Yeguete: Gators ‘freeze up’ in close games

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Florida’s struggles in close games of late have been well documented.

Last season, the Gators were 0-6 in games by 6 points or less. And over the last two seasons, Florida is 2-9 in games decided by five points or less. Late meltdowns on the road against Arizona, Missouri and Kentucky cost Florida a chance for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season. Instead, the Gators were a No. 3 seed and ousted by eventual national runner-up Michigan in the Elite Eight.

“We have to look at our games down the stretch … maybe be more focused and together, especially when it’s hard and tough,” Florida senior forward Will Yeguete said. “Sometimes I think we freeze up, because we don’t play connected as much when it gets tough.”

Nobody likes to hear the freeze word because it implies fear in a competitive situation. But Yeguete, a Bordeaux, France native whose second language is English, may have been implying something else. Playing down the stretch with shot-hounds Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton in recent seasons, Florida’s offense often deteriorated into 1-on-5 in late game situations, with the other four players on the court standing around and waiting for an off-balanced 3-pointer to fall.

Or, maybe it’s playing with lack of poise. Take your pick. But Florida must solve those close game woes with a tough non-conference slate upcoming that includes Wisconsin, Florida State, Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis.

Yeguete said that he feels like his right knee is healing well and no longer has pain after undergoing surgery to repair cartilage. The 6-foot-7 senior sat out February with knee woes before returning in March and serving as a defensive stopper off the bench during UF’s Elite Eight run.

“It feels better as far as running and everything, cutting and stuff like that.” Yeguete said. “I don’t think ready I’m for contact yet .. but I should be ready for the start of the season.”

After biding his time for two years behind Erik Murphy, Yeguete has a chance to win the starting power forward job for the Gators this season.

“I do think I’m mature enough and I’ve been through the process and I’m ready,” Yeguete said. “But obviously I’m not ready physically. I think when my time comes and I’m full to go I think I can talk about getting the starting job. I have to work for it and prove that I have my health back. I don’t think it’s going to be given to me. We’ll see. I have to keep working hard.”