Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Vanderbilt ‘Dores – Inconsistency hampering improvement

By Adam Silverstein
February 18, 2015

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 12,989]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: SEC Network (Mike Morgan, Barry Booker)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 134/190 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS VANDERBILT COMMODORES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Stallings
Record: 12-13 (5-7 SEC) Record: 14-11 (4-8 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -5 | O/U 124.5


INCONSISTENCY HAMPERING IMPROVEMENT

The numbers do not lie. Florida’s offense is abysmal. The Gators are inefficient in the field, beyond the arc and at the charity stripe. But through a season of immense frustration and a growing pile of losses, Donovan sees some incremental improvement from his squad.

“I think they are working on and trying to do better – we’re playing better together as a team. We’re competing harder. We’re moving through the adversity. I feel we have gotten better, there have been a couple games now … where we competed better,” he said on Monday.

Perhaps more importantly, Florida has not given up despite scoring at an average rate that is the program’s lowest since 1950-51. The Gators are also not blinking in the face of putting together a five-game losing streak for the first time since 1997-98.


“I’ve said all along [that] I think this is a good group. I think as a coach I have to help them get better, and I’m committed to trying to do that and work with them. I don’t think there’s any finger-pointing at all. I don’t think … they’ve given up. … I don’t sense that there’s frustration,” Donovan added. “Certainly, I think there’s disappointment, there’s probably surprise considering of how they came into the season, you know, and the way they felt about our team. But I don’t get a sense at all that they’re frustrated. I don’t sense that from them.”

Primarily at issue for Florida is the team’s consistency. From one half to the next, the Gators will go from attacking the paint to jacking up threes, playing solid containment defense to relying on their arms to foul, sharing the ball with a high intelligence quotient to settling for poor field goals early in the shot clock.

UF remains inconsistent and undisciplined, which is why it has posted a 2-6 mark in games decided by two points or fewer, dropping consecutive such contests in the process.

“Those have been two things that have hurt our basketball team,” admitted Donovan.

“They are coachable; they’re good kids. There are a lot of things they can learn from this experience, and I’m hopeful they can learn those things. Ultimately, some of them are going to have to make the commitment to the areas of consistency and things that can help them from a consistency standpoint.”

Florida has an opportunity for a measure of revenge on against Vanderbilt, the team that embarrassed Wednesday night’s hosts during a trip to Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this month and started UF’s still-active losing skid. Whether the Gators can go ahead and pull off the victory, end their disastrous streak and gain a modicum of momentum, well, that remains to be seen.

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Vanderbilt is 65-62 all-time against Florida, though the Gators are 24-13 against the Commodores under Donovan. UF also holds a 39-18 advantage over VU in the O’Dome, including a 14-3 record under Donovan.
» A long-running SEC basketball rivalry that consisted of a home-and-home series in 47 consecutive seasons, Florida and Vanderbilt have not played twice in the same campaign since 2011-12.
» UF has won six of its last eight games against VU with the Gators falling 67-61 to the Commodores back on Feb. 3, a defeat that started their four-game losing streak.
» Florida has lost four-straight games for the first time since 2007-08. Another defeat would give the Gators a five-game losing streak for the first time since 1997-98.
» UF was 86-10 over the last three seasons when holding opponents under 71 points in a game; Florida is 11-9 this season when doing so.
» The Gators are scoring 65.4 points per game, the third-lowest average in program history (since the statistic was tracked) and worst since 1950-51 (62.7).
» Florida is shooting .439 from the field, its worst mark since 1995-96 (.426) and the third-lowest in program history.
» The Gators are hitting at a .662 clip from the free throw line, their worst average since 1997-98 (.661).
» UF is shooting the three at a rate (.328) that is its fourth-worst in the 29 years the shot has been part of the game, it’s lowest such mark since 2009-10 (.313).
» The Gators have double-digit losses for the first time since 2011-12. In the last 16 seasons, Donovan has only lost 10+ games six times (including 2014-15).
» Florida has put forward 11 different starting lineups in 25 regular-season games. Overall, 10 players have started at least one game for UF this season.
» The Gators learned to win close games last season, going 15-2 in contests decided by single digits; Florida is 5-10 in such affairs this season, 2-6 in games that have come down to two points or fewer.
» UF is on pace for 15 wins in the regular season while looking for its 17th consecutive season with 20+ victories. Florida’s 16-straight campaigns with that many wins is the longest streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally. Only eight coaches have ever won 20+ games in 14+ consecutive seasons.
» With the NCAA Tournament seemingly out of the picture, UF still needs to play better just to make the NIT. No SEC team with fewer than 19 victories earned an NIT berth in 2013-14.
» The Gators have a record of .500 or worse during the spring semester for the first time since 1997-98.
» Donovan will coach his 701st game on Saturday (Florida and Marshall combined). He is looking for win No. 499 with the Gators.

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

» Out (5): Redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith (suspension), junior guard Michael Frazier II (high-ankle sprain), junior F DeVon Walker (ACL), sophomore center John Egbunu (transfer – season), freshman G Brandone Francis (academics – season)

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on some success for sophomore center Chris Walker as of late: “Chris did a good job [against Texas A&M]. He gave us good rim protection; he was energy. … Can he be consistently relied upon every single game? That’s his thing he has to overcome right now as a player. Can you come back and do that again? Not that he needs to go 5-for-5 and score 11 points or whatever, but can you come back and do that again?”

» Donovan on how well James Siakam of Vanderbilt played against Florida: “He really did a great job in the game. He really was the difference in a lot of ways, I mean, scored the ball well around the basket and a lot of it was off offensive rebounds and put-backs. He had blocked shots. He really dominated. He and [Damian] Jones, I thought in particular, played extremely well up front and did a really, really good job on the glass, so we’re going to have to do a much, much better job on Wednesday than we did last time we were in Nashville.”

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