UF MEN'S BASKETBALL
Slow starts becoming a concern for Gators
Published: Friday, February 21, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 11:48 p.m.
Florida has maintained its school-record 18-game winning streak with strong finishes.
Who: No. 2 Florida at Ole Miss
But how the No. 2 Gators have started games of late has been a different story. Florida has trailed at halftime in four of its last five games. On Feb. 8 at home against Alabama, the Gators were tied at 38 with Alabama before pulling away in the second half.
Getting off to a better start will be a priority on Saturday when the Gators play at Ole Miss in an 11 a.m. local tip time (noon ET, CBS). Florida (24-2, 13-0 SEC) has a chance to vault to No. 1 in the country with a win over the Rebels. But it will be hard to achieve if the Gators again fail to play well in the first 20 minutes.
“We just have to do a better job coming out with more energy, I think, and not putting ourselves in a hole like that because it's so hard to work out of it,” Florida sophomore guard Michael Frazier II said. “Not to take anything from Auburn, but if we play a better team and they get us down like that, it won't be easy to come back.”
UF's eight-point halftime deficit against Auburn (38-30) was the largest it's faced this season. The Gators rallied to win 71-66, but needed a clutch 3-pointer from Frazier and clutch free throws from senior center Patric Young down the stretch to win.
“We can't get complacent and allow human nature to say, 'Oh, we're good, we're going to come back,' ” Young said. “It's going to get to the point if we come in with the mindset we've had in previous first halves, we're going to come in down 15 points and it's really tough to come back from that.
“It all starts with our approach coming into next game. Coach is going to do a much better job of helping us and make sure we don't take these games for granted.”
Florida's struggles in the first half against Auburn were two-fold. On defense, Florida failed to lock down on Auburn's shooters, allowing the Tigers to shoot 56.5 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from 3-point range (6 of 9). On offense, Florida was at times stagnant, finishing with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 7 to 5. The Gators failed to work the ball inside, scoring just 4 points in the paint in the first half. Florida senior center Patric Young, who scored all of his team-high 17 points in the second half, had just one shot attempt in the first 20 minutes.
“We have to do a better job getting him the ball inside,” Frazier said. “He's a force down there.”
Young named Academic All-American
Young received an honor off the court on Thursday when he was named to Capital One's Academic All-America team.
A two-time SEC scholar athlete of the year, Young maintains a 3.37 grade point average at UF in Telecommunications. He's on track to earn his degree in May.
Young is the seventh Gator all-time to earn the honor and third under current UF head coach Billy Donovan.