Battle 4 Atlantis Gameday: No. 18 Florida Gators vs. No. 5 UNC Tar Heels – Donovan talks offense

By Adam Silverstein
November 28, 2014

Location: Imperial Arena – Paradise Island, Bahamas [Capacity: 3,500]
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST

TV: AXS TV (Kenny Rice, Seth Davis, Tom Walsh)
Channels: AT&T U-verse (1106), Cox (199), DirecTV (340), Dish Network (167), Verizon FiOS (569) [Other: Channel Finder]
Streaming Video: None | Mobile Video: None

SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network Affiliates / Online

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

No. 18 FLORIDA GATORS No. 5 UNC TAR HEELS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Roy Williams
Record: 3-2 Record: 4-1
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast

Odds: Florida +5.5 | O/U 132


HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is 2-3 all-time against North Carolina; the teams first met in 1922 but have not played since the 2000 NCAA Tournament, when the Gators beat the Tar Heels 71-59 in the Final Four. UF and UNC last met in a regular-season contest during the 1965-66 season.
» Wednesday marked the second time in Donovan’s career that Florida played consecutive overtime contests. The last came in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
» The Gators have not deployed the same starting five in any of their five regular-season games thus far with eight different players getting starting nods. Only three players have started all five games.
» UF is 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.
» Florida learned to win close games last season, going 14-2 in contests decided by single digits; the Gators are 2-2 in such affairs this season.
» Last Monday, Miami snapped Florida’s program-record 33-game home winning streak, which dated back to Nov. 11, 2012, and was the second-longest in the nation. The Canes also broke the Gators’ school-record 25-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents, which dated back to Dec. 22, 2010.
» Florida is still on program-record 18-game winning streaks against SEC opponents overall (since Jan. 8, 2014) and at home (since Jan. 9, 2014). UF has also won a school-record nine-in-a-row over SEC opponents on the road (since Jan. 11, 2014).
» In addition to the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, the Gators will also participate in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge and Orange Bowl Basketball Classic this season.

OFFENSE A MAJOR ISSUE

There is no two ways about it, Florida’s offense is downright bad five games into the 2014-15 season. The Gators are tied for 255th nationally (out of 345 teams) averaging just 63.4 points per game and 259th in shooting (.401 on field goals). UF has not scored 70 in any contest – including two overtime games – and has shot worse than 36 percent from the floor in three-straight games.

Asked if too much is being made of Florida’s offensive struggles, Donovan scoffed at the notion that the Gators did not deserve their fair share of criticism.

“I think it’s a problem. And I don’t say that in a way that we can’t get better at it, but if we take the approach that, ‘Hey, everything’s going to be OK,’ that’s not the approach,” he began. “It’s a problem right now and part of the problem is the guys’ feel of playing the game and understanding strengths, talents, abilities, angles and things like that. … It’s a problem right now, it really is – using screens, execution, spacing.”

Florida’s had difficulties finding the open man, and the Gators are often failing to make the correct pass or anticipate how plays are developing. Donovan said there is a way to go for this Florida team both offensively and overall.

“These guys need to learn a lot. One of the things you want to see in an event like this on such a quick turnaround is, we had such an emotional loss yesterday, could we play better today? I think we improved in some areas. I think at times, offensively, we’re getting bogged down but at times we’re getting pretty good looks at the basket,” he said.

“We missed free throws. We still have not eclipsed the 70-point mark this year. We’ve got to understand how to manufacture points, and I think sometimes we sabotage ourselves with turnovers and those kinds of things. We had 13 assists only nine turnovers. I’d like to see a little bit more, but it’s hard to get a high number of assists when you shoot 34 percent. But I felt like the ball movement was better, and I felt like our spacing was better. …

“We got to learn how to make the game easier for each other. There’s a lot we can get better at right now. I know we’re a little bit shorthanded, we’ve been a little bit banged up, but it was good to grow and learn a little bit. Our schedule is difficult and challenging and we got a long way to go.”

The one bright spot for the Gators on Thursday was the way they closed the game. Instead of floundering and going on a scoreless drought, Florida excelled on both ends of the court, holding UAB without a field goal for nearly seven minutes while ending the contest with 11-straight points to notch a nine-point win.

“That was huge tonight for us. I think we took a step there in that area as a team just getting stops when we need to get stops. In the past, we’ve struggled with that,” said junior guard Michael Frazier II.

» Freshman point guard Chris Chiozza on his breakout game: “I just did what Coach Donovan told me to do before the game – just play my game, play defense and have a defensive mentality and anticipate on the defensive end.”

» Donovan on how sophomore forward Chris Walker played on Thursday: “I thought he was certainly amped up last night> he made some crazy plays. He was catching the ball in the mid-post and he was trying to… He just needs to play to his identity. He needs to screen and roll hard to the basket, he needs to get along the baseline for dump down passes and dunks. He got a couple of those tonight. He needs to chase balls on the backboard and really be aggressive up on the glass. Occasionally he’s going to get a post-up but that’s going to be the extent of his offense – and run hard and try to outrun some people down the court. I thought he actually gave us really good effort and minutes for the time he was in there tonight.”

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

» Active (1): Redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith (hand)
» Questionable (1): Redshirt junior guard Eli Carter (foot)
» Out (3): Redshirt junior forward Alex Murphy (transfer – fall semester), sophomore center John Egbunu (transfer – season), freshman guard Brandone Francis (academics – season)

» Donovan on Carter not playing in Thursday night’s game: “He wanted to try. He was very, very sore at shootaround, so we held him out of shootaround. He got some treatment after shootaround. He wanted to try to give it a go in warmups. But he just wasn’t moving well enough, so the trainer decided to hold him out.” It is undecided whether Carter will play Friday, but he is cleared.

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