No. 14/16 Florida Gators basketball (4-1), still short-handed due to injuries and suspensions, beat the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (4-1) on Thursday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. After the 79-59 victory, Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to offer up some of his thoughts.
NO POINT GUARD? NO PROBLEM (IN THE SECOND HALF).
It took a while for Florida to get going on Thursday, playing without a true floor general, but the Gators rolled in the second half and wound up taking down the Blue Raiders by 20. Unfortunately, the first 20 minutes included some ugly basketball – and plenty of fouls (see “Notes & Quotes”).
“I think we had four assists in the first half. Two assists in the first half?! Yeah, two. It was ridiculous. I think I made that comment there. Then we ended up having eight in the second half,” Donovan said. “We were just stagnant. It was painful to watch just calling it like it was. It was painful. But I thought we flowed much better in the second half and we shot a much better percentage.”
Florida ran its offense through a number of players, but it looked the best when redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith led the charge. Out of the eight players that found the bottom of the net on Thursday, six scored in double digits; the only two that failed to do so were UF’s walk-ons.
“That’s great basketball, everybody eating bread. That’s what I call it. Everybody’s getting points, everybody’s having fun, everybody’s doing well, so I love it,” said sophomore F DeVon Walker, who when pressed what kind of bread the team was eating, confidently added, “honey wheat.”
But ball movement was not the primary reason the Gators were so successful. Florida played top-notch defense throughout the contest and forced 16 turnovers in the game, scoring five points off those miscues.
“With a limited bench and no point guard, playing against a good team, I thought our defense was constant the whole entire game and I thought our offense was really good without a point guard in the second half. And I thought we were very well-balanced,” Donovan said.
“I thought for the most part our defense was good. It was good. As disappointed as I was in the North Florida game, coming out of that game – our opener, our first game – I think I made the comment we were ‘light years away from where we were [last year]’. We’re at least moving in a positive direction defensively.
“I think for 40 minutes, the best defense we’ve played for 40 minutes this year, especially with limited numbers. We didn’t have a lot of subs. I thought we were really committed to that end of the floor. I thought we were engaged. I thought we were disruptive. … Coming out of the North Florida game, I’ve seen some growth by our team over the last couple weeks, which has been encouraging. We need to keep moving in that direction.”
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