Billy D in tight games

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Let’s preface this by saying Billy Donovan is without question the most accomplished basketball coach in Florida history.

He’s led Florida to its only two national titles and three of its four Final Four Appearances. He has more wins (304) than any coach in school history, led Florida to three straight SEC Tournament titles and just its second outright SEC regular-season title.

Yet in games decided by five points or less, Donovan (48-55) is among a long list of UF coaches with a sub-.500 record. In the modern Florida basketball era (post-1960), Lon Kruger is the only Florida coach with a winning record in games decided by five points or less.

The breakdown (since 1960)

Lon Kruger 31-25 .554

Tommy Bartlett 27-28 .491

John Lotz 24-27 .471

Billy Donovan 48-55 .466

Norm Sloan 53-65 .449

Don DeVoe 1-2 .333

Is Donovan a poor late-game strategist? Florida dropped to 4-4 in games decided by five or less following a pair of heartbreaking losses to Kentucky and Georgia. For sure, he’s been hampered by a team that doesn’t shoot free throws well (68.7 percent) and lacks a true go-to scorer in crunch time (Nick Calathes is trying, but not quite there yet.) But Donovan also has left time outs in his hip pocket in losses at South Carolina and at Georgia.

On Monday, Donovan again defended his decision to let freshman guard Erving Walker go down the floor in the closing seconds of the Georgia game instead of calling a time out, saying he felt his team had some mismatches down the floor. He also felt that Florida had struggled getting quality shots in the halfcourt the possessions leading up to Walker’s late miss. Florida had failed to score on four of its previous five possessions.

It’s easy to play the second-guess game, but I’m wondering if in the games ahead Donovan will re-think his strategy of allowing his team to play-through late game situations. A time out may have settled the Gators down late against Georgia and given them a chance to re-focus.