Gators look to get in groove
Published: Friday, March 8, 2013 at 7:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 8, 2013 at 12:07 a.m.
Through ankle sprains, concussions and even a knee surgery, Florida has struggled to get back to full strength in March.
But even with eight healthy players back in the rotation, Florida's chemistry isn't all the way back yet.
The Gators will look to continue to get their bench players back on the same page in their regular-season finale Saturday at Kentucky.
In UF's 66-40 win over Vanderbilt on Wednesday, Florida's bench combined for 14 points and 13 rebounds. But it was hard for UF's bench players to find any consistent flow. Florida junior forward Casey Prather fouled out, finishing with just four points and two rebounds in 13 minutes. Junior forward Will Yeguete, in his second game back from knee surgery, had four points and four rebounds.
But Yeguete also had two turnovers on errant pass attempts in the post to teammate Patric Young.
“We got a little bit better in the second half,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought we had better flow, better movement in the second half. I thought we had some opportunities in the first half, high-low passing, getting the ball inside. We had some mishaps there.”
Of the bench players, Florida freshman guard Michael Frazier II had the best night. Frazier went 2-of-3 from 3-point range, finishing with six points, six rebounds and one assist in his second game back from a concussion.
“I felt I was more into the flow of things,” Frazier said. “ My first game back, I kind of felt out of it. Even though I only missed one game, I didn't feel like myself. But last night, I think I played how I usually play and I felt like myself.”
Donovan said he feels like Yeguete's timing is still off. The 6-foot-7 junior is back earlier than expected after sitting out six games following surgery to remove bone chips in his knee.
“His knee actually feels better,” Donovan said. “I think he feels like he's getting stronger and stronger every day he's out there playing, which is encouraging. Knock on wood, there (have) not been any effects from the surgery and being back playing.”
But Yeguete admitted it's been tough getting back into basketball shape following the month-long layoff.
“It's not easy just getting back in the game and going up and down,” Yeguete said. “It's not like it used to be. But it's a process, and it's only my second game since I came back. So I'm going to be patient and keep playing and practicing every day and get better.”
Donovan said he feels like Yeguete's timing in passing will improve with more practice reps.
“What we still need out of him, more than anything, is just his defense, his energy, his motor, just keeping alive loose basketballs, his defense,” Donovan said. “Those are the things we need.”
Heading into the postseason, Frazier said he knows the bench can play an important role. Florida would need to win three games in three days to clinch its first SEC Tournament title since 2007. In the NCAA Tournament, the Gators will be playing games on one day's rest.
“We're going to need our bench to step up going late into the tournament,” Frazier said. “We're going to need those legs for our starters to be able to come in and produce.”