Gators struggle in absence of Yeguete


Florida Gators forward Will Yeguete sits on the sidelines against the Kentucky Wildcats during the first half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Sunday, March 4 in Gainesville. Kentucky defeated Florida 74-59.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 12:14 a.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan laid out his vision for the Gators following forward Will Yeguete's season-ending injury.

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- The Gators have a bye and will play the winner of Alabama and South Carolina on Friday at 3:30 p.m. in New Orleans in the tournament quarterfinals on FOX.

With the 6-foot-7 Yeguete out, the Gators planned to go with more four-guard lineups. Junior Erik Murphy would even play center with four guards, giving Florida five potential 3-point shooting threats on the floor at the same time.




But as Florida heads into the Southeastern Conference Tournament following a three-game losing streak, the post-Yeguete Gators have struggled to find offensive consistency. The Gators failed to score a point for more than eight minutes down the stretch against No. 1 Kentucky, and had just three points in the final four minutes of its 77-67 loss at Vanderbilt.

Florida will have time in practice to fix its offensive lapses. The Gators have a bye and will play the winner of Alabama and South Carolina on Friday at 3:30 p.m. in New Orleans in the tournament quarterfinals.

“We've had more of an awareness, with Will being out, of what needs to be done,” Donovan said. “But I still think that there's a lot of breakdowns in possessions that we just don't have that margin for error.”

Florida (22-9, 10-6 SEC), which dropped six spots to No. 22 in this week's AP poll, is averaging just 62.7 points per game since Yeguete's injury. Yeguete was far from an offensive force, but had the ability to generate points off turnovers at the front of UF's press and get put-backs on offensive rebounds.

Because of Florida's limited frontcourt depth, Yeguete's absence forced Donovan to play more four-guard lineups. It allowed Donovan to keep Murphy and sophomore center Patric Young more fresh for the second half. Redshirt 6-foot-9 freshman forward Cody Larson has been in and out of practice for the past two weeks with a hyper-extended knee.

“It's been a while since we've played with four guards and these last two games we've had to expose it a lot more,” Florida freshman forward Bradley Beal said. “We just really have to bear down and get things done on both ends of the floor when we have four guards in the game.”

Against Kentucky, Donovan was forced to play both Murphy and Young extended minutes on the floor to match up with the Wildcats' more physical frontline. Murphy played 36 minutes, while Young played 35 minutes.

“We are going to play four guards,” Donovan said. “We will do some of that. We have the opportunity to look at shifting, but it can't be at the expense where, at the defensive end of the floor, we're unable to rebound and defend like we need to.”

Poor perimeter shooting has hurt Florida as well. During its current three-game slide, the Gators have shot just 27.5 percent (19-69) from 3-point range. Some have been on wide open looks that didn't go down.

The SEC Tournament gives Florida a chance to get back on track and improve its falling NCAA Tournament seeding. ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Florida projected as a No. 5 seed.

Florida's current three-game losing streak is its longest since dropping three in a row to end the 2009-10 regular season.

“Everyone on the team hates losing,” Beal said. “At the same time it's just a learning experience for us. We're going to build on our losses and try to improve on the things that we weren't so good at in the games.”

Florida junior guard Kenny Boynton said there is enough time for Florida to fix its problems on both ends of the floor.

“We probably lost a little respect from the fans, but I think we're going to get it together,” Boynton said. “I've been on a three-game losing streak as a freshman before. I think we're going to pick it up and get it together.”

Beal's ankle hurting

Beal said Monday he suffered a mild ankle sprain in the second half of Sunday's 74-59 loss to Kentucky.

“My ankle is a little sore, banged up,” Beal said. “I'm just going to try to ice it, try to rest it a little bit, and try to see where I'm at.”

Beal suffered the injury when he turned the ankle while landing on a Kentucky's players foot during the game. He was taken to the locker room for treatment but returned to the game.

“I came down and got his foot when I was running and it just went downhill from there,” Beal said. “It started hurting and as soon as I got up, I already knew I twisted it or sprained it. I'm just going to try to take care of it the best I can.”

Boynton takes responsibility

Boynton said he takes “full responsibility” for being late to a team meeting leading up to the Kentucky game. The tardiness resulted in Donovan not starting the junior guard for the Kentucky game. Boynton played 25 minutes off the bench, scoring 7 points.

Boynton said he was 10 minutes late to a Thursday morning meeting before the Kentucky game.

“I just kind of lost track of time,” Boynton said. “I was up. I lost track of time.”

Donovan said tardiness has not been an issue for Boynton throughout the season.

“He's never been late for anything,” Donovan said. “This was the first time. But, move on, he dealt with what he needed to deal with. If he works hard this week, he'll be right back in the starting lineup.”

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