FLORIDA MEN'S BASKETBALL
Gators prepare for up-tempo style of Northwestern State
Published: Monday, March 18, 2013 at 11:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 18, 2013 at 11:52 p.m.
Florida coach Billy Donovan is aware of the challenges that Northwestern State can present with its up-tempo style.
But Donovan said that won't alter the gameplan of the third-seeded Gators heading into their NCAA Tournament South Region matchup with the 14th-seed Demons.
“We like to play fast, too,” Donovan said.
Expect it to be an up-and-down affair when the two schools meet Friday in Austin, Texas (7:27 p.m., TruTV).
Northwestern State leads the nation in scoring at 81 points per game, but Florida has been effective this season against up-tempo teams. For example, UF knocked off LSU twice this season, including an 80-58 win in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. Florida also posted one of its most impressive wins of the season against up-tempo Marquette, beating the Golden Eagles 82-49 at the O'Connell Center.
Offensively, Florida is at its best in transition knocking down wide open 3-point attempts. The Gators are shooting an SEC-high 38 percent from 3-point range while making 8.4 3-pointers per game.
‘It's going to be a real challenge for us, because you want to play up-tempo, but you also want to make sure you take the right shots,” Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said. “Because if you don't do that, Florida will be coming down the other end of the floor and dropping 3(-pointers) on you.”
Donovan, who is 28-10 in his previous 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, said it will be important for the Gators to stick to their style while avoiding mistakes.
“The game is going to certainly be played in transition and they're really good in transition,” Donovan said. “They can score quickly. They can turn you over a lot.”
Northwestern State averages 17 turnovers forced per game, compared to 14 turnovers forced per game by UF. The Demons also are a deep team that has used a 10-to-11 player rotation throughout the course of the season.
“With all the players that we play, we can wear teams down,” Northwestern State freshman point guard Jalan West said. “We are hoping we can make them tired and miss some shots in the second half. If we can do that, I like our chances.”
Florida suffered defensive breakdowns in the second-half of its 66-63 SEC Tournament finals loss to Ole Miss. But Donovan doesn't view Northwestern State presenting the same challenges at the Rebels.
“You're looking at teams that do different things,” Donovan said “Marshall Henderson's a unique player so you've got to guard him a little bit differently, and obviously (Murphy) Holloway and (Reginald) Buckner up front, but I would say that their style of play and what Ole Miss does is totally different than Northwestern State.
“I didn't think Ole Miss was a team that got out in transition a lot. So our transition defense in the game (Sunday) was never challenged. Our transition defense in this game is going to be challenged.
Florida players, meanwhile, are looking forward to the challenge of going up and down the floor throughout the game.
“I was just told they're one of the highest scoring teams in the country,” Florida junior forward Patric Young said. “It'll be a good challenge. Every team that is in the tournament deserves their goal to be there, deserves the right to be there, so can't take anything for granted.”
Said senior forward Erik Murphy: “They like to run, get up and down. We like to do the same thing, we like to run too. So it will be a fun game.”