Gators working on late-game lapses
Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 9:54 p.m.
At another point this season, Florida will need to figure out how to execute in clutch situations.
Who: No. 9 Florida Gators (7-1) vs. Southeastern Louisiana Lions (1-7)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center, Gainesville
Gainesville TV: Sun Sports
Gainesville radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM
It most likely won't happen tonight, when the No. 8 Gators return home to face Southeastern Louisiana at the O'Connell Center. Of the 347 teams in Division I basketball, Southeastern Louisiana ranks 339th in RPI, which measures a team's record (1-7) with its schedule strength.
But with a chance to pick up a statement road win at Arizona done in by poor play down the stretch, Florida spent its last two practices trying to learn from its mistakes.
“When you play against good teams, you've got to play all the way through for 40 minutes,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.
The loss against Arizona dropped Florida to 2-6 in its last eight games decided by five points or less. Overall, Donovan is 58-74 in games decided by five points or less in 17 seasons at UF. Turnovers, defensive breakdowns and missed free throws have all played roles in Florida's recent close losses.
Comparing it to a closer in baseball, Florida has had its share of rough outings in recent seasons.
“I think obviously when you talk about a trend or a theme, it's a pretty broad-based thing,” Donovan said. “If it was one specific thing where I think ‘Geez, this is really causing us a problem,' but it's been a lot of different things.”
One thing won't change — Donovan said he's still comfortable with Kenny Boynton having the ball in his hands in late-game and late-half situations. Boynton dribbled the ball off his foot in the closing seconds of the first half, a turnover that resulted in a Solomon Hill dunk that cut Florida's lead to 32-29 at halftime. In the second half, Boynton took an ill-advised 3-pointer with 1:55 left and 30 seconds on the shot clock and committed one of UF's three turnovers in the final 56 seconds of the game.
In reviewing film of the three straight turnovers on in-bounds plays, Donovan said the first occurred when Boynton made a break to get open but stopped running for the ball. The second came because Scottie Wilbekin broke too close to the baseline on an Erik Murphy in-bounds, and the third he felt Boynton anticipated getting fouled rather than being strong with the basketball.
Donovan said he felt players in the final two minutes became careless, expecting to be fouled right away rather than focusing on getting the ball upcourt.
“What was most important was for us to get the ball in bounds first,” Donovan said. “You know I told our guys if in some way, we really, really learn from this, it will be very beneficial going forward. If we didn't learn, it will be two things — we didn't learn, and it was a tough loss.”
As the mistakes snowballed, Donovan said he felt the Gators lost focus on the defensive end on the floor. He thought Florida could have gotten stops following two of the three in-bounds turnovers.
“Maybe we got a little nervous,” Florida junior forward Will Yeguete said. “I don't know. I feel like we had never been in that situation before, in the season, so maybe that's why we were a little nervous about it. But we just have to move on and move past that loss.”
Even with 7.6 seconds to play, Florida had a chance for a final shot, but poor execution doomed the Gators again. Donovan said both Murphy and Wilbekin ended up behind the end line, and there was confusion over who would in-bound the basketball. As a result, Arizona had time to set its defense in transition, and Wilbekin flailed a last-second shot attempt that was nowhere close to the rim.
“We didn't do a very good job there,” Donovan said.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Donovan said he was encouraged with how hard and how well Florida executed on the road for 38-plus minutes. During a one-and-a-half minute stretch at the end of the half and end of the game, Arizona outscored the Gators 15-0.
“I think (the loss is) going to help us in the long run,” Yeguete said.
A look at Florida's inability to close out games in recent seasons:
Dec. 15, 2012: Arizona 65, Florida 64
Lead: Gators up six points (64-58) with 56 seconds remaining.
Key mistakes: Mike Rosario with two turnovers on in-bounds passes, Kenny Boynton turnover, Boynton misses front end of one-and-one free throw attempt with 21.5 seconds left.
March 24, 2012: Louisville 72, Florida 68
Lead: Gators up 11 points (63-52) with 9:04 remaining.
Key mistakes: Bradley Beal travel with 18 seconds remaining, Florida 1-4 from free throw line in final 9:04.
Dec. 29, 2011: Rutgers 85, Florida 83 OT
Lead: Gators up seven points (66-59) with 2:04 remaining.
Key mistakes: Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker with turnovers on back-to-back possessions.
March 26, 2011: Butler 74, Florida 71 OT
Lead: Gators up 11 points (51-40) with 9:02 remaining.
Key mistakes: Vernon Macklin 2-of-4 from free throw line in final 2:32 of regulation and overtime, Macklin picks up fourth foul with 9:02 left on poor defense on in-bounds play, Erving Walker turnover.
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Sr. 13.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg
G Mike Rosario 6-3 Sr. 12.0 ppg, 2.5 apg
F Will Yeguete 6-7 Jr. 7.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg
F Erik Murphy 6-10 Sr. 12.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg
C Patric Young 6-9 Jr. 10.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg
SE LOUISIANA PROBABLE STARTERS
G Brandon Fortenberry 6-3 Gr. 11.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg
G Jeffery Ricard 6-2 Jr. 9.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg
G Dre Evans 5-9 Jr. 7.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg
F Roger Woods 6-5 Sr. 12.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg
F Roosevelt Johnson 6-6 Sr. 7.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg
Notes: Florida is hosting Southeastern Louisiana for its only home game in December. … The Gators are coming off their first loss of the season at Arizona (65-64) after seven straight wins. … Florida has held five of its eight opponents under 50 points this season. The Gators still rank third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 50.4 points per game. … Southeastern Louisiana will be playing for the seventh time on the road in nine games this season. … Southeastern Louisiana's lone win was a 91-49 victory over Louisiana College. … The Gators will look to improve an assist-to-turnover ratio that is close to 1-to-1 this season. The Gators are averaging 13.6 assists per game, compared to 12.6 turnovers.