Gators hope extra time on practice court pays off
Published: Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 12:14 a.m.
Florida will play just its second game in 15 days this Sunday at Yale.
Who: No. 13 Florida (9-2) at Yale (4-10)
When: 5:30 p.m.
Where: Payne Whitney Gymnasium, New Haven, Conn.
On TV: NBC Sports
Radio: 103.7 FM, AM-850
While the extra practice time might be a drag for players, it hasn’t been for Florida coach Billy Donovan.
“This has been really, really, good, at least for myself,” Donovan said. “I think for our guys, it’s been pretty demanding.”
The holiday stretch has given Florida a final chance to fine-tune some issues before its rapid-fire Southeastern Conference schedule. With the SEC expanding from a 16- to an 18-game regular season, the No. 13 Gators (9-2) will play twice a week from Jan. 7 through their March 9 finale at Kentucky.
Donovan held double-session practices Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in an effort to get the Gators ready for the long grind.
“We’ve turned our intensity up in practices,” Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton said. “We’ve been going two-a-days. I think as a team we are addressing the weaknesses we have, so as a team we’ve gotten better. We’ve just got to translate it into the game.”
Said Donovan: “From a teaching standpoint, in terms of what we’ve done up to this point in time, it’s been a good opportunity to break things down and try to show our guys areas that we’ve got to get better.”
In particular, Donovan said he’s focused on defensive efficiency in practice. Offensively, Donovan said he would like to see players continue to recognize each other’s strengths and make the game easier for one another.
Though Florida remains fourth in the nation in scoring defense (51.3 ppg), the Gators have given up 60 or more points in each of their last two games. Florida allowed Kansas State to go to the free-throw line 29 times in its 67-61 loss at Kansas State. In a 78-61 win over Air Force, the Gators allowed the Falcons to shoot 45 percent (9-of-20) from 3-point range.
“We’ve had some slippage there defensively that we need to get better,” Donovan said.
Boynton said defending the 3-point line has been emphasized in practice.
“A team like Yale, they have 10 players that can shoot 3s,” Boynton said. “That will be a big thing in the game. Definitely it’s a home game for them, we know they are going to come ready to play.”
Florida is wrapping up a challenging non-conference schedule that has included five games against Top 100 RPI teams. According to RealTimeRPI.com, Florida enters its matchup with Yale ranked No. 17 with a schedule strength of 16.
“We’ve faced a lot of different styles, and I think that’s been good,” Donovan said.