Florida-UConn to conflict with B’ham Bowl

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Gator fans eager to see a rematch of last season’s Final Four matchup between Florida and Connecticut will need to sacrifice some football viewing time.

Or DVR one of the games.

Despite requests from Florida, CBS has elected not to move the television start time of the Florida-UConn game on Jan. 3 at the O’Connell Center. It will air at 2 p.m., as scheduled, which will conflict with the end of UF’s Birmingham Bowl game against East Carolina (noon EST, on ESPN).

Florida tried to push the Florida-UConn game back to 4 p.m., flip-flopping with a scheduled women’s college basketball game between Maryland and Nebraska.  But CBS chose not to budge because it didn’t want the Florida-UConn game to complete in the 4 p.m. television window with a Saturday NFL wild card playoff game that would either air on ESPN or NBC.

Both Florida and UConn have struggled coming out of the gate this season, falling out of the Top 25 after coming off Final Four seasons. The Gators are 3-4 after blowing an 18-point lead in a 71-65 loss at Kansas. Meanwhile, it’s clear the Huskies miss Shabazz Napier as much as the Gators miss Scottie Wilbekin. UConn dropped to 3-3 after a 45-44 upset loss to Yale.

Still, the game will have a compelling storyline, at the Gators will be looking to avenge a pair of losses to UConn last season in the finale of a home-and-home series. The second loss to UConn, a 63-53 defeat, snapped UF’s school-record 30-game win streak and ended its season in the Final Four.

Other notes:

— On Sunday, Donovan was asked about junior guard Michael Frazier II going through some growing pains adapting to his new role as being the go-to guy on offense. While Frazier is scoring a team-high 14.4 points per game, he’s shooting at 36.4 percent from 3-point range this season, below his career average of 44.4 percent. And while Frazier has made strides scoring off the bounce this season, the 6-foot-4 Tampa native had a costly turnover in the second half against Kansas when he lost his dribble trying to knife through the lane past two defenders: “I told him in the offseason that this would be the hardest year in his entire playing career, and it has been,” Donovan said. More specifically, Donovan said that Frazier needs to continue to show enough mental toughness that when his shot isn’t falling, he can do other things to help the team. “They’re starting to realize with this heavy lifting, this is really really hard,” Donovan said. “What they’re doing right now is not easy. And I think a lot of different players go through this. You know, I saw Patric Young go through it when he was a sophomore. You know, he backed up Vernon Macklin as freshman, he played 18 minutes. Everybody thinks that he’s going to make this huge jump and be the guy and then all of a sudden his minutes go from maybe 18 to 28 and it’s like a totally different thing for him and it’s like ‘wow, I’m responsible for a lot more.’”

— Donovan said he doesn’t view UF’s second-half struggles as a fatigue issue as much as a focus issue. Florida was outscored 47-26 in the second half against Kansas and has been outscored in the second half in three of seven games this season. The Gators have played with a rotation of six to seven scholarship players throughout the season, plus walk-on Jacob Kurtz. After the Gators were outscored by 14 points in the second half in a loss to Miami, Donovan said he decided to press less in the first half against Kansas in an effort to keep legs more fresh. “They’re going to have to understand that as the game continues to go on the intensity gets amped up,” Donovan said. “And there are certain things defensively with our positioning and what we’re doing, there’s nothing to do with effort there. … it’s just more focus and concentration and making the effort to get to where you wan to get to, so I don’t believe that fatigue was a factor. I think if you look at Kansas’ top guys and their minutes and our top guys it wasn’t a whole lot (different).”

— Asked if sophomore forward Chris Walker earned more minutes based on his performance against Kansas (12 points, 5 rebounds, 1 blocked shot in 15 minutes), Donovan said: ” I always look at this, just because of what happened for any of those guys in the game positively or negatively, yesterday was a new day, today is a new day. What happened behind them and what they did is, doesn’t really mean anything. What they can do I think is take their past experiences and learn from them and get better. But if Chris comes out and doesn’t play with the intensity he did at Kansas, then where is he at? If Devin Robinson doesn’t learn from that and keep moving on that path … the biggest thing we’re looking for is consistency, and can they consistently do that with their effort?”