Donovan seeking better defense out of Gators


Florida's Patric Young tries to block a shot by Memphis' Joe Jackson while Casey Prather, left, and Scottie Wilbekin look on during the second half in New York on Tuesday. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Published: Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 10:01 p.m.

Despite two straight wins over ranked teams, Florida coach Billy Donovan still views areas where the Gators can get better.

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Florida's Patric Young tries to block a shot by Memphis' Joe Jackson while Casey Prather, left, and Scottie Wilbekin look on during the second half in New York on Tuesday. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Shoring up the defense and taking care of the basketball will be two priorities for No. 16 Florida (8-2) heading into Saturday's game against Fresno State (6-5) at the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise.

“You look at the Memphis game, they shot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line,” Donovan said. “That's just way, way too many breakdowns defensively.”

Actually, Memphis shot 47.4 percent from the field against the Gators (27 of 57) and 33.3 percent from 3-point range (6 of 18). But those numbers still aren't up to Donovan's standards for a Florida team with strong defensive components.

“Scottie Wilbekin is as good as there is a defender on the perimeter in the country,” Donovan said. “And I think that we've got maybe the best defensive frontcourt player in the country in Patric Young. But Casey Prather and Doe-Doe (Dorian Finney-Smith) and Kasey Hill and (Michael) Frazier, those guys need to play better. I'm not talking about making shots, but play better defensively.”

Wilbekin struggled with foul trouble throughout the game and had issues containing quick Memphis senior point guard Joe Jackson off the dribble. A preseason All-American candidate, Jackson finished with 17 points and five assists against the Gators.

"I feel like I could have played better and it wasn't one of my better defensive games,” Wilbekin said. “So I'll look to make it up next game.''

Said Donovan: “It looked like Scottie couldn't guard the guy, but we had guys all spread all over the floor that need to be in better position to help. Those are things to me that are disappointing because we're dealing with older guys that know.”

Memphis also finished the game scoring 23 points off a season-high 17 Florida turnovers. Florida finished the game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 13 to 17.

“We didn't have enough assists,” Donovan said. “We made all kinds of careless passes in the game.”

Fresno State will present a different challenge for the Gators. The Bulldogs aren't shy about hoisting up shots from the perimeter. Fresno State has already attempted 236 3-pointers this season and are shooting 34.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Florida's defense has allowed its last three opponents (Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis) to shoot 41 percent (25 of 61) from 3-point range.

“We'll just be aware that we need to stop the 3,” Wilbekin said. “We could have done a better job in New York (against Memphis) of running guys off the 3-point line. We had a couple of short close-outs. We definitely have got to be aware because that's one way they can hurt us.''

Walker no-go for Fresno State

Donovan said freshman forward Chris Walker still has not been cleared by the NCAA and will not play Saturday against Fresno State.

Donovan said that the 6-foot-10 Walker is going to be “fine” but is still adjusting to the physical and mental demands of college practices.

“The game is going to be a lot more than him utilizing his athleticism in the game,” Donovan said. “I think it's going to take some time. The biggest thing I don't know right now with him (is) how long or how quickly he can pick things up. There's been different freshmen here that have picked up things quicker than other guys. There's no set time period for how well somebody absorbs information. The best part about him is his attitude is good. He wants to be there. Hopefully we can get him playing sometime soon.”

Donovan said he feels like UF's other freshman McDonald's All-American, point guard Kasey Hill, is still tentative coming off a high ankle sprain he suffered in mid-November. Hill had three turnovers against Memphis and is averaging 5.5 points and three assists in the two games back since sitting out four games with the injury.

“He's still bothered,” Donovan said. “He tweaked the other ankle last week. He's probably ... on the high ankle sprain, he's probably 85 or 90 percent. I still think he's hobbled some.”

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