Florida to tighten up defensively against UNF


After allowing 54.4 points per game last season, the Gators gave up 88 points during Florida's exhibition win against Florida Southern on Nov. 1.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, November 8, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 8:33 p.m.

Early in training camp, Florida coach Billy Donovan made it clear the Gators weren't playing close to the level defensively that they did a season ago.

Facts

Today's game

Who: No. 10 Florida Gators (0-0) vs. North Florida Ospreys (0-0)
When: 3 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center, Gainesville
Gainesville-area TV: Sun Sports
Gainesville-area radio: 103.7 FM

That showed on the court last week, when Florida allowed 88 points and 13 3-pointers in a 110-88 exhibition win over Florida Southern.

So there's plenty of room for the Gators to improve on defense. Florida will attempt to ratchet up its defensive intensity this afternoon in its season opener against North Florida.

“We know we need to improve on that area,” Florida senior forward Will Yeguete said. “And I think we've been working pretty hard this week and focusing on really, really helping and guarding especially. And helping one another.”

Last season, Florida finished third in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 54.4 points per game. It was the fewest points UF had given up since the 1948-49 season.

Donovan said he was glad that Florida Southern made 13 3-pointers against the Gators because it showed how lax the Gators defended the 3-point line. Florida Southern shot 40.6 percent (13 of 30) from beyond the arc.

“It was a great opportunity for us to show film and really use a lot of those things in terms of corrections and teaching points and those kind of things,” Donovan said. “That's an area that we've got to get better at. You know, we were, inside the 3-point line and even behind the line last year, a really, really good defensive team. And that's an area where we've got to continually get better, and it starts from behind the line."

Florida senior center Patric Young said the Gators need to do a better job of getting back in transition.

“We were late on a lot of rotations and transition defense,” Young said. “Transition defense probably being the No. 1 thing, because Florida Southern, you saw how fast they got the ball out of the net. No matter what we did — dunk, layup, 3-pointer, and-one free throw — they were getting the ball out of the net and they were going on the other side. We just have to be able to assume every team's going to be that fast and have that sense of urgency to get back and, you know, find a man.”

Said Yeguete: “They were pushing the ball and they were taking all the open shots. I think sometimes we kind of backed down and let them shoot the ball and we were expecting it. I don't think we were ready all the time. So (today), hopefully we can improve and make sure we're on edge for the whole game.”

North Florida could present another challenge to UF's perimeter defense. The Ospreys have a pair of guards — Dallas Moore and junior college transfer Devin Wilson — capable of hitting shots behind the line. Wilson, a former standout at P.K. Yonge School in Gainesville, should be motivated in his homecoming game.

The short-handed Gators will be without point guard Scottie Wilbekin, center Damontre Harris and forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who are all suspended for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. It won't get any easier after UNF. On Tuesday, the Gators play at Wisconsin in a nationally televised game (ESPN2).

“We're going to have to go forward with what we have,” Donovan said.

Frazier could return

Donovan said that sophomore guard Michael Frazier II could suit up for this afternoon's season opener.

Frazier II was diagnosed with mononucleosis last week and has been sick on and off since the start of training camp.

“He's progressing,” Donovan said. “He has not practiced at all. He did do some individual work (Wednesday). He got into a few non-contact drills. He's cleared — not to go through practice — but he's cleared to at least see how he responds.”

Frazier's return would give Florida eight scholarship players available for the UNF game. It also would provide a boost to UF's perimeter shooting.

The Gators shot just 20.8 percent (5 of 24) from 3-point range in its exhibition game last week against Florida Southern. Frazier shot a team-high 46.8 percent from 3-point range last season.

Donovan also said point guard Kasey Hill has been dealing with back issues that have limited him in practice this week. But Donovan expects Hill to play against UNF.

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G DeVon Walker 6-6 So. 0.8 ppg, 0.7 rpg

G Kasey Hill 6-1 Fr. 0.0 ppg, 0.0 apg

F Casey Prather 6-6 Sr. 6.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg

F Will Yeguete 6-7 Sr. 5.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg

C Patric Young 6-9 Jr. 10.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg

NORTH FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G Beau Beech 6-8 Sr. 7.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg

G Dallas Moore 6-0 Fr. 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg

F Demarcus Daniels Jr. 6-7 So. 3.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg

F Charles McRoy 6-6 Sr. 6.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg

F Travis Wallace 6-6 Sr. 14.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg

Notes: Florida has won 22 straight season openers and is 17-0 in season openers under Billy Donovan. … Led by senior forward Casey Prather's 23 points, Florida had seven players score in double figures in its 110-88 exhibition win over Florida Southern. … Walk-on Jacob Kurtz had 11 points and nine rebounds in the exhibition game and could get extensive playing time early in the season with players injured and suspended. … Florida leads the all-time series against UNF 3-0. In the last meeting between the two schools, Florida downed the Ospreys 91-55 at the O'Connell Center on Nov. 17, 2011. … UNF returns two starters from a team that finished 13-19 last season. … Forward Travis Wallace is a preseason All-Sun Belt Conference first team candidate. … The Gators have reached the Elite Eight in each of their last three seasons … With 31 NCAA Tournament wins, Donovan passed Kentucky's Adolph Rupp for the most NCAA Tournament wins by a Southeastern Conference men's basketball coach.

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