With No. 12 Florida Gators basketball set to host the Arizona Wildcats on Wednesday, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Monday to discuss what preparations have been made for his team’s next game.
MURPHY READY TO RETURN
After missing three games due to a bruise in his knee, junior forward Erik Murphy will return to the court on Wednesday against Arizona. “He’s going to play. Right now he’s been cleared. He worked out yesterday on his own; he did some running. He’ll probably go through about half the contact right now,” Donovan said. “Provided the next two days go as planned with him physically, he should be able to play. He feels good right now. We’ll have him out there today, and I would anticipate right now the expectation level is that he’s going to play in the game.”
Though he may be able to play, it is unknown whether or not Murphy will get the start. Donovan could decide to use him sparingly if he’s not 100 percent. Either way, he was cautious to say that things would have gone differently on Friday if Murphy had been available to play at Syracuse.
“There was a lot of talk that he would have helped us against Syracuse in the zone because he’s a guy who can step out and shoot. I don’t know if he would have or would not have. Who knows? He didn’t play in the game. He could have been in the game and played great or been in the game and played not well. We went into the game with what we had,” he said.
“There’s no question that Erik is a big part of our team. He’s a different kind of player because he does shoot the basketball and he does give us some length and he allows us to play a little bit of a bigger lineup…but when a guy is injured you kind of got to go with what you’ve got. That’s what we had at that point in time. He just wasn’t available to play. There’s no question that, when you have a player like Erik available, it does add a different dimension to our team. That’s not to sit there and say we would have beat Syracuse with him. He would have had to gone out there and performed and played well and given us something a little bit differently than what we had in the game.”
ROSARIO MUST GET HIS HEAD IN THE GAME
Donovan benched redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario on Friday after the Gators’ sixth man saw just six minutes of court time. He said following the game that the decision was based solely on Rosario’s recent mindset and his displeasure with how he was approaching playing. Donovan expanded on those thoughts in a big way on Monday:
“He’s fine. One of the things with him right now is mentally I just feel like he’s trying to figure out – and this is all different for him. He was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school. He has pretty much always been a starter. And it’s not even necessarily about starting or not starting. That’s not the problem. The bigger challenge for him is coming off the bench and that being somewhat new to him. He’s fine knowing whatever is best for our team; he understands. I think it has been somewhat of a mental drain on him a little bit trying to figure out how he can carve his niche in something he’s never done before. It’s my responsibility to try and help him through some of that.
“Clearly I don’t think the last couple of days he’s been himself because he’s probably been a little frustrated not with his role but with himself that he can’t provide more than he can. He feels like he can and knows he can, and I believe like he can too. Just mentally he did not seem like he was where he needed to be in the first half when we threw him in there. [...]
“He and I had a chance to talk. I would imagine that he’s in a better place mentally right now than probably he was back then. When you sit out for a while year, you want to come in and find a way to help – whatever way you can do. I think he’s trying to figure out how he can go about helping. His way of helping teams in a lot of ways has just been through his scoring all the time. There’s more things that he can do to help our team, that he needs to do to help our team. He needs to get more committed on defense. He needs to get more committed to doing the little things. He’s already a proven scorer. We’re not lacking for scoring. We’re not lacking for that. So even if he’s not on the floor, there’s going to be enough guys that can make some shots and there’s different things that we can do.
“He does add a different element to our team. When he does get in the game, his difficult is when he’s out there, he’s got to get going right away. It’s not like we have 5-7 minutes in the game to let him warm up and get loose and go at his pace. He needs to go. He needs to be aggressive. He needs to be on edge. He needs to be focused, and he needs to defend at the level he needs to. For him, he’s always been a guy that’s been out there and has been able to play through different things. That’s not the case right now. He’s not able to do that. He’s got to be able to come in there and make an impact.
“For him, a lot of people have defined the role as instant offense off the bench. I’m not worried about his scoring. He’s proven that he can score. We need other things out of him. One game this year he grabbed seven rebounds. He’s done some really good things, and he’s shown the ability to make shots, but he’s also got to make a commitment defensively where when he’s on the floor we’re not playing with a weak link out there defensively. For him, trying to figure that out has been something that he’s struggling with right now that I need to help him with.”
