Florida basketball's versatility a team strength


Florida coach Billy Donovan has the luxury of a deep rotation of players this season.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 7:03 p.m.

Florida is heading into its top-10 showdown at Arizona with different options.

Facts

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Who: Florida (7-0) at Arizona (7-0)
When: Saturday, 10 p.m.
Where: McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.
Gainesville-area TV: ESPN
Gainesville-area radio: 103.7 FM, AM-850

The No. 5 Gators (7-0) are fully healthy heading into Saturday night's game at No. 8 Arizona (7-0). As a result, Florida coach Billy Donovan could start a bigger frontline with Patric Young, Erik Murphy and Will Yeguete. Or the Gators could go small with Murphy and Young up front with three guards (Scottie Wilbekin, Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario).

Against a bigger Arizona frontline, Florida projected a starting lineup of Young (6-foot-9), Murphy (6-8), Yeguete (6-7), Boynton (6-2) and Rosario (6-3) on its game notes on Wednesday. Arizona is expected to start 7-foot freshman Kaleb Tarczewski with 6-8 forward Brandon Ashley and 6-7 forward Solomon Hill.

“A lot of times, who you are playing against and what's going on dictates that,” Donovan said. “I thought we went on a really good run against Florida State when we went big toward the end of the first half. We had a couple of possessions where we played Casey Prather at the two-guard spot with Boynton and we played Yeguete, Murphy and Patric up front, and they gave us some really quality minutes.”

The versatility of UF's roster has allowed Donovan to turn to its bench without a significant drop-off in production. The Gators have developed a solid eight-player rotation with junior forward Prather and freshman guard Michael Frazier II. Prather is averaging 7 points and 3.3 rebounds off the bench, while Frazier is averaging 6.6 points off the bench and shooting 40.7 percent (11-of-27) from 3-point range.

“There are some games where we've played small and moved Murphy to the five (center) and Prather to the four (power forward),” Donovan said. “I think a lot of it depends on fatigue, foul trouble, matchups with the other team. So I think in certain situations a smaller lineup can look good, and in certain situations a bigger lineup can look good. I think it depends on what's really going on during the game.”

Florida has averaged 30.3 bench points over its last three games.

“It probably makes it hard for different teams to prepare,” said Wilbekin, who has bounced between a starting and reserve role this season. “Every different lineup that we have is effective, so they have to prepare equally for each lineup whether it's big or with four guards in there or just three guards, I think it keeps them on their toes.”

The depth also has allowed Donovan to keep players fresh while playing a running, pressing style. The Gators forced 22 turnovers against Florida State, with three coming off the press in the first half. Arizona has been shaky with the ball at times this season, committing 27 turnovers in its last home game, a 63-55 win over Southern Mississippi.

“What we've got to be able to do is adjust to what is going to be more effective given the circumstances of what we are dealing with in that particular game,” Donovan said.

Shaking off rust

Donovan admitted the Gators will need to shake off some rust this week in practice before Saturday's game at Arizona.

Florida has had just one full practice since its Dec. 5 win at Florida State due to final exams.

“We've lost some stuff here just because we haven't practiced,” Donovan said. “I don't think it's our guys' fault. I think it's been very, very hard. I think every school is going through it. I'm sure Arizona is dealing with it. I'm sure anyone that is dealing with a week of final exams, there's a lot on these guys' plates.”

Donovan said most of the exams for players are over and that he should be able to get three full practices together before traveling to Arizona.

“With finals and everything like that, we've had some lighter days in terms of practice,” Murphy said. “We've got to come out the next couple of days and practice well and prepare for this game.”

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