Dooley: UF's identity contrasts with past Donovan teams
Published: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 10:28 p.m.
As the game wore on and South Carolina coach Frank Martin had that look of resignation envelop him, he looked like he wanted to hide in a suit that appeared too big for him.
Martin inherited a mess in Columbia, and it’s going to take him awhile to straighten it out. It certainly wasn’t going to be on this night against a team that was going for its 24th straight home win and is ranked 10th in the country.
The Gamecocks aren’t very good even if they have some results that would say they are uneven rather than awful. This was the league opener for both teams, and while victories are not created equal for the NCAA Selection Committee and RPI rankings, they all count the same in conference play.
Billy Donovan’s team is now 1-0 in the SEC, and while you cannot take too much from one game, we’re getting a pretty good idea of this team’s identity.
And that is this — it’s different.
Donovan’s teams have been built on post play and 3-point shooting. His best teams have been excellent defenders and assists machines.
This team is, well, like I said, different.
This team is a slashing and driving athletic team that has a knack for scoring at the rim. Against South Carolina, the Gators scored 12 baskets in the first half and 11 of them were in the paint.
“We’re more athletic than the teams I’ve played on before,” said Casey Prather.
Florida’s ability to get the ball to the rim helped fuel a 14-1 start. Florida led by 13 at the half despite making 1-of-10 shots from 3-point range.
Which is another part of Florida’s identity.
Donovan said he thinks this can be a good 3-point shooting team. At best, it looks like this team will be inconsistent from beyond the arc.
The Gators came into the game making 36.4 percent of their long-range shots, but most of that success was Michael Frazier II. The rest of the team was shooting 29.7 percent.
And on a night when Frazier struggled, Florida made 5-of-19.
It’s not that it’s going to change Donovan’s mantra — let it fly. But there are going to be nights like Wednesday when good shots don’t go down.
“I think we’ll be a streaky team,” Donovan said.
And there are going to be nights when this team is as streaky on defense as it is sometimes on offense. Florida has shown a real ability to let teams back into games.
Wednesday night was an example. South Carolina didn’t score its fourth basket of the first half until there was only 5:46 remaining. The Gamecocks were piling up bricks and turnovers (15 in the first half) and you wondered if the early-to-leave fans would see the second half.
But again, Florida lost its defensive intensity and just like that South Carolina was within eight with the ball six minutes into the second half.
And here came another run, this one to put it away. Basketball is a game of runs and everyone likes to use the points scored as an indication of how impressive the run is. But the truth is that it’s defense as much as offense that makes runs happen.
And when it wants to, this can be a very good defensive team. What Donovan is trying to get out of this team is to always want to defend. It’s not going to help Saturday if Wilbekin, who sprained his ankle late in the game, can’t go at Arkansas.
We’ll see if this team’s identity has been established or if it will change. At 12-2, it may not need to change.
“Our team’s a little different from some past teams,” Donovan said. “We’ve got some guys who can finish at the basket, but you can’t do it early in the shot clock with no movement.
“I think it’s going to be interesting for this team.”
It already has been.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.