you've got to tell the team these are the guys you're playing,” Donovan said. “If some of them are not playing, then we'll adjust with who is in their starting lineup.”
Of UF's injuries, Yeguete's is the most serious. Yeguete has suffered his second concussion this season. The first came when his head hit an elbow in UF's second game of the season Nov. 17 at Ohio State. He sat out UF's next game against UNF but returned to action the following week.
Donovan said Yeguete has passed two of five concussion tests and has yet to pass a balance test in which he stands on one leg with his eyes closed.
“I would say right now that this week he's out,” Donovan said. “I'm not anticipating him coming back for Arkansas. I think there's probably a pretty good likelihood that he will not play in that game as well.”
With Yeguete out and Larson limited, Florida will be relying on extended minutes from starters Patric Young and Erik Murphy. Donovan hasn't ruled out using 6-foot-6 forward Casey Prather and 6-3 guard Bradley Beal at power forward in some situations.
“Dire is probably a pretty good word,” Donovan said, when asked about UF's frontcourt situation. “We're going to have to do some different things both offensively and defensively, certainly going into Alabama without Will being there. There is a tremendous void for us defensively at the basket.”
With Mitchell and Green out, Florida will be able to match up better inside. But Donovan also is concerned with Alabama 6-foot-8 lefty freshman center Nick Jacobs, who has been playing well of late.
Donovan said he doesn't think 6-foot-10 freshman forward Walter Pitchford is ready to contribute, even given UF's lack of depth up front.
“He's gotta get better retaining what we're doing, scouting reports, offenses, those kind of things,” Donovan said. “I think one of the things that set him back a little bit was just the injury to his hand and being out for several weeks. At first we thought it was fractured, and it's not. But in terms of being ready to handle a lot of minutes, I don't think he's necessarily in that place right now.”
Donovan said even though Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes made contact with Yeguete on the play that resulted in his concussion, he thought it was a clean play.
Replays showed Stokes' elbow caught Yeguete above the eye as Yeguete went to block the shot. Yeguete's momentum caused him to crash into the padded area of the basketball stanchion.
“It looked like maybe he caught part of Stokes' elbow but I think the momentum and the contact on the play was really incidental,” Donovan said. “I didn't think Stokes did anything out of the ordinary. I think he made a normal basketball play when he went up. I think it was unfortunate how Will got hit and how he landed. I don't think it was a dirty play at all.”
UF team spokesman Denver Parler said the amount of foam padding that the school uses on its basketball stanchions is the same thickness used on stanchions in the NCAA Tournament.
Who: No. 14 Florida Gators (19-6, 7-1 SEC) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (16-8, 5-5 SEC)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Gainesville TV: ESPN
Gainesville radio: 103.7 FM
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Jr. 17.5 ppg, 2.7 apg
G Erving Walker 5-8 Sr. 12.0 ppg, 4.8 apg
G Bradley Beal 6-3 Fr. 14.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg
F Erik Murphy 6-10 Jr. 10.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg
C Patric Young 6-9 So. 10.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg
ALABAMA PROBABLE STARTERS
G Trevor Lacey 6-3 Fr. 5.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg
G Ben Eblen 6-0 Jr. 0.4 ppg, 0.7 apg
G Levi Randolph 6-5 Fr. 6.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg
F Rodney Cooper 6-6 Fr. 5.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg
F Nick Jacobs 6-8 Fr. 5.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Notes: Florida is 58-73 alltime against Alabama. The Gators are 15-5 under coach Billy Donovan. ... Donovan is facing former longtime UF assistant Anthony Grant and is 7-2 alltime against former assistant coaches. … Florida, 2-5 on the road this season, will play four of its next five away from the O'Connell Center. … The Gators lead the SEC with 15.7 assists per game and a 1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio. … Alabama ranks second in the SEC in steals at 8.3 per game.
Three things to watch
The Gators have hit a rut from behind the 3-point line. Florida made 10 or more 3-pointers for the 17th time against Tennessee, but needed 29 attempts to do it. Four of the 3-pointers came in garbage time, when the game was already decided. The Gators have shot just 32.4 percent (35-108) from 3-point range over their last four games. It won't get any easier against an Alabama team that's leading the SEC in 3-point defense. The Tide are holding opponents to just 27.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
2. Florida's defense
Both Alabama and Florida's frontlines are short-handed. But the Gators may still have issues matching up inside, especially if they get into foul trouble. Florida needs to find ways to compensate for the absence of Will Yeguete, who has emerged as one of UF's best all-around defenders. Florida has given up too many easy baskets inside and too many open looks from the 3-point line lately. In back-to-back losses, the Gators allowed Kentucky to shoot 52.7 percent from the floor and Tennessee to shoot 48 percent from the floor.
3. Prather's confidence
With Yeguete and Rosario still out, the role increases for Casey Prather off the bench. In five SEC games, Prather has more turnovers (six) than points (two). The 6-foot-6 Prather is a gifted athlete who appears to be lacking confidence on the court. Donovan said he met with Prather on Sunday. “He's gotta get better at reading situations and not getting so bogged down mentally,” Donovan said. “He's wanting to do so well. As a freshman you kind of go through it, but I also think that's something that's been frustrating to him because he sees things he does in practice. He sees what he can do, but sometimes when he gets in the game it's not translating there and he's kept a pretty good attitude about it.”
1. Can Florida break out of a four-game shooting slump?
2. Can Florida still come out with strong defensive intensity whether Alabama is short-handed or not?
3. Can sophomore forward Casey Prather take advantage of his opportunity and give UF some quality minutes off the bench?
Go to Gatorsports.com after the game for Kevin Brockway's answers.
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.
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