11/16: Florida vs. Arkansas-Little Rock post-game; two shine, two others headed for redshirts?

By Adam Silverstein
November 17, 2013

No. 10/11 Florida Gators basketball (2-1), still short-handed due to injuries and suspensions, pulled away in the second half for a dominant 86-56 victory over the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (0-2) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the victory, Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to provide some of his thoughts on the defeat.

OPENING STATEMENT

Donovan discussed how the emergence of redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney Smith and insertion of redshirt junior walk-on F Jacob Kurtz led the Gators to a second-half blowout.

“In the second half, DoeDoe and Jake, those two guys did an unbelievable job offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, loose balls. That’s where the game really changed and opened up. When we eliminated those opportunities for them, it enabled us to get on the fastbreak, and that was the difference in the first half – eight points left at the free throw line and giving them nine points on loose balls. … That’s double-figure points you’re giving up in a half. I was happy it was tied the way we were playing.

“But we did a much better job on the glass, offense, everything else there in the second half. I was really, really pleased with the way we played, and more importantly, we finally got our assists back up to a number that I like instead of averaging seven a game.”

Florida finished the game with 16 assists to just nine turnovers. Freshman point guard Kasey Hill posted a 6.0 assist-to-turnover ratio with six dimes and no miscues.

A NEW TWO-MAN GANG

Unlike last season, the Gators have put up most of their points through the first three games with two players doing most of the heavy lifting. In the first two contests, it was senior forward Casey Prather and sophomore guard Michael Frazier II.

On Saturday, Prather continued his dominance for Florida, but Frazier saw a good amount of time on the bench due to a number of defensive miscues that infuriated Donovan. Replacing him as part of the two-man gang with Prather was Finney-Smith, who showed out big-time despite being under the weather with a viral infection.

Finney-Smith finished with 17 points (hitting 3-of-4 triples) and a team-high nine rebounds off the bench despite playing just 16 minutes. Donovan was impressed with what he saw overall.

“DoeDoe’s skill level opened up things for our team. He really opened up a lot of things for us,” he said. “Obviously he doesn’t feel great. He has a really bad sore throat. He doesn’t feel great. He feels better than he did on Wednesday, but he still doesn’t feel great. We’re hopeful that if he can maybe get some rest and fluids that he can start to kind of recover a little bit.”

Prather led the Gators in scoring for the second time in three games, posting a game-high 27 points (one shy of matching his career-high) on near-perfect 10-of-11 shooting. He also added five boards and five assists on the afternoon.

“I think it’s a testament to finally his awareness of himself. He has an awareness of himself, he does now what he’s capable of doing, where I thought earlier on in his career he did what he would love to do,” Donovan explained. “I think he’s playing with a really clear head, a great awareness of himself. He’s not doing things that he’s incapable of doing. He took one three tonight that was dead wide open and otherwise he’s been driving the ball, putting it on the floor, taking mid-range pull-up jump shots, getting fouled. He’s been doing a lot of different things. He’s really grown in a lot of ways.”


TWO PLAYERS MAY NEED REDSHIRTS

Donovan explained after Saturday’s game that two Gators – sophomore G Dillon Graham (hip) and junior guard Eli Carter (foot/ankle) – may be forced to sit for the season if their current ailments do not get better in the near future.

“What we found out, through some X-rays, is he has some bone spurs on both of his hips that have become very, very painful for him,” said Donovan of Graham, who was expected to play a reserve role for Florida this season. “Right now what the trainer wants to do is shut him down a little bit and try to let it calm down. There’s probably some decisions he can make in terms of what he wants to do. There are some kind of anti-inflammatory injections he can take and then you rest for 48 hours.

“But I think because the pain was becoming so significant for him – not so much playing, I think once he got loose playing was OK but at nighttime sleeping, not being able to sleep on his side, being stiff, having a hard time walking. It really was the trainer’s decision to shut him down and see if a couple days off wouldn’t serve him well.”

Donovan would not rule Graham out yet but was a bit more pessimistic regarding Carter, who was cleared to play immediately after transferring to UF in the offseason. Carter broke his leg last season and has been cleared by trainers as the injury has healed; however, his ankle remains very weak. He has been laboring up and down the court and is therefore not nearly as effective as he could be if fully healthy.

“He’s a really, really good player that’s very, very hobbled right now. Whether or not he wants to keep on trying to keep on trying – but if at some point if he medically can’t do it or he makes a decision that ‘I don’t want to play under these circumstances,’ [that would be OK]. And he’s trying every day,” Donovan explained.

“Some days he can practice and some days he can’t. He’s got two years of eligibility left. I don’t want him to have go waste a year playing on one leg, and I think everybody can clearly see he is hobbled. Now I’ve got Kasey Hill, I’ve got DeVon Walker, and I’ve got Michael Frazier, three very, very young guys that lack a lot of experience. Do I take an experienced guy like Eli Carter and put him out there and take away minutes from [the younger guards] and then maybe he gets into a situation where he says, ‘You know what? I’m going to take this year off. I’m going to sit out this year and get myself healthy.’ Then I’ve maybe eliminated maybe these guys gaining some valuable experience.

“I’ve talked to Eli about that, and it will ultimately be his decision what he wants to do, but I think he understands the position I’m in. Because I’m leaving him the option to either play or not play, he’s not 100 percent sure. I think if his foot stays like it is right now until he’s got to make a decision, my opinion would be that I would guess he would opt to redshirt. That would be my opinion. He wants to try, but right now it’s not where it needs to be for him to be – the injury’s fully recovered, but he’s not, so to speak, fully recovered strength-wise.”

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida and Arkansas-Little Rock met for the first time in men’s basketball.
» Donovan improved to 6-1 against current Sun Belt programs.
» The Gators have won 17-straight games in the O’Dome dating back to the 2011-12 season. Uf has also won 18 consecutive non-conference home games.
» Florida is 56-8 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» Donovan (415) is now 31 wins behind Dale Brown (448) for second-most in SEC history. He is currently the longest-tenured head coach in the league.
» The Gators had been outrebounded by seven in the first half but hit the glass hard in the second half to win the battle 40-36 by the time the final buzzer sounded.
» Florida continues to play disciplined defense and only committed 12 fouls during the contest despite the NCAA rule change.
» After hitting just 1-of-6 three-point attempts in the first half, the Gators made 5-of-11 in the final 20 minutes, a big reason for the second-half blowout.

» Hill continued to look explosive, finishing with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting, hitting 6-of-8 free throws and dishing six dimes without turning the ball over. He also grabbed three rebounds and registered a block, too.
» Senior center Patric Young was 5-for-9 from the field for 10 points and hauled in eight boards to boot. However, he was 0-for-4 from the charity stripe and fell to 6-for-14 from the line on the season.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on the press succeeding for Florida defensively: “We have a chance to be a very good pressing team with the length … we have some guys we can put on the ball. One of the things that makes your press effective, in my opinion, is when you have multiple guys that can go in the front of the press and you can keep a guy fresh.”

» Donovan on not playing Kurtz in the first 20 minutes of the game: “I made a mistake in the first half. I should have played him more. I didn’t play him at all in the first half. … I should have probable gave him a few more minutes because he’s really a smart player, knows how to play. … He came in there early in the second half and it really helped our team.”

» Prather on how loud Donovan yells from the bench: “You hear everything Coach Donovan is saying. He screams to the top of his lungs, but he gets his point across.”

@ONLYGATORS TWEET OF THE GAME

One Comment

  1. TST says:

    I did enjoy the second half . In ‘Billy’ i trust ..3 games this week . Whoa

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