The No. 11/12 Florida Gators earned two big wins last week and are looking to build on their resume with another two-games-in-three-days stretch this upcoming Thursday-Saturday. Head coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Monday to discuss his team is progressing approximately a third of the way into the 2012 SEC slate.
MURPHY MAKING MAJOR STRIDES IN HIS THIRD YEAR
Lost in junior guard Kenny Boynton’s sharpshooting, sophomore center Patric Young’s vast improvement and freshman G Bradley Beal’s emergence is the terrific play of junior forward Erik Murphy this season. Shooting a team-high 48.5 percent from beyond the arc while averaging double figures (10.6 points) and leading the Gators in blocked shots (1.3 per game), Murphy has stepped up his game and proved that he deserves his spot in the starting lineup.
“He definitely brings a different element because he’s got great size and can shoot the ball,” Donovan said Monday. “With the way big guys are going to have to rotate defensively, I think Erik, a lot of times, puts you in a little bit of a bind because of his ability to step away from the basket and shoot. I think he is one of the better three-point shooters on our team. He’s confident in that, and I’m confident in him shooting the ball. Like a Matt Bonner, maybe even a Greg Stolt years ago, those guys are able to present a different set of challenges for the defense.”
Asked to compare Murphy and Bonner, Donovan actually said the former “may be a better shooter” if you were to look at the level both were playing at during their junior years. “I’m not sure Bonner wants to hear that but that’s OK,” he joked.
Even though Donovan is beyond happy with Murphy’s play, he believes that his form could be improved – not that it is actually affecting his shot – as could his recognition.
“He tilts his head a little bit when he shoots, which I don’t necessarily like, but I think when you’re dealing with a guy like that who has shot the ball that way his whole entire life, the reason I think he is a good shooter is because of the way it comes out of his hands,” he said. “He’s got great follow through, he’s got great rotation, and he gets the ball into an area where there’s not a whole lot of movement. But if you watch him, he always tilts his head a little bit. Him doing that probably hasn’t disrupted his shot a whole lot, but he has great rotation and a great follow through.
“His biggest problem sometimes is when the ball finds him quickly. Sometimes he’s got to get himself ready to shoot and there’s times I thought he could have taken 3-4 more three-point shots in the first half that he passed up because he wasn’t ready to shoot.”
PITCHFORD OUT UP TO TWO WEEKS
Freshman F Walter Pitchford, who has barely played this season and was not expected to see minutes going forward, will not even be able to practice with the team for up to two weeks after spraining his right wrist in a scooter accident on Sunday. According to UF’s Chris Harry, Pitchford “tried to break on the bike and prevent hitting a vehicle in front of him” but instead “rolled the scooter sideways to the ground, injuring his wrist and scrap[ing] his arm badly hitting the pavement.”
Donovan said the loss of Pitchford is rough because it will halt his personal development for the time being; however, he is rarely used during the main portions of practice and should not help the team’s five-on-five scrimmages.
PLAYER EVALUATIONS / UPDATES
Donovan spoke at length about a number of Florida’s players Monday.
Young and his recent stint coming off the bench: “It’s helped our team. I think Patric’s come off the bench and he’s added a different element and a different boost to our team. It takes a pretty humble kid, as good as he is as a player, to do that, but I also feel like it’s my job and responsibility to make sure that in whatever role that he’s in, he’s a vital and important piece to our team and that we figure out how to best put him in the position where he feels like he can play his best. I don’t know if that’s coming off the bench or not. I just know that he’s been comfortable with it.”
Boynton and his low-scoring affair Saturday: “At the end of the day, I think it’s good for Kenny that happened because it at least demonstrates that we don’t need one person to score. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Kenny. I was really impressed with the way he played the game because he didn’t really force any shots, he didn’t try to create things that weren’t there. [...] Kenny knows he’s got freedom to be aggressive, to go out there and play, but I also think it was a great lesson for our team that on any given night, anything can happen.”
On senior point guard Erving Walker’s impact: “You always have to account for him on the floor because he’s a proven scorer in this league. You always have to account for him wherever he’s at on the floor because he has such deep range. Erving, as many times as he can eliminate those drives to the basket, leaving his feet and getting caught in no man’s land and making a crazy shot or a crazy pass that leads to a turnover or a bad shot. When he eliminates those things and gets in the lane and makes good decisions, it opens things up.”
On sophomore F Will Yeguete’s defensive skills: “Will has got a great base defensively. He has got great feet, and he’s got exceptionally long arms. I would say another thing with Will is he is not afraid of contact and he can physically put his body in place. [...] Once Will gets a guy in the area of the floor where it’s away from the basket, he’s good enough physically to take on contact and obviously he is really good with his hands in terms of slapping and deflecting balls. He’s a really good defender – as good of a post defender as I’ve had since we’ve been here. He takes great pride in taking in those challenges.” On how he’s improved from a year ago: “He was pretty raw. The things he did defensively were the same things he did a year ago. His biggest problem a year ago was that he led our team in turnovers per minute. It became very difficult to play him because when he touched the ball there was a good chance that he was going to turn it over. He’s gotten better with his decision-making. He’s gotten better with his passes, but he still has some lapses there.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On Florida’s improved assist-to-turnover ratio over the last five games: “It’s something we’ve always preached, something we’ve always talked about from day one. Even going back to preseason, I talked about Erving Walker and his role and what he needed to do. I do think when you have somewhat of a new team it does take time to learn each other and get better with each other. We’ve gotten better in that area – understanding what’s open and what’s available and how to utilize each other. That’s really important when you want to have a team that has balanced scoring. We do have several guys averaging double-figures, and I think that’s a product of guys understanding each other. Sometimes when you’ve got new guys it takes a little bit of time to get to that point but I think our backcourt guys and our perimeter and post players are doing a better job of making decisions. We’ve been unselfish. I never felt like our unselfishness was ever a problem. I thought at times our decision making was a problem and the last few games we’ve gotten better with our assist-to-turnover ratio. We’ve done a really good job there.”
» On the Gators stepping up defensively:
“They’re trying defensively. I was really pleased with them on such a quick turnaround, getting in late after the game on Thursday against Ole Miss and really having a couple hours to prepare and really not having much time at all on the day of the game because it was a 1:45 game.”
» On Florida’s turnovers previously being an issue in their losses: “I don’t think that you ever want to turn the ball over – that’s never good, and it’s not going to help you in any way. There’s a lot of ingredients that go into winning, too. Certainly turnovers are important, how well you shoot the ball, how well you defend, how well you rebound. But I think that when you do go on the road and turn the ball over a lot, that makes it that much more difficult to go on the road and win.”