Allen’s Alley: Intensity must increase in SEC play

A four-year member of the Florida Gators basketball program under head coach Billy Donovan, former forward Adam Allen – a four-star recruit coming out of Milton High School – was forced to retire due to multiple knee surgeries. No longer with the team, he has joined OGGOA as a basketball columnist and will provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2011-12 season.

With the 15-game non-conference schedule out of the way and the Gators already two games into conference play, Florida has found out a ton about its identity and subsequently the players are becoming more accustomed to their roles.

Once the Southeastern Conference schedule kicks into gear, everything gets a little more intense. The play is even more physical, the games are more competitive night-in and night-out, and the bench is counted on to lends a major hand in the outcome of games, especially once the team gets deeper into the schedule.

So far in this season, the Gators have struggled on the road. If they’re going to be a legitimate contender for the SEC title this season, Coach Donovan must figure out a way to pull out victories in tight road games and ensure the team is prepared from the get-go when on another team’s home court.

Florida has been playing good basketball besides the hiccups at Rutgers (where the Gators lost in double over) and at Tennessee (where the intensity and attitude of the team simply was not right). In most of the team’s wins, the Gators have looked very good on both the offense and defensive ends of the floor, shooting the ball at an incredible rate and playing defense with a sense of urgency.

However, Florida has looked out of sync offensively in the losses and simply has not shown enough intensity on defense. Against Tennessee, the guards and bigs didn’t set and come off screens crisply, which in effect causes the offense to be run further out from the three-point line. There also seemed to be a disinterest in guarding the ball as their opponent easily got into the paint whenever they pleased.

Read the rest of this edition of Allen’s Alley…after the break!

I am looking for and expect more consistency from Bradley Beal. He has shown that he has the ability to light it up but also has been inconsistent with his shooting and decision making. It was good to see him bounce back against Georgia after two sub-par performances against UAB and Tennessee; that game could be a legitimate springboard for the freshman and just the start of big things for him this year.

Kenny Boynton is leading the way and proving himself to be the most consistent scorer (19.5 points per game) on the team as well as a greatly improved shooter (46 percent from three). These are characteristics that Boynton and the Gators have been waiting to blossom for the last two years, and his emergence is exactly what UF needs to carry the team throughout the conference slate.

It is not any secret that this Florida team is at its best when Erving Walker plays well. He has shown the ability to impact the game in a major ways with and without scoring. Against Yale he only took four shots but did a great job of running offense and getting the ball where it needed to be. Coach Donovan said that his performance helped make it “the best game we’ve played all year.” The next night against UAB, Walker scored 23 points going 7-for-9 from downtown all while playing within himself.

He just wants Walker to understand that he doesn’t have to score 20 points a night in order for the Gators to win. It’s all about taking whatever the defense gives you on that specific night. He will have to continue to take heed to Coach Donovan’s words in to SEC play for Florida to be successful.

During the SEC season, the practices are more about mental preparation than physical challenges. A player’s natural tendency is to lose some of the physical intensity in practice because more time is spent on scouting and going over the other team’s offensive sets rather than competing. But after a performance like the one the Gators put forth against Tennessee, it makes sense that the coaching staff has begun to simulate defensive intensity in practices again in order to get the team more prepared for games.

Coach Donovan must find that fine balance of maintaining a level of physical intensity while also providing the team with as much mental preparation as possible for the opponent. It is a struggle that every coach goes through, but he as much as anyone has the experience and know-how necessary to put Florida in the right position to win.

POSITIVES
- The Gators are shooting the ball extremely well because of the unselfishness and inside out play on offense.
- Florida is playing with a sense of urgency on defense at home.
- Attention to scouting has been noticeably good. This will be crucial when playing SEC games on short rest with minimal preparation.
- Players are understanding their roles better, and an offensive identity has been established.

TO-BE-IMPROVED
- The Gators are not playing with the same urgency on defense on the road.
- Florida’s rebounding has been a little suspect at times, and the guards should do better job of helping in that area.
- There needs to be more effort and sacrifice in getting to loose balls (Rutgers, UAB, Tennessee).
- Shot selection and screening (especially end of game) has a ways to go.
- When the Gators press, they must get better at recovering back into a halfcourt defense and stopping guard penetration. Step-ups seem to be a good habit of this team.
- Florida’s bench, including Mike Rosario, needs to become much more consistent.

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