Florida-Mississippi State preview: Donovan praises Gators short-rest success

By Adam Silverstein
January 28, 2014

Location: Humphrey Coliseum – Starkville, MS [Capacity: 15,383]
Date/Time: Thursday at 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN2 (Rece Davis, Bob Knight)
SiriusXM: 85 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Rick Ray
Record: 17-2 (6-0 SEC) Record: 13-6 (3-3 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -13.5 | O/U: 131.5


» Florida leads Mississippi State 60-49 in the all-time series with a 13-8 record under Donovan. However, the Bulldogs hold a 34-21 edge in Starkville with Donovan going 5-4 in nine road contests against MSU.
» UF has won three-straight games against Mississippi State, outscoring MSU by an average of 30 points in two meetings during the 2012-13 season.
» Florida is on an 11-game winning streak and has won 16 of its last 17 games.
» The Gators are 69-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» Florida is 8-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. UF is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» The Gators defeated top-15 teams in consecutive games for the fourth time in program history and first time ever in non-conference regular season play.
» Florida is 2-2 against ranked opponents this season with both losses coming in true road games and the victories occurring in a home contest and neutral-site game.
» The Gators are 4-2 in true road games this season.
» This is the second-straight Thursday-Saturday turnaround for Florida. UF’s senior class is now 11-1 overall in its last six Thursday-Saturday situations and has swept five-straight instances when playing two games in that three-day period.

No. 3 Florida Gators (17-2, 6-0 SEC) head coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Monday, three days before his team takes on the Mississippi State Bulldogs (13-6, 3-3 SEC) on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Starkville, MS.


Sophomore guard Michael Frazier II averaged 17.5 points, three rebounds and 2.5 assists in the last two games and was subsequently named SEC Player of the Week on Monday. He hit five threes on the road at Alabama and made a great impact against Tennessee both beyond the arc and in the lane.

“It’s a great honor, but it just shows that hard work pays off,” said Frazier. “[I have to] continue to strive to get better each and every day, continue to focus on the team.”

Frazier has been able to breathe a sigh of relief now that he is back in the swing of things after struggling mightily with his shot and overall game at Auburn.

“I have to do a better job of staying focused on the things I control in a game. I think I did a poor job of focusing on the game and the things I could affect. I was not effective on defense,” explained Frazier.

“But I took that as a learning lesson to stay focused on the things I can control. I can’t control whether the ball goes in or not. But we won. I was happy that we won. I didn’t play well, but I was happy we got the win. That’s the most important thing. My mindset is just to continue to get better. Work hard every day in practice and just try to move forward as a team.”


Florida swept its latest Thursday-Saturday turnaround, giving the Gators a 9-1 overall record in the last five such situations. Donovan on Monday discussed how he helps the team get prepared for the second game in such a short window of time.

“You’ve got to get to the meat and potatoes of what is really, really important and what we have to do to win the game. Maybe you’re not in as much detail as you are on the front end,” he explained.

“The Thursday game against Alabama, we had three days leading up to that to kind of go through things and really probably cover a lot more. … You’ve got to have a group of guys that if you can’t drill it as hard as you want to because time, fatigue doesn’t allow it. I think you’ve got to have a group of guys that can get through those things with an understanding of what they’re going to have to do and need to do with that situation.”


» Donovan on how senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin has been progressing: “In the beginning of the year, I thought he was really good in regards to his assists. I think he had a big offensive game against Florida State where he did a lot of scoring in that game. After that, he kind of got into trying to do too much and not utilizing some of the other personnel on the floor. I think he is back to doing that a little bit more.”

» Donovan on redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith stepping up his game as of late: “He’s a guy who has to do a better job moving from one play to the next. What I like about coaching him, he’s very accountable and very responsible and at times I think he’s almost too hard on himself. He screws up and makes a mistake or does something wrong, sometimes it has a tendency to stay with him and linger after the play has happened. It’s hurt our team, and it’s hurt him. … He probably assumes more responsibility than most. … But he does rebound the ball very well. He gives us a guy, skill-wise, who can put it down on the floor, shoot it from behind the line. Defensively, he can do some different things with him because he can guard multiple positions. But the best thing he’s done for us so far is rebound.”

» Donovan on how freshman PG Kasey Hill has performed in his first season: “Kasey’s played, I think, very, very well. I’m really pleased with him; he’s gotten better. He hasn’t shot the ball great, which is OK. Most freshmen are going to be up and down. But his assist-to-turnover ratio is good. He’s getting in the lane. I think he’s playing more aggressive. I think he’s playing with a little bit more intensity. He’s a little bit like Doe-Doe sometimes. When things don’t go well, he has a tendency to carry it to the next play. I think he’s moving out of that maturity-wise.”


» Donovan on Mississippi State’s core players being improved this season: “All those guys are better. There’s probably no other way to get better than getting the level of experience that those guys had a year ago. They’