No. 11/13 Florida Gators basketball (24-6, 14-4 SEC) will be practicing all week in preparation for the 2013 SEC Tournament, which begins for the Gators on Friday at 1 p.m. against a yet to be determined. Head coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Monday to go in-depth about the team’s numerous issues and successes now that the regular season has come to an end.
Though OGGOA normally breaks down Donovan’s comments into sections, he was especially verbose on Monday and spoke at length about a number of topics (most of them multiple times). Therefore, below are truncated versions (believe it or not) of what he had to say to the media on Monday.
» On what went wrong over the final 7:36 against Kentucky and in other similar tight games this season: “I felt like even going back to the Arizona game, I thought our difficulties were turnovers, press offense-wise. We struggled there and that certainly came back and it bit us. I thought the Missouri game, being up 13, turnovers hurt us in terms of we had three out of four possessions we turned the ball over and they went on a 12-0 run to cut it to one and then obviously we were going back in a dog fight. Probably at least at the end [against Missouri], we probably settled for too many threes and looking at [the Kentucky] game, we turned it over five times there at the seven-minute mark coming down the stretch. They turned it over four times, so that kind of helped us a little bit where our turnovers weren’t necessarily really hurting us. But in terms of the execution and the shots that we got, the Missouri game probably too many threes late and not enough around the basket. The last seven minutes [against Kentucky], we took two jump shots and everything else was around the basket and we weren’t able to finish, weren’t able to score. I think if there’s one theme for me in those games or in those situations [for me it] has been the turnovers.
“I don’t know necessarily…guys just kind of missing some point-blank plays. Someone’s got to step up and make a couple of those. It’s obviously a little more challenging to make a three, it’s a deeper shot. But I think Casey Prather made a great move. He had a five-foot jump shot uncontested that he didn’t knock down. Patric [Young] had a jump hook clean; he had a layup clean. Scottie [Wilbekin] had a drive down the lane. We had five plays there that I thought were really good execution and getting the ball [to] who it needed to get to. We just didn’t finish the plays. Now the turnover part of it, those are possessions where you’re not getting them back to at least get another shot up at the basket. I feel like from those games we’ve gotten better and we’ve improved. There hasn’t been one thing. I felt the Arizona game, it was our press offense, and I thought we got better there. I thought the Missouri game, it was probably [that] we settled a little bit too much and didn’t get enough action towards the basket. I thought the Kentucky game we did [get action towards the basket]. But the common theme in all three of those games is our turnovers. That’s a problem. We’ve got to do a better job taking care of the basketball and getting shots up at the basket.”
» On if the Gators are getting flustered late in close games: “I would say this: We are a team that really tries to play unselfishly. I think if you look at our assists, our shooting percentage from the field and from the three-point line, we’ve been very good. But even if you go back and look at Alabama, if you go back and look at Vanderbilt, there is a stretch in those games where we put together or string together three, four, five turnovers in seven possessions. … You’re on the road at Missouri and up by 13 and our four possessions are a missed free throw, missed one-and-one and three-straight turnovers. Well, they go on a 12-0 run and now it’s a one-point game and that happened in a minute-and-a-half. Like I said before, Kentucky would have made a better run at us sooner had they not turned the ball over because they turned it over four times themselves. We did a pretty good job defensively and they had some pretty errant, careless passes as well.
“I think that’s been something with our team that we’ve to do a better job as a team by taking care of the basketball. The thing that is interesting is when you look at our total number of turnovers for a game, or you look at the stat sheet, we turn it over fewer times than most teams. The last nine minutes against Arizona, we had 14 turnovers for the game. So for 31 minutes, we only turned the ball over six times. We turned it over eight times in the last nine minutes against Arizona. So it’s just those stretches there where…we’ve done it before but it hasn’t come back and kind of gotten us like in has in some of those situations.”
» On working on limiting turnovers during practice: “We’re always working on that stuff constantly, taking care of the basketball and all those things. You’re doing that from day one; that’s always a focus.”
» On what else can be worked on in practice: “They’ve got to do a better job finishing those plays around the basket, in my opinion.”
