With the No. 8/9 Florida Gators set to play two games before the week is up including a neutral site contest against Kansas State on Saturday, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Tuesday to discuss his team’s collapse on the road against Arizona and how it has been playing so far this season.
PLAYING 38 OF 40 MINUTES
For the vast majority of the first and second half, Florida had Arizona firmly in its grasp. Unfortunately for the Gators, the Wildcats put together an 8-0 run to end of the first half and a 7-0 run to end the game, dominating the final minute or so of each period.
The game-ending run was especially frustrating for Donovan, who after watching film was able to determine that Florida had opportunities to get out of there with a win.
“In both [inbound] situations, both guys were open and we should have executed the pass, should have executed the catch. We didn’t. The third one was when the ball came in bounds, obviously we got it in bounds and Kenny [Boynton] got it. [There was] probably the anticipation that they’re going to foul, waiting to get fouled. He got stripped from behind; the ball got deflected from behind,” he said.
Though the turnovers were frustrating, how the Gators played defense bothered Donovan even more.
“In all those situations, the one thing that gets lost is we still had a chance to play defense. On two of the plays, our defense could have been set to get a stop, and we didn’t get a stop. The last one was Kenny got fouled up the sideline and obviously missed the front end of a one-and-one. We did not execute at the end when they scored,” he said.
“Where was our defense? We’re supposed to be this great defensive team, supposed to make these great strides. … Even though we didn’t handle the ball particularly well, there are other things we didn’t do well in that segment either. We didn’t take the ball out of bounds correctly.”
Donovan said Florida displayed a carelessness at the end of the game, expecting Arizona to simply foul and force UF to make free throws. What the Gators should have realized is that the Wildcats would be pressing them until the ball was moved past half court, at which point the fouling would have commenced.
He was also disappointed with the last offensive play of the game, noting that the team needed to push the ball immediately after the made basket, like Florida did in 2010 against South Carolina when Chandler Parsons drained a buzzer-beater for the win.
In the end, Donovan said he is fine with what happened as long as the team learns and grows from its mistakes. Otherwise, it is a completely wasted opportunity. “If in some way we really learn from this, it will be very beneficial going forward. If we don’t, then we didn’t learn and we had to swallow a tough loss,” he said.
Read the rest of this post…after the break!
ONCE AGAIN, GATORS MISSING A PIECE
Fans may have noticed that freshman G Michael Frazier played three minutes in the first half and did not get a chance to return to the court, leaving the Gators with a seven-man rotation over the course of the game. Donovan explained Tuesday that Frazier had the flu and was almost did not travel out to Tucson, AZ for the game.
“He missed practice on Friday. We actually thought he may have had strep throat, weren’t sure if he was going to make the trip. He had a pretty significant fever,” he said.
Donovan did not think Frazier looked great in his three minutes on the court. Because Frazier appeared to be drained and had not practiced at the end of the week, Donovan felt it would be best to sit him for the duration of the contest. He does, however, hope to utilize him more as the season goes along because he feels that he joined the program both mentally and physically ready to compete as a freshman.
“He provides a skill for us. He can really shoot the basketball. The thing that’s good for us with him on the floor is a lot of times he’s the fourth or fifth guy you’re concerned about,” Donovan said. “Because of the guys he’s on the floor with, inevitably he gets left open and he can do what he does really well and that’s shoot the ball. That gives us an opportunity to space the floor with him because he’s an offensive threat.”
FAN SUPPORT AND LACKLUSTER ATTENDANCE
Donovan was asked Tuesday if he had any thoughts about fan support or seeing lackluster attendance so far this season.
“I never really get involved in that stuff at all. Here’s my thing. I think the two most important commodities people have in their life is their time and their money. For anybody to determine what somebody should do with their time and their money, to me, would be a great injustice. In today’s economic times, what it costs to go to events or movies or buy gas or groceries or things like that. I never worry about that stuff. That’s each individual person’s own decision of what they want to do with their time and with their money. For me to sit there and say they should be at Florida basketball games or should be doing this, I just think that’s totally wrong. I wouldn’t want somebody to tell me what to do with my time or my money. I want to do what I want to do with it. I think that’s a choice. A lot of time as a coach, you can really lose track and focus on things that you have no control over. I don’t have control over any of that stuff. The only thing I got control over is what we do in practice, how we prepare for games. I’m not out there selling popcorn; I’m not out there parking cars. I got enough to worry about. We got to go out and play.”
He also spoke about whether he believes that having an arena that is not packed every single game affects recruiting against some major programs in college basketball.
“We play in a pretty good environment here. I don’t think there’s any question about that. Kids ultimately make a lot of decisions on style of play, relationship with the head coach, those kind of things, opportunity to grow, develop, get better, have a chance to play in the NBA. Any person – player, coach or anything else – would love to see sell out after sell out after sell out. I don’t have any control over that, so I don’t focus on that.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On if he plans to lighten the load at all for Boynton in terms of playing point guard: “I do think those guys need to share time at the point. I don’t think there’s any question. … With Scottie [Wilbekin] off the ball, it’s kind of helped us a lot of times, especially when we have three guards out there because Mike [Rosario]’s a pretty good ball handler and passer and so is Scottie and so is Kenny.”
» On junior guard/forward Casey Prather and playing him more as the season goes on: “His conditioning is better, but I still feel like his timing is a little bit off in terms of passing. He had made some pretty good strides there. He had a couple passes in the game that were kind of unfortunate turnovers for him. We need to utilize him a little bit more, and I probably need to get him back in the flow a little bit more. It’s been a little bit difficult. He’s still practicing with the helmet on and all those kind of things. He’s practicing hard. He’s in better shape. I still think that he can really be an X-factor and a major contributor to our team.”