Florida coach Billy Donovan said it wasn’t his intention to have no one in position in the free-throw lane to try to attempt to rebound Erving Walker’s missed one-on-one attempt in the closing minutes against South Carolina.
Instead, it was another case of Florida’s lack of court awareness.
With 1:07 left and Florida trailing 63-62, Walker stepped to the free throw to try to give the Gators the lead. But Walker’s attempt clanged off the back iron.
The rebound caromed long but with no one in the lane to try for the offensive rebound, South Carolina grabbed it. Center Sam Muldrow came down on the next possession and drained a 3-pointer with 51 seconds left to put the Gamecocks ahead to stay 66-62.
“There should have been someone on the free-throw line,” Donovan said, “Our guys sometimes want to take the easy way, just to go down the floor and not have to worry about going in rebounding and running back, Erv will make them. And then what happens is we need to do a better job from the bench, looking at substitutions, or time/score situations.”
Donovan said he was distracted because he was talking with one of the officials after Walker got into a shoving match with South Carolina freshman guard Bruce Ellington. But he acknowledged someone from the bench should have reminded at least one player to get in the lane in rebounding position. Walker, a 75.3 percent free-throw shooter, had missed his previous free-throw, but Alex Tyus was able to get a big putback rebound to tie the score at 59.
In a one-and-one free-throw, no player can make their way to the lane once the whistle is blown and the shooter is handed the ball.
“It wasn’t a mis-communication,” Donovan said. ” It was really a situation where no one went up there and they should be taking it upon themselves to say, you know what, let’s get to the free throw line in case there’s a missed free-throw here. I think we probably as a coaching staff have to do a better job emphasizing that.”
— Despite the South Carolina loss, Florida’s current NCAA Tournament resume remains in good shape. Florida is at No. 17 nationally according to RealTimeRPI.com, with a strength of schedule of 8. The Gators are 2-2 against teams in the RPI Top 50 and 8-3 against teams in the RPI Top 100. That strength of schedule will take a hit Thursday when the Gators play at Auburn. Auburn’s RPI is at 319, lower than Radford (305) or North Carolina A&T (201).
— While Florida’s free-throw percentage (65.1 percent) ranks 11th in the SEC, it is somewhat on par with the rest of the league. Nine of 12 SEC teams are shooting less than 70 percent from the free-throw line this season. Ole Miss is the best free-throw shooting team in the league at 74.1 percent, followed by Vanderbilt (72.7 percent) and Alabama (70.5 percent).