» Again, on if Florida gets tensed up late in close games: “I don’t think so. I look at guys being tensed up, like the last thing I can tell you right now that Scottie Wilbekin is concerned about that. The guy is throwing a left-handed pass across his body. You got to have to have some level of fearlessness to do that. I don’t sense that from our guys. I don’t. I’ve had some guys and coached some guys where you can tell when they are going to the free throw line or it’s that moment where they are a little bit overwhelmed by it. I don’t sense that from our guys. All of that stuff we can work on and we can get better. But at the end of the day, if Boynton knocks down that three against Missouri, we win. Or we make three or four shots around the basket [against Kentucky] and we win, we are not even talking about this. I think there is a bigger issue for me that I am more focused on. I don’t sense from our guys that, ‘Geez this keeps happening.’
“We won the league; we’re 14-4. I thought we played well. Obviously in an 18-game schedule, you’re going to have some bad games. I am more disappointed more than anything [in] the way our team, before the Kentucky game, the way we’ve practiced and the way we’ve played with so much on the line. That to me is much more alarming. I think if you go back and you look at the fact that here we are playing against Alabama and we are at home and it is a game for first place. We are up by three at the half and then we’re careless and turn the ball over and now all of a sudden we are down by eight. People are talking about a great comeback, but we really played poorly in the game. I made the comment after the game. I was really, really disappointed for 30 minutes of the game and I was really proud for about 10 minutes. That to me is all a product of practice. That is the thing that is more alarming to me.
“We did not practice well at all going into Lexington. We are playing against Vanderbilt, we are not shooting the ball well and it’s a hard-fought game and we end up winning by 26, but the last eight minutes we kind of turned it on offensively and we made some shots. To me, I am more concerned about that. I think if our guys are getting good shots in those situations and they’re not turning the ball over, you are going to have to live with the result. There are going to be some games where maybe you make a couple of those plays or you get fouled and you make some free throws. Even in the Missouri game, I think we went 6-for-12 [on free throws] in the game. In the second half against Tennessee on the road, we are 1-for-10 from the three-point line.
“I am disappointed, to be honest with you, in our team’s fire. I don’t see it. I don’t see it. I’m more concerned about that. I think it is pretty evident if you look at the way the Kentucky game started. We are down 4-0 and I got to call a timeout. Erik Murphy gets pushed out of the way on an offensive rebound by [Alex] Poythress – layup. Then he goes down into a post-move and Willie Cauley-Stein raps his shot back out to half court. It’s 4-0 and I have to call a timeout, then all of a sudden the score is 11-2. We are tied 31-all coming into the half. We come out in the second half and they go on a 6- or 7-0 run and we go down by seven or eight points. Now all of a sudden we make a few shots and now we get up by seven, but I am more looking at the whole body of work right now with the way we are playing. I don’t like our fire. I don’t like our intensity right now.”
» On how the Gators can increase their fire: “I don’t know. To me, that’s what’s concerning. You got an SEC Championship on the line with Alabama coming in who’s in second place and [Florida] clearly was not a team that was ready to play. And I’ve got to take responsibility as a coach, that’s my job. They were not ready to play for whatever reason. But there is not a fire that I sense from our team. It is one of those things. I dealt with this with [Joakim] Noah and [Al] Horford. You are 13-0 in a 16-game league schedule, you have clinched an SEC Championship and you’ve got three games remaining, and it’s like, ‘OK, what are we playing for?’ You have some slip-ups, you lose some of that, but for us right now getting a chance to get sole possession of first place then to come back home against Vandy and to win it outright and we’re not [excited], that is concerning to me.”
