No. 16 Florida Gators (8-2) head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Thursday, two days before his team takes on the Fresno State Bulldogs (4-5) at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL as part of the 2013 Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.
ON THE OFFENSIVE ABOUT DEFENSE
Suffice to say, Donovan is not pleased with Florida’s defense, and it his problems start with the Gators’ inability to effectively defend the three-point line. Through 10 games, UF has allowed 6.1 threes per game with teams shooting 34.9 percent from beyond the arc. In its recent three-game stretch against ranked opponents, Florida allowed teams to shoot 42.3 percent from downtown.
“Right now I think, when you look at us defensively, we’re not where we need to be or want to be. One of our challenges has been the three-point line in terms of the percentage,” he explained. “I don’t think teams here of late have made an enormous amount of three-point shots against us. But when you have teams going 7-for-14, 6-for-11, those things – that’s a problem, percentage-wise. For us, against the highest level of competition we’ve played against here so far, we’re giving up almost 40 percent from the three-point line. The overall stat sheet is a little bit deceiving, but we’ve got to do a better job there. This will be a test for us to get better because they’re going to test us from the three-point line pretty much every possession.”
Donovan was particularly disappointed by the Gators’ overall play against Memphis. UF’s assist-to-turnover ratio was abhorrent at 0.76 due to Florida coughing the ball up 17 times on the evening. The Gators are currently ranked 200th nationally in assists, averaging just 12.6 per contest.
“I didn’t think that we played to the level, to the standard that we want to play in. I’m hopeful that coming out of our game our guys can see… we got to get a lot, lot better,” he said. “I’m measuring that based on where I think we can be. … We played a really, really poor second half against Kansas; we did not pay well. I thought we were sporadic at best in the Memphis game.
“I don’t look at our team right now and sit there and say that we beat two ranked teams that we’re playing very good basketball right now. We’re not playing to the standard or level that I would expect our team to play at right now.”
He added: “There’s things to me that are disappointing because we’re dealing with older guys that know. That, to me, is a very, very fine line. You start to question as a coach, ‘How bad do you want to be great as a team?’ Because if you want to be great as a team, here are the things that need to get corrected.”
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG RESULTS
Over the last three games – all nationally televised against ranked opponents – senior center Patric Young has showed out. Though he has not yet picked up double-digit rebounds in a single game this season, Young hit season-highs of points (17) and boards (eight) during the three-game stretch against then-No. 12 UConn and No. 15 Memphis, respectively.
He is averaging 12.3 points and seven rebounds since Dec. 2, a contrast to the 9.3 points and five boards he picked up on average in the seven contests prior.
“I think Patirc’s getting better. I think that’s an area of focus for him right now, just coming with that energy and that consistency each and every game. He’s really done a good job,” Donovan said.
He scored eight points and picked up eight rebounds on Tuesday but spent a portion of the second half on the bench due to foul trouble.
“It was good to see him battle through that – where the ball wasn’t going into the basket on certain possession for him – but he still kept chasing balls,” Donovan added. “He was active on the glass. I thought he was very, very dominant. I thought he had really good energy. Even though he didn’t have a really big scoring night, he did a lot of things that impacted our team.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On senior forward Casey Prather, who has risen to the occasion this season and is being discussed nationally as college basketball’s most improved player: “Guys have a tendency to change and get better and improve. I would say it’s a little bit unusual to see the jump that he’s made from his junior to his senior year. … He’s really made a pretty good jump. But I think in fairness to him, Casey’s always been a pretty good teammate and a really unselfish guy. I think when you look at our team the last couple of years with [all the upperclassmen], he was really never in a position offensively to kind of flourish like that. Not to say those guys held him back, but it wasn’t really his role. And then I think injuries, a lot for his sophomore and junior year. … I’m happy for him because he’s worked hard and he’s a good kid and he’s unselfish and he’s playing well.”
» On whether freshman Kasey Hill’s high-ankle sprain is fully healed: “I still think he’s bothered. He tweaked the other ankle last week. He’s probably, on the high-ankle sprain, he’s probably 85-90 percent. I still think he’s hobbled some. I think he’s healed enough that he’s going to be explosive and fast in the open court. But I don’t know if he’s got that confidence level in his foot that he needs to get back to. How long that’s going to take, I don’t know, but that’s something that’s going to be a work in progress for him.”
» On taking the team to Ground Zero in New York: “I said to our guys, I said, ‘We’re going to go to Ground Zero. Do you guys want to do that?’ And one of the players asked me, ‘Is that the subway system in New York.’ When you’re talking about guys 8-9-10 years old that aren’t from New York – we got guys that have never been to New York in their lives. Now when you say ‘9/11’ and the ‘Twin Towers’ going down, they know that. But the reference term of ‘Ground Zero,’ they didn’t understand that term. Probably my fault for saying it the way I did. I think those guys understood what happened. They remembered what happened. For some of the guys that had never been to New York to be there. I think the snow and the fact that it was 30 degrees probably dampened them wanting to stay out there very long. But it was good for them to go out there and see things from a history standpoint, an educational standpoint of what happened to our country that day.”