UF hoops to play final tuneup


Florida Gators guard Kenny Boynton (1) walks to the huddle as Will Yeguete and Scottie Wilbekin give each other a high-five after a timeout was called against the University of Alabama Birmingham Blazers during the second half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated UAB 79-61.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 7:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 9:02 p.m.

After more than two weeks of practice, Florida is looking forward to playing in front of a crowd for the first time this season.

Facts

Today's game

Who: No. 10 Florida Gators (0-0) vs. Nebraska-Kearney Lopers (0-0)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: O’Connell Center, Gainesville
Gainesville TV: GatorVision.tv
Gainesville radio:850 AM, 103.7 FM

The Gators will get that chance tonight in their lone official exhibition game against Division II Nebraska-Kearney.

It will be No. 10 UF’s final tuneup before its season opener in the Navy-Marine Corps Classic on Nov. 9 against Georgetown. The game will be held on the deck of the USS Bataan at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville.

“We’re teetering a little bit mentally,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “The first two weeks, these guys have really, really worked hard. I would say of the first two weeks, we had one day I was disappointed with our team on the court. Outside of that, we’ve been pretty good.”

Florida held an informal scrimmage last Saturday against Rollins College. While there were some bright spots, Donovan was concerned about UF’s rebounding, carelessness with the basketball and defense on underneath out-of-bounds plays. Donovan blamed himself for the out-of-bounds plays, saying he hasn’t gone over them enough with his team.

“Because it was Rollins and clearly we had a size advantage for us in the scrimmage, we outrebounded them by a large margin,” Donovan said. “But I still didn’t think we rebounded the ball well in the game.”

The Gators are going with a three-guard starting lineup that includes Kenny Boynton, Scottie Wilbekin and Mike Rosario. Wilbekin is still getting used to crashing the offensive boards, while Boynton and Rosario are staying back to balance the floor.

“I’d like to see us rebound the ball a little bit better,” Donovan said. “I’d like to see us take care of the ball a little bit better. I think our unselfishness, our extra passing, ball movement has been pretty good so far.”

The smaller starting lineup is putting more pressure on the guards to grab rebounds on both ends of the floor. Florida also started three guards last season, but had one of the best rebounding guards in the nation in one-and-done freshman Bradley Beal. The 6-foot-3 Beal led Florida in rebounding last season at 6.7 per game.

Junior center Patric Young averaged 6.4 rebounds per game and will be counted on to grab more boards inside. So will forwards Will Yeguete (6.3 rpg) and Casey Prather (1.8 rpg) off the bench. Prather, though, will sit out UF’s exhibition opener after suffering a concussion during the Rollins scrimmage.

“We just have to really focus on boxing out, to have the mentality to rebound as a team, as a unit,” Florida freshman guard Michael Frazier said. “It’s not one person. Pat can’t get all the rebounds. We have to be collectively rebounding as a group.”

Overall, Donovan has been pleased with the effort of UF’s incoming freshmen and seven returning scholarship players.

“The seven guys have an idea of what’s going on, and I would say the encouraging part with our freshmen is they have been able to sustain a level of intensity,” Donovan said. “They’re working hard every day, and they are making practice very competitive for us.”

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Kenny Boynton 6-2, Sr., 15.9 ppg, 2.7 apg

G Scottie Wilbekin 6-2, Jr., 2.6 ppg, 1.6 apg

G Mike Rosario 6-3, Sr., 6.6 ppg, 1.4 rpg

F Erik Murphy 6-10, Sr., 10.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg

C Patric Young 6-9, Jr., 10.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg

NEBRASKA-KEARNEY PROBABLE STARTERS

G Pierre Newton 6-4, So., 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg

G Jon Henderson 6-4, Sr., 12.1 ppg, 2.0 apg

G Akeem Morissaint 5-10, Sr., 4.2 ppg, 1.4 rpg

F Tyler Shields 6-7, Sr., 6.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg

F Mike Dentlinger 6-6, Jr., 14.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg

Notes: Florida is 60-13-1 all-time in exhibition games and 35-2-1 in exhibition games under Billy Donovan. … Donovan is entering his 17th season at Florida with a record of 386-158 at UF and 421-178 overall. … Florida returns three starters and seven scholarship players from last season’s team that finished 26-11. ... Florida has reached the Elite Eight for two seasons in a row and four times in its last seven seasons. … Nebraska-Kearney, a Division II team, finished 16-12 last season and 13-9 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. The Lopers have a pair of co-head coaches — Tom Kropp and Kevin Lofton.

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