» On what he wants from Florida in terms of fire: “I am not looking for this ‘rah-rah,’ all that stuff, but there is a little bit of an intensity… We’ve played pretty good defense so far. Again, I am trying to help our team try to become great. I am not interested in us just kind of going through the motions here. What I have witnessed in practice over the last three weeks… I’m in the Kentucky game and I‘m calling timeout a minute into the game and I am trying to inject fire and passion, and we’re not playing with fire and passion right now. Not like we did against Marquette or Wisconsin or some of these games that we’ve played in our league where we’ve had that fire and passion. I don’t think it is about making shots or missing shots or any of those things. I just think that our perseverance, our resiliency needs to continue to get better. They’ve got to enjoy the struggle a lot more. They’ve got to enjoy the struggle in practice and those kinds of things. Probably need to do some things changing up practice a little bit. I think we can show [the players] the issues. One common theme in those games has been turnovers. That is the one common theme. Guys not making a shot, that’s a hard thing [to correct].
“I give our guys credit for this: We go into the Missouri game and Patric got one touch up front, and they fouled him inside five minutes. He missed the one-and-one. He missed actually two one-and-ones; he got it twice. We didn’t really turn the ball over after that; we let them come back in the game. [Mike] Rosario made a couple of shots. Scottie Wilbekin made a tough three to put us up one. Then [Laurence] Bowers makes an unbelievable turnaround jump shot with a hand in his face to give them the one-point lead and then we probably didn’t get what we wanted to with 19 seconds. I think the question was asked if we are too much perimeter-oriented, and I said after the game that’s not the shot we wanted. Against Kentucky, the shots we took, we wanted those shots. That’s what we wanted. That’s what we’ve worked on, so I think our guys have gotten better at trying to do those things. Here is a situation where you take a lot of threes against Missouri and they don’t go in, now you get everything [around] the basket. We had I think nine shots, seven shots in the lane and two on the perimeter.”
» Again, on if the Gators choke up late in close games: “When you use that word, to me, what that word means is, in the moment, you are afraid or you don’t want it or you shy away from it. There’s been times, I think, I’ve seen guys go to the free throw line – not this team, but other teams I’ve had – and the guy is totally petrified, I can tell. And the ball goes in the basket. But he probably wasn’t in the right frame of mind. … I don’t get that from our team. I don’t see that. If anything, I see maybe an overconfidence or, ‘We’re going to be OK.’ I don’t get, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I don’t see guys shying away from the ball. I don’t see Kenny Boynton not wanting to take a shot. I don’t see Scottie Wilbekin not driving and wanting to take a shot. I don’t see guys running and hiding, ‘Hey, don’t throw it to me.’ That to me would be what I would say ‘choking’ is – the guy in that moment, the moment of truth, don’t want the ball, don’t want to make the play. Casey Prather made a heck of move. He made two of those shots in the game. At that moment, he did not make that shot. Patric Young got the ball a couple of times in around the basket; he just didn’t finish the play. Scottie got a couple of drives where one he should have made, one he tried to draw a foul on Cauley-Stein and he kind of threw it up there where he could have gone up and finished it.
“All those games we’ve played have been on the road. I’ve said this before, I’m looking around the country right now and I’m watching teams go on the road and lose by 20. The only two games I was really disappointed with our performance, one [that] wasn’t their fault was probably Arkansas. Arkansas got off to a great start, [Will] Yeguete goes down, we were trying to throw Prather in there after having a high ankle sprain. He probably wasn’t ready to play. Our team was disheveled. Pat gets two fouls. We weren’t prepared for that moment for everything that happened inside the game. I didn’t know that Yeguete was going to be [out]. That game and the Kansas State game, I don’t think those two games we can even talk about having the right to win those games with the way we performed. Tennessee with six guys, we’re there. We had a couple of good shots to pull it close. I didn’t see guys passing up wide open shots and saying ‘Oh my god, I don’t want to shoot the ball’ and throw it to the next guy. I don’t see that.”
» On the focus only being on the negatives (road losses) and not the positives (undefeated at home, SEC title): “We got a great group of kids that won a league [title]. At the end of the day, I understand if we’re going to talk about Arizona, Missouri and Kentucky, those three games, and that’s all we’re going to talk about for 30 games and not talk about that these guys winning a league championship outright. There’s got to be both sides. We’ve got to focus on three games and not focus on 27? We’re going to get into another close situation, again. There’s no question about it. How will we respond? I don’t know. What happened in the past doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again because I’ve seen some growth and I’ve seen some strides in the right direction in terms of dealing with those things. I’d like to see us get to the free throw line more. I don’t think we’re getting to the free throw line enough. And I also would like to see us do a better job taking care of the basketball and not turning the ball over.”
