With his team taking a three-game losing skid into the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament this week, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan admitted Monday that he has seen some recent improvement when it comes to effort, intensity and passion but thinks his squad had plenty of room to grow going forward.
“There’s definitely more confidence,” Donovan said of the way Florida has performed since putting forth a lackluster effort on at Georgia, the first of UF’s three losses. “They’re more comfortable in terms of things that we’re trying to do. I still think we can get better at it. I think they’re getting a better understanding of what we’re trying to do.”
Though the Gators have struggled offensively, Donovan is most concerned with the team’s defensive efforts. If Florida can succeed on that end of the court, offense will not be an issue whether or not shots are going down.
“We have more of an awareness with Will [Yeguete] being out of what needs to be done, but I still think there are a lot of breakdowns in possessions that we just don’t have that margin for error,” he said. “If one guy forgets to block out, if a guy doesn’t rotate correctly and the floor is offset, we have difficulties at times rebounding the ball. […]
“I still think our team can get better, more or less. I don’t know if there’s been one theme. There have been some games where our energy level is not where I’ve wanted it to be. And then there have been some games where – two against Kentucky, Vanderbilt I thought we competed really hard and played well in the game – but I thought in crucial situations there was a couple of defensive rebounds that we needed to come down with that we just did not come down with. That’s that margin of error I’m talking about on the defensive end of the floor. We can’t have that. There’s got to be more discipline in that area of being able to do that.”
“The hard part is, sometimes when you’re in practice, we can’t simulate Festus Ezeli. We can’t simulate [Anthony] Davis, [Terrence] Jones and [Michael] Gilchrist,” he said. “We’re kind of going against ourselves and sometimes in practice we’re not necessarily getting a realistic look. At the same point, we can still be disciplined enough we’re blocking out and doing our job in that fashion.”
Donovan said the Gators had “some time to try and get better as a team” this week but admitted that “it’s always difficult [to prepare for an opponent] when you do have a bye and you’re not going to really know who you’re playing until a day before you’re actually playing the game.”
Nevertheless, he thinks the team has set itself up for success in at least one area – big-game experience. Donovan was “anxious to see” how Florida progressed in practice this week. Fans are equally as anxious to find out the type of effort and intensity the Gators will put forth on Friday at 3:30 p.m. against either Alabama or South Carolina.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Donovan on junior guard Kenny Boynton being late to a meeting and pulled from the starting lineup: “I have no issues on a daily basis with Kenny at all. He is a great kid. He comes to practice every day. He does work hard. He’s very coachable. Those guys know we’re supposed to be on time. A lot of times you have players that are younger that are looking at what’s tolerated and what’s not tolerated. [If] nothing’s done, ‘I guess it’s no big deal if I come 15 minutes late or 20 minutes late.’ It sets a bad precedent there. I don’t think it was anything done maliciously but there’s also that maturity thing I’m talking about. There’s different things where there has to be an awareness inside of our team. Somebody getting to where we need to be 10 minutes earlier, if they’re not there, a player runs and grabs them and makes sure he’s where he needs to be. […] I have to honestly say, this is the first time it’s happened all year long with Kenny. He’s never been late for anything. It was the first time. We’ll move on. He dealt with what he needed to deal with. He works hard here this week, he’ll be right back in the starting lineup.”
» Boynton said the meeting occurred in the middle of the week and was set for 9:15 a.m. he was about 10 minutes late. “I take full responsibility. I just kind of lost track of time. I was up and just lost track of time.” As far as if his relationship with Donovan was strained at all, Boynton added, “We’re good.”
» Boynton on if the team’s pride was hurt by the losses: “We’re playing for pride and respect. We let a few get away from us. As a team you should come out every game ready to play no matter who you’re playing. […] I don’t think we lost our pride. We probably lost a little respect from the fans and stuff, but I think we’re going to get it together. We’ve been on a three-game losing streak in my freshman year before, but I think we’re going to pick it up and get it together.”