With the No. 9/11 Florida Gators (10-2) set to play their first game of the Southeastern Conference schedule on Wednesday at home against the Georgia Bulldogs (6-7), head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Monday to discuss his team’s issues and mindset at the conclusion of non-conference play.
STARTER OUT FOR A WHILE?
Senior forward Erik Murphy was no doubt disappointed that he was unable to play in front of hundreds of family and friends that made the trek out to the Yale game on Sunday, but news announced Monday afternoon likely put him further in the dumps. According to Florida, X-rays on Murphy’s injured ribs revealed that one rib is fractured and not simply bruised as he and the team had hoped.
“It happened at Air Force. He had some discomfort but nothing really significant where he couldn’t practice,” Donovan said. “He practiced on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and was fine. He got hit again there on Wednesday and then he came back on Friday and tried to practice and he couldn’t’ go. And then in shootaround [Sunday], we tried to put him in shootaround, and he did a little bit but he was still challenged physically. It’s in a really bad spot, the injury, because it’s right by his lat so any time he lifts his arms up there’s a significant amount of pain.”
Even though his rib is broken, Murphy is cleared to play because he cannot do any further damage to it. However, the amount of pain he is in due to the location of the injury and how inhibiting it is means that he is the only one who can determine when he is able to return to the court. That is why the Gators’ second-leading scorer (12.1 points per game) and best three-point shooter (45.2 percent) will remain “doubtful” to play.
“He’s cleared to play right now. He can play. But it’s all up to him how much pain he can tolerate. He’s not going to significantly hurt himself any more because he’ll be padded up and it’s not going to be a problem. But what happens is, if he gets hit there or when he reaches and stretches, it becomes so uncomfortable. His breathing is a problem. His sleeping is a problem,” Donovan said. “Him playing on Wednesday has nothing to do if the diagnosis comes back that they’re broken or bruised. That has nothing to do with whether or not he’ll play. It’s all up to him.”
Read the rest of this post…after the break!
PRIMED FOR SEC PLAY
Florida enters league play as the favorite to win the SEC, a conference that is being criticized nationally as being down overall this season. Donovan believes the Gators are well-positioned to compete in the SEC after a tough non-conference schedule that put a lot of strain on the team as a whole.
“It’s been a long non-conference schedule for us. It really has. A lot of it has to do with the amount of travel. We had one home game in the month of December,” he said. “Our guys need to get rejuvenated and refreshed with how our schedule has gone up to this point in time. Everyone is excited. It’s almost like this is a new start to the season, not just for us, but for everyone across the country.”
He also reviewed all of the obstacles that Florida has overcome so far this season, which when added together certainly make it seem like the Gators have faced as much adversity as any team in the country up to this point.
“We’ve gone against a lot of different styles. We’ve played in a lot of different venues. We’ve had to travel quite a bit. We’ve played in hostile environments. We’ve played in neutral sites. I think this is all a work in progress,” he said.
“For us, the first part of the year, even starting with the Georgetown game, didn’t have a full complement of payers with Scottie [Wilbekin] (suspension) and Casey [Prather] (concussions) being out. Then we lose Murphy with the hip pointer. … Patric [Young] (discipline) being out of the starting lineup. Murphy getting hurt again. Scottie breaking a finger. Really the first 12 games, we’ve had a couple of games where we’ve had a full complement of players.
“Through all these experiences we’re going through, where can we get better? Where can we improve? It’s really on both sides. I think we can get better defensively, and I think we can get better offensively.”
Senior guard Kenny Boynton busted out of his slump in a huge way on Sunday, draining a career-high eight three-pointers for a career-high-tying 28 shots on a night when he became the school’s new career leader in three-pointers made. The outburst was a long time coming for Boynton, who was marred in a 7-for-39 slump from downtown over his previous six games.
Donovan on Monday explained why Boynton was in the slump and noted that it was about much more than losing his touch and not shooting the basketball well.
“When you see a guy shoot 28-29 percent, it’s one of two things. Either the guy can’t shoot, which I think Kenny’s proven he can, or it’s his shot selection. That’s what I really tried to show him,” he said. “He took a lot of challenged, difficult shots and he made himself one-dimensional for a few weeks there.
“I also think the thing that people don’t really talk about – because they isolate the fact that he didn’t shoot the ball well – it’s a totally different mindset when you’re playing the point guard position. When you’re anywhere else on the floor, you can kind of get focused and locked in on yourself and what you need to do and what your job and responsibilities are. When Kenny’s off the ball a lot of times, he’s in situations where he can do what he does. He’s aggressive, he can attack, he can be difficult coming off screens, putting it on the floor. Now all of a sudden you’re coming down as a point guard and you got to be consumed with four other people. What happens is you’re less focused on yourself.
“It was hard for him because he’s not shooting the ball well and he knows him shooting the ball well helps our team. But he also knows he’s got this responsibility over here to run our team. That’s a totally different mindset change for him that was totally different from what he’s had the last three years.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan said the Gators worked on plenty during their eight days off prior to the contest against Yale. Boynton found his confidence, junior F Will Yeguete got his energy back and the team as a whole worked on their press each day. They also put a concentration on ball movement. “When we make the game easier for each other, we’re a lot more difficult to guard,” Donovan said.
» On Florida being favored heading into SEC play: “I don’t think our guys worry about that. I think we’ve got an older group of guys that understand, on any given night, anything can happen.”