» On Boynton taking shots late in games, specifically on Saturday: “The shot he had I didn’t think was necessarily a bad shot. I thought the one against Missouri was a settling shot. He just settled; we didn’t even try to get any action to the basket. We didn’t try to put any pressure on the defense. We didn’t do anything like that. I thought in this game we put pressure at the basket. We put pressure on them and tried to get fouled. We threw the ball inside. We drove it inside. We put pressure on the defense there. If Kenny is open, I have total confidence in him as I do with Mike Rosario or Scottie. What you want to do in those situations, in my opinion, is you want to get a good, clean shot off.”
» On what winning the SEC Tournament would mean: “I just look at it right now that this is what’s front of us. You have 14 teams that are going to go to Nashville and compete for this. You’re playing for a championship. To me, I am not worried about the seeding part of it. I’m not worried about anything else. The fact is that we have an opportunity for three days to potentially play for another championship. The regular season is over and done with. That’s behind us. That’s already been celebrated, talked about, that’s done. This is what’s in front of us right now.”
» On what he means saying that Florida is ‘overconfident’ at times: “When I say ‘overconfident,’ they have high belief in themselves. I want them to have that. When I say ‘overconfidence,’ they have belief in themselves. Someone was asking me if these guys are getting tensed up and nervous? My point is, [Wilbekin] throwing a left-handed hook pass on a lob in Rupp doesn’t seem to be too afraid. I want our team to have confidence. I don’t think it’s necessarily overconfidence. I think they have respected everybody they have played against. I’ve never ever seen these guys go into a game and not have total respect level for who they’re playing against. Now, there have been some games where they haven’t played well or teams have played very well coming down the stretch against us. I don’t sense that from our team that they are overconfident in a bad way. I want them to have an internal belief and confidence in our team.”
» On struggling with rebounding, especially on the offensive glass: “That’s a major problem. Major problem. That’s another area that I would say we’ve done a pretty good job. But again, we get outrebounded by Kentucky, that was a problem. It’s been a problem, and we’ve got a full complement of players. I think we’ve played some pretty good teams like Wisconsin and Marquette, traveled on the road. We’ve always been anywhere from plus-five to plus-eight on the glass. If there’s one thing, like I was saying a little bit before about a fire, a passion, to me that’s it on the glass. When you’re doing that, when you are hitting and you’re going and chasing balls and you’re doing that… When you see our starting center with two rebounds in 24 minutes of play that clearly, to me, is an effort issue. That is an effort issue. Murphy, I got to call timeout and go crazy on him in the Kentucky game with those first two possessions, but the guy went back in there and grabbed nine rebounds. Prather got in there and grabbed rebounds. Yeguete’s starting to get back a little bit more to where he was.
“That is a concern for me. No question, the turnovers and the rebounds. I think that when you rebound the ball there is an intensity, there is a passion, there is a fire there inside your team. That’s what I think our basketball team has been missing. I don’t know how many games it is, that’s about how long I’ve said that our team has not been practicing [well]. We’re going to get back to it this week of putting a bubble up on the basket. That will be one of the things we’ll do. They’ll have to be able to block out because there will be no shots going in. We’ll have to get back to rebounding the ball because I don’t think we’re a bad rebounding team but we have been a bad rebounding team. I think in these situations, you have to be willing to do things that are very, very uncomfortable that a lot of people don’t enjoy doing in order to move on, advance and win games.”
» On how the Gators can create offense without a dominant scorer: “We don’t have a player that you just throw him the ball and say, ‘Go get one.’ Erik Murphy needs someone to get it to him in a good spot. They’ve got to rely on each other. We just don’t have that kind of team where you put the ball in Scottie’s hands and you say, ‘OK, Scottie, we’re going to clear out. Just go take this guy one-on-one.’ I think through movement, extra passing, spacing, different schemes and actions we are running, we can put them in situations where they can drive it and kick it and and pass it. We’ve got to get back to that.”