BEAL’s BUMPY ROAD WILL SMOOTH OUT
As a freshman on a team with a good amount of experience in the backcourt, guard Bradley Beal has looked out of sorts at times, especially when it comes to shooting consistently and taking care of the ball. Donovan is not worried one bit about Beal’s early struggles because he knows that his talent will make up for the time it is taking him to adjust sooner than later.
“He’s a freshman. It’s no different than what Kenny Boynton went through as a freshman, or Chandler Parsons or Lee Humphrey. Lee Humphrey proved to be one of the best three-point shooters to ever play here,” he said.
“When the speed of the game is totally different than it was in high school, there’s always a learning curve that you’ve got to go through. Part of the reason that he’s been able to stay on the floor as long as he has is that he is defending and he is rebounding. He rebounds the ball – that was one of my concerns when we lost Chandler. With our guards, what kind of rebounding will we get from the small forward spot? He’s really done a great job there. I’m not worried about his shooting because he is a great shooter. He needs for me to give him confidence continually to take good shots, and he does take good shots. Those things will start falling as the season unfolds, we play more games, and he gets more comfortable to the speed and athleticism and length of the college game coming from high school.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan on dropping the game to Syracuse: “There’s a commitment that goes into doing the things that you got to do in a game to win. We knew going into the game our ability to rebound the ball was going to be critical. Our ability to guard them off the dribble, which I think we did a fairly decent job in, and then obviously the turnovers. We had some plays there where some of the turnovers were not as costly because they were dead ball turnovers and we were able to get back in transition and set our defense. There were a couple late there that certainly hurt us. [...] It will help us going forward. Just a commitment and understanding not only at the game but in practice of what you got to do to put yourself in a position to win a game like that.”
» Donovan on Florida playing good man-to-man defense: “They’re extremely explosive, long and athletic in transition. We did a fairly decent job – when we didn’t turn the ball over – getting pretty good shots. We shot a decent percentage on the road in a tough place to shoot. That enabled us to keep them out of transition. They were averaging 30 points a game in transition, and I think they had 15-16 in our game, which playing against them is hard to do. [...] Defensively we were pretty locked in with what we needed to do to defend them.”
» Donovan on playing tough road opponents: “Our guys understand that playing the second game of the year at Ohio State, going to Syracuse, I’m not sure how many teams would be favored going into both of those teams’ gyms. We got a chance to play against two of the better teams in the country on the road. You got to put yourself in a position where you don’t beat yourself so to speak. In both of those games – in particularly Ohio State – they did a great job but we made some decisions offensively that really hurt us. We went for long stretches without scoring and that shouldn’t be the case. Offensively we did a better job being patient [against Syracuse] and we rebounded the ball fairly well. Syracuse will be as big as long and as athletic a team as we’ll face this year.”
» Donovan on Arizona being a similar team to UF: “There’s a lot of similarities in a lot of aspects of the way we’re playing because there’s time that we’re small like they’re small. [...] They have the ability to totally alter the look of their team. They can go pretty big or they can go very small. They have shown the ability to play small and go on great runs in big spurts.”
» Sophomore F Will Yeguete on learning to rebound: “I had to work on it a little bit, position-wise, my feet, going for the ball. I got better and that’s one thing I can bring every game and I can control.”
» Yeguete on Rosario: “We know what Mike’s capable of. We know how good Mike can be and how much he can help us. He’s showed to all of the fans that he can be really good. He just had one bad game and was a little bit down on himself.”
» Senior point guard Erving Walker on the Gators turning the ball over a lot versus good opponents: “Now we’ve played two really good teams. We got our feet wet with them. It’s a totally different level of competition playing against an Ohio State or Syracuse on the road than Stetson – no disrespect o teams like that. It’s just a different atmosphere and things that we can adjust to well.”
» Walker on getting Murphy back: “It’s a huge boost – another guy that can knock down shots, big man presence, and he can help with rebounds and stuff like that.”
» Walker on Rosario: “Mike is a tough kid. He’s confident and tough. It was just a few things going on with him. I’m sure he’ll be fine and ready to play. He’s working hard at it. It’s not a switch that’s going to happen overnight for him. Mike’s a tough kid and he’s smart. He’s going to figure it out.”