Scottie Wilbekin has dealt with the ups and downs of being a first-year starting point guard.
On Saturday, Wilbekin wasn’t in the starting lineup for Florida’s 83-58 win over Mississippi State. The 6-foot-2 junior Gainesville native still wound up playing 33 minutes off the bench, finishing with 5 points and 7 assists. Florida coach Billy Donovan said the benching was due to a lack of performance and lack of energy in practice leading up to the Mississippi State game.
“It was a wake-up call to let me know how I needed to play and how hard I need to play every day just to be at my best,” Wilbekin said.
Donovan said he was pleased how Wilbekin responded to the benching in the Mississippi State game.
“He really played the right way,” Donovan said. “I thought he was really focused. I think he made really good decisions with the basketball. I thought he got it where it needed to go. He and (Kenny) Boynton accounted for half our assists in the game, which was great.”
A former point guard at Providence, Donovan has been notoriously hard on his point guards. He didn’t like what he saw in the Arkansas game. It wasn’t that Wilbekin put up a game-high 15 shots in the loss to the Razorbacks, it was the kind of shots he took.
“He can take 30 shots in the game as long as they’re open,” Donovan said. “When the place is going nuts and they’re on a run, he’s coming down and needs to get us in offense, but he’s trying to make plays and take it on himself to do things and taking some difficult, challenged shots.
“There was no need for some of those things in the midst of that run. For him, it snowballed a little bit where he was almost trying too hard. I got on him about that. I got on him after the game about that and the next day in film about that. The normal Scottie Wilbekin usually comes out with a chip on his shoulder and an edge and a focus to get better. That was anything but his response. It was almost his response was no enthusiasm, dejected, down.”
Wilbekin admitted he was trying to force things against Arkansas. He said it’s a mistake he won’t make again.
“I got kinda carried away,” Wilbekin said. “Being down by 20 made you feel like you had to do something, and I probably forced plays that weren’t there.”
— Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton is looking to shake another shooting slump. Boynton had a streak of at least 15 games with one 3-pointer snapped when he went 0-fot-5 against Mississippi State. Boynton is just 3 for his last 19 from beyond the arc. Before that, Boynton went through a stretch in which he made 25 of 56 from 3-point range. “The game against Mississippi State, I thought all his shots were pretty good,” Donovan said. “They didn’t go in. But as long as he’s taking good shots, I have a lot of confidence that he can put together a string and make those kind of plays.” Said Boynton: “I just need a couple to go in. Honestly it’s been good in practice, just got to keep taking open shots. Those shots I’ve missed have been wide open, so I just need a few to go in.”