Gators look to improve rebounding
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 12:11 a.m.
Even in March, Florida coach Billy Donovan may need to put bubbles back over the nets during some stretches of practice this week.
What: NCAA Tournament, second round
Who: Florida vs. Virginia
When: Friday, 2:10 p.m
Gainesville-area TV: TNT
Gainesville-area radio: WRUF
Rebounding again needs to become a priority for Florida's opening NCAA Tournament game against Virginia on Friday in Omaha, Neb.
The seventh-seeded Gators have been out-rebounded in each of their last three games. Florida was badly beaten on the boards in its SEC Tournament semifinal loss to Kentucky, giving up 16 offensive rebounds. Kentucky won the rebounding margin, 39-25.
Donovan said he felt Florida put enough bodies on Kentucky players, but couldn't make plays against UK's more physical, athletic front line.
“The length of Kentucky in certain situations, we got put in some tough spots where we didn't come down with the ball,” Donovan said. “It kept popping back up in the air, popping back up on the glass, and then we got pushed a little further underneath the basket.”
Virginia's frontcourt is not as imposing as Kentucky's, but the Cavaliers are still a physical team capable of causing problems on the glass. Virginia ranks fifth in the ACC in rebounding margin at plus-3.2, slightly better than Florida's plus-2.1.
Like Florida, Virginia starts three guards. But starting forwards Mike Scott (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Akil Mitchell (10 points, 12 rebounds) each posted double-doubles in Virginia's 67-64 ACC quarterfinal loss to North Carolina State. Scott ranks fifth in the ACC in rebounding at 8.4 rebounds per game.
“I definitely want to get a ‘W' and try to get a double-double and lead my team to a win,” Scott said. “But if it doesn't happen and we still win, then I'm satisfied with that.”
Scott said that Mitchell, a 6-foot-8, 234 pound sophomore, is starting to blossom into a more physical player.
“He has so much potential, but if he keeps playing like (he did against North Carolina State), that will be great for us,” Scott said. “I like where his game is going, rebounding and being active.”
For Florida, Donovan said rebounding needs to remain a team effort. There were times during UF's loss at Kentucky where players were so consumed with blocking out that no one went after the ball. Donovan said he would like to see guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker have more awareness going after balls when frontcourt players Patric Young, Erik Murphy and Cody Larson are blocking out.
“I don't think the rebounding can fall on just Pat or Erik's shoulders and or Cody,” Donovan said. “I think it's got to be a collective effort for our team. Are we doing as good a job as we can? No. Can we get better? Yes. But I also don't look at it like ‘geez, these guys aren't even making an effort or an attempt to do it.' ”
Florida freshman swingman Bradley Beal has been UF's top rebounder this season, averaging 6.5 per game. Young is averaging 6.4 rebounds per game, but hasn't had a double-double since Dec. 9 against Rider (12 points, 10 rebounds).
Donovan said he wants his team's focus to remain on blocking out first before getting to the basketball.
“When you don't block out and you make it a jumping contest, you are not going to win that,” Donovan said. “I think our guys have become a lot more conscientious trying to do that. I think Brad has helped that a lot, getting to the glass. He can really rebound the ball.”
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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