After Florida basketball's loss to FAU, here's what the Gators hope to fix vs. rival FSU
Florida basketball (2-1) will look to regroup from its 76-74 loss to Florida Atlantic on Monday night when it takes on winless Florida State (0-3) on Friday night at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee (8 p.m., ACC Network).
The Gators are looking to break a string of four straight losses at FSU. Their last win at the Tucker Center came in 2012, when the Gators beat the Seminoles 72-47.
Here's what Florida coach Todd Golden and forward Kowacie Reeves had to say about the matchup:
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Not taking FSU lightly
FSU is down a handful of scholarship players due to injuries and a suspension, which has contributed heavily to its 0-3 start. But Golden said the Gators are still coming into the matchup with a disciplined, humble mindset.
“They’re shorthanded; they’re not playing a lot of guys," Golden said. "But they have good players. It’s a program that always has good talent. They’re playing guys that are 6-4 to 6-8 that are long, athletic, can cover up a lot of things defensively, has some good straight-line skill offensively, ability to get to the rim."
Junior guard Darin Green has led the Seminoles averaging 16.3 points and four 3-pointers per game.
"They’re talented," Golden said. "I think they’re still trying to figure out how to play with each other, the same way we are in some ways. I look at as a very dangerous opponent. I would imagine they feel like their backs are against the wall a little bit, a rivalry game. I would expect we’ll see a good performance from them tomorrow night.”
Perimeter defense woes
Florida coach Todd Golden re-iterated the perimeter defense woes in the loss to FAU, saying the Gators allowed the Owls to get too comfortable shooting from the 3-point line. FAU made 13 of 24 3-point attempts to pull off the upset.
Golden said the Gators are still seeking a perimeter defensive stopper to emerge.
“Is it that obvious?" Golden said. "It’s a great opportunity for somebody, if somebody can kind of take on that responsibility of locking up a shooter and not allowing him to get looks up, that’s a really good way to obviously get in my good graces and allow them to stay on the floor more."
Reeves said it should be a team effort when it comes to defending the wing spots.
"We’ve been pretty solid on the perimeter," Reeves said. "Me personally, I think I’ve been doing a better job. I think I’m doing OK, but there’s always room for improvement. I think the only thing on the perimeter now is like last game we just gave up too many threes. But as far as staying solid on the perimeter, I think we got a lot of guys like Myreon (Jones), me, Riley (Kugel), all of us, we guys can do that.”
With 50 seconds remaining, Florida cut the FAU lead to 74-71 after Will Richard made two technical foul shots. Rather than play out the shot clock and try to get a defensive stop to get the ball back with 20 seconds remaining, Golden had Florida foul with 36 seconds left.
"You play that thing out and if they score you go from being down three or five or six with not a lot of time left and then you get into some dire situations," Golden said. "So I wanted to be aggressive trying to turn them over and if we got them to the line, we create some extra possessions in the game."
Michael Forrest made two free throws to FAU to put the Owls up 76-71, Richard made a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to cut FAU's lead to 76-74, but the Gators were unable to foul FAU until 0.1 seconds remaining.
Missing the short ones
Florida went 18 for 51 on two-point shots against FAU on Monday night. The Gators also charted shots close to the rim, where Florida went 13 for 36.
Golden said it comes down to Florida players being stronger at the rim and drawing contact.
"Being stronger at the rim is something that we have to do a better job of, especially (Friday) night, because Florida State, their personnel is limited, but they have good players," Golden said. "You know, there's six or seven really good, athletic, long rim protecting-type defenders, and they've been a good two-point percentage of defense so far this year but getting to the line as a way to offset that lower finishing percentage."
Reeves went just 1 of 5 on his two-point attempts, but wound up 3-for-5 from 3-point range to finish with 11 points against FAU.
"We shot well from three last game and bad from two last game," Reeves said. "So I think that’s an outlier. Like a focus thing. Just sometimes the ball just don’t go in and you want it to.”