Gators closing in on fourth outright SEC title
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013 at 5:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 4, 2013 at 8:17 p.m.
During Florida's 64-52 win Saturday over Alabama, coach Billy Donovan could be heard screaming from one end of the floor to another.
WHO: Vanderbilt at Florida
WHEN: Wednesday, 8 p.m.
“Move it!” Donovan yelled. “Move the ball.”
The No. 11 Gators (23-5, 13-3 SEC) are closing in on their fourth outright SEC title in school history. But Donovan knows that unless UF's ball movement and player movement improves, the Gators won't be playing deep into March.
“What's made our team really good is defending collectively and running offense collectively,” Donovan said. “When we do those things we are as good as anybody out there. When we don't, we're very mediocre and average because our talent is not such that we're going to overwhelm you by throwing the ball to a guy and clearing out and letting the guy go one-on-one.”
As a result, Florida's offense has sputtered over its last four games. During that stretch, Florida has averaged 64 points per game, below its season average of 72.8 points. The Gators have shot just 27.9 percent from 3-point range (24-86) with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 42 to 39.
Donovan said there's a direct correlation between the ball movement and 3-point shooting.
“When you see us with a low number of assists, you see guys getting missed,” Donovan said. “It's not a selfish missing really, where they just don't want to throw the ball. It's a recognition of what's going on.”
For example, Donovan said point guard Scottie Wilbekin had only one assist against Alabama because his teammates got caught up watching him penetrate to the basket instead of moving to open spots on the floor.
Donovan said after watching the Alabama film that senior Erik Murphy could have had “four or five” more open looks from 3-point range if he moved to proper spots on the floor. He also thought junior center Patric Young got caught up in watching Wilbekin drive to the basket instead of moving to other spots on the floor to create space.
“So much on penetration and so much on ball movement is predicated on guys moving to open areas,” Donovan said. “If a guy drives the ball and gets the ball to the center of the paint, he's done his job. It's the other four guys' responsibility to get open. So there's no question that our 3-point shooting is definitely correlated to us moving better on the perimeter and giving our guards outlets for better looks where we can make shots."
Florida will get a chance to solve its offensive woes Wednesday night in its home finale against Vanderbilt. A win would give Florida its fourth outright SEC title. The Gators, 14-0 at the O'Connell Center this season, also will be going for their first unbeaten season at home since 2006-07.
Vanderbilt (13-15, 7-9 SEC) is rebuilding this season with five new starters, but has been playing better of late. The Commodores have won three straight and rank third in the SEC in scoring defense at 59.6 points allowed per game.
“They are really sound on the defensive end, they guard really well,” Donovan said. “So I think this is a great challenge for us.”
Yeguete, Frazier rusty
Donovan backtracked on his comments that junior forward Will Yeguete was “terrified” before he checked in for the Alabama game. But it was clear that the 6-foot-7 Yeguete was not comfortable in his first game back from knee surgery.
“I think he was really nervous, uptight, concerned,” Donovan said. “I don't think it was about his knee.”
Donovan said instead it was case of Yeguete shaking off some rust after sitting out six straight games after getting bone chips removed from his right knee. Yeguete played with a full-length stocking on his right leg and brace over his right knee.
“He basically had a little bit of practice on Thursday, a good portion of practice on Friday,” Donovan said. “He's got two practices under his belt. We're playing for first place. This guy comes in. The crowd is excited and he probably feels like, ‘Oh my God. The weight of the world is on my shoulders here.' He just wasn't himself. I think he'll get back to that, where he needs to get to.”
Donovan also said freshman guard Michael Frazier II practiced just 30 minutes due to back spasms Thursday. On Friday, Frazier shot on his own, but was held out of contact practice. Frazier had sat out the Tennessee game with a concussion.
Frazier and Yeguete both went scoreless against Alabama. Frazier was 0-1 from the floor and missed both of his free-throw attempts in six minutes off the bench.
“Between the concussion and lack of practicing, he wasn't prepared to play,” Donovan said. “And that's why I didn't play him in the second half. We weren't getting enough out of him, and probably rightfully so, he probably wasn't ready to play. But I think you had to throw him in there just to try to see what he could do.”
Florida drops to No. 11
Florida fell three spots to No. 11 in this week's AP poll. The Gators rebounded from a 64-58 to Tennessee last Tuesday by beating Alabama 64-52 at home Saturday.
Since going into Feb. 5 at Arkansas No. 2 in the country, the Gators have dropped nine spots by going 5-3 in their last eight games.
Florida is ranked No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.