Defense now a strength for UF
Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 19, 2012 at 11:46 p.m.
By Kevin Brockway
Who: No. 7 Florida Gators (3-0) vs. Savannah State Tigers (3-2)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center, Gainesville
Gainesville TV:Sun Sports
Gainesville radio:AM-850, 103.7 FM
Following a lackluster effort in its 101-71 exhibition win against Nebraska-Kearney, Florida coach Billy Donovan used the words “alarmed” and “concerned” to describe UF's defense.
Through three regular season games, though, Florida is playing at a high level defensively. The No. 7 Gators will look to maintain their defensive intensity tonight at home against Savannah State.
Entering Monday, Florida ranked third in the nation in both scoring defense (45.3 ppg) and opponents' field goal percentage (29.7 percent).
“We're getting better,” Donovan said. “I think the one thing I tried to do in the offseason was really show and display what and how teams scored against us and what we were going to try to do to try to correct those things. It's an everyday process, but I think those guys are committed and I think those guys are working hard.”
Signs of defensive improvement began in UF's canceled season opener against Georgetown. The Gators played just a half, but in that half held Georgetown to just 23 points on 25.7 percent shooting.
“We played Georgetown, which is a Princeton style offense, we played Wisconsin which is a swing offense, we played Middle (Tennessee State) where it got into an in-the-paint, grind it out, physical (game),” Donovan said. “I think these styles that we have been going against have been good for our team in terms of gaining experience.”
The versatility of 6-foot-7 forward Will Yeguete also has helped. Yeguete has started UF's first three games at small forward, but is capable of guarding multiple positions. Yeguete posted his second career double-double against Middle Tennessee State, finishing with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
“I'm just trying to get as many rebounds as I can,” Yeguete said.
Donovan described Yeguete on Monday as a hybrid small forward/power forward.
“He can do a lot of different things defensively, so he opens things up for us defensively to be able to do some things because we can press with him, we can switch with him, we can play man with him,” Donovan said. “We can do a lot of different things when he's on the court.”
On the perimeter, the return of junior guard Scottie Wilbekin adds another quality defender. Senior guard Kenny Boynton is as committed to playing defense as he is to scoring, setting an example for the rest of the team to follow.
“He can score in bunches, but he's giving it to you on the other end of the floor,” Donovan said, “You can keep him on the floor.”
FREE THROWS: Florida moved up three spots to No. 7 in the AP poll and is No. 8 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. … Donovan said he tends to rely on the strength and conditioning coaches and training staff when gauging how intense to practice on a two-day turnaround. Florida's only other two-day turn this season will come in Southeastern Conference play (Jan. 17 at Texas A&M, Jan. 19 Missouri). “There's a way we can work and be productive and not be out (on the court) for three hours,” Donovan said. “I think that's the balance.”
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Sr. 17.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg
G Mike Rosario 6-3 Sr. 12.7 ppg, 3.0 apg
F Will Yeguete 6-7 Jr. 7.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg
F Erik Murphy 6-10 Sr. 15.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg
C Patric Young 6-9 Jr. 9.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg
SAVANNAH STATE PROBABLE STARTERS
G Preston Blackman 6-0 Sr. 10.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg
G Stephen Wilson 6-1 Jr. 6.6 ppg, 2.4 apg
G Cedric Smith 6-5 Sr. 5.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg
F Rashad Hassan 6-7 Sr. 16.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg
F Jyles Smith 6-8 Jr. 2.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg
Notes: Florida has held opponents to 45 points or less in two of three games this season. … Senior guard Kenny Boynton posted his 31st career game with 20 or more points against Middle Tennessee State. At 1,641 points, Boynton is 37 points of tying Stacey Poole (1,678 points) for fifth on UF's all-time scoring list. … Savannah State, the preseason favorites to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, returns five starters from a team that finished 21-12 last season. …. Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax was a former Georgetown point guard and member of the Hoyas' 1984 national title team. Broadnax also was a former video staff member at UF during the 1994-95 season. … Florida is 23-0 all-time against MEAC teams and 21-0 vs. MEAC teams under Billy Donovan.
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