Florida finds home at free-throw line
Published: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 5:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.
With the Crimson Tide closing hard to move the Gators off their favorite spot, the 3-point line, Florida found refuge at its least favorite area: the free-throw line.
Florida, which entered dead last in SEC play at 63.8 percent shooting from the charity stripe, nailed 22 of 26 (84.6) for the game and 13 of 13 in the second half to secure an unconventional 64-52 win at the O'Connell Center.
“We weren't able to take away the free-throw line today,” said Alabama coach Anthony Grant, whose team held the Gators to 2-of-13 shooting from deep. “In the second half, their whole thing was to drive the ball and to attack the rim, and they had success with it. Twenty-two points at the free-throw line at home is going to be awfully hard to overcome.”
Coach Billy Donovan used the words “distracted” and “easily frustrated” to describe his team following the win. Still, the Gators were surprisingly locked in at the one area they haven't been all season.
Florida, tied for 207th nationally in free-throw percentage (68.2) on the year, got 13 of its last 23 points from the line.
“We've tried to put the time in, just to keep working on it to try to get better,” Donovan said. “As a coach, I think you're always looking at ways for your team to get better, and that's an area where we've had some problems.”
Junior forward Casey Prather made four big free throws in the second half. The final one gave the Gators the lead back for good at the 7:47 mark of the second half.
“We go into practice each and every day, and we shoot free throws at the end of practice,” said Prather, who said the team shoots about 50-100 free throws after every practice. “Coach gives us a goal to get, like 17 out of 20, and if we don't get it, it's a penalty.”
Florida's fortunes at the line were looking good when junior center Patric Young, shooting 50 percent for the season, banked one in late in the second half.
“I didn't call it, but I'll take it,” he said.
Young says free throws can sometimes be put on the backburner or at least lost in the shuffle with all of the other preparation.
“You tend to think free throws aren't going to be something that play a factor in the game,” Young said. “But obviously they can be game-losers or game-winners.”