UF seeks defensive rebound vs. Mississippi St.


Florida head coach Billy Donovan wants to see defensive improvement after his team gave up a season-high 80 points in Tuesday's loss at Arkansas.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 12:36 a.m.

Even after giving up a season-high 80 points against Arkansas on Tuesday, Florida remains second in the nation in scoring defense at 52.4 points per game.

Facts

Saturday's game

Who: No. 2 Florida Gators (18-3, 8-1 SEC) vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-14, 2-7 SEC)
When: 5 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center, Gainesville
Gainesville-area TV: Sun Sports
Gainesville-area radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM

But Florida coach Billy Donovan doesn't want to hear about rankings after a flat defensive effort on the road against the Razorbacks.

“As of today, we are a really bad defensive team,” Donovan said. “Right now, because that was our last game, we are a bad defensive team.”

No. 2 Florida will try to regain its lost defensive focus today at home against Mississippi State. Signs of UF's defensive slippage started in its 78-64 win over Ole Miss last week. Though the Gators held the Rebels to 38.2 percent from the floor, Ole Miss also shot 41.2 percent (7-of-17) from 3-point range.




The 3-point line was again a problem in UF's 80-69 loss Tuesday at Arkansas. The Razorbacks started the game hot, making seven of their first nine 3-point attempts, and finished 8-of-18 from that range.

“It comes to that point in a game you can't do anything about that, but just focus on just trying to make them feel uncomfortable and try to have them take tough shots,” Florida senior guard Mike Rosario said. “I felt that we let them get too comfortable from the beginning of the game, shooting the ball from behind the arc and they took advantage of that.”

Donovan said he felt like his players could have challenged more Arkansas 3-point attempts early by getting their hands up. Also, Arkansas consistently beat Florida defenders off the dribble.

“We were a little bit loose on the defensive end as far as keeping those guys out of the paint,” Rosario said.

With the loss of one of its top defensive players, Florida will have a tougher time regaining its defensive swagger. Junior forward Will Yeguete underwent surgery Friday to remove bone chips in his knee and is out for four to six weeks. Without the 6-foot-7, 240-pound Yeguete in the post, Donovan said the Gators may be forced to play more double-teams in the post when freshman DeVon Walker or junior Casey Prather play at the power forward spot.

“A lot of it is probably going to be more based on who we are playing against and where help needs to come from on certain matchups,” Donovan said.

Florida is facing Mississippi State for the second time in two weeks. In the first matchup in Starkville, Miss., on Jan. 26, Florida downed Mississippi State 82-47, handing the Bulldogs their second-worst loss at Humphrey Coliseum. Yeguete had four points and eight rebounds in the game.

Mississippi State has lost seven straight and is rebuilding under first-year coach Rick Ray. But given the upsets in college basketball this week, including No. 1 Indiana losing at Illinois and No. 5 Kansas falling at TCU, Florida players are wary of overlooking any team at this point in the season. The Gators have responded from their previous two losses this season with wins.

“They're a college team that's capable of beating us so we have to approach them just as we would approach any team, with a level of respect,” Florida freshman guard Michael Frazier II said. “We have to look at film and see where we could get better and go into that game mentally prepared.”

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Sr. 13.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg

G Mike Rosario 6-3 Sr. 12.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg

G Scottie Wilbekin 6-2 Jr. 9.5 ppg, 5.0 apg

F Erik Murphy 6-10 Sr. 12.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg

C Patric Young 6-9 Jr. 11.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg

MISSISSIPPI STATE PROBABLE STARTERS

G Jalen Steele 6-3 Jr. 9.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg

G Trivante Bloodman 6-0 So. 5.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg

G Craig Sword 6-3 Fr. 9.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg

F Colin Borchert 6-8 Jr. 7.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg

F Gavin Ware 6-9 Fr. 8.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg

Notes: Florida is 10-0 in the O'Connell Center this season. … The Gators are 59-49 all-time against Mississippi State and 12-8 vs. the Bulldogs under Billy Donovan. … Florida ranks second in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to 52.4 points per game. The Gators have held 11 opponents under 50 points and 15 opponents under 60 points. … Florida senior Kenny Boynton has made at least one 3-pointer in 15 straight games. … Florida freshman Michael Frazier II is 9 of his last 14 from 3-point range. … Mississippi State freshman guard Fred Thomas is the Bulldogs' leading scorer, averaging 10.6 points per game. … Mississippi State is shooting an SEC-worst 28.3 percent from 3-point range. … The Gators are shooting 49.2 percent from the floor and 39 percent from 3-point range. … Florida coach Billy Donovan will be presented with a painting at halftime commissioned by the NCAA and NABC that honors him as one of the 75 national champion coaches for the 75th anniversary of the NCAA Tournament. The painting will be on display outside Gate 1 of the O'Connell Center before the start of the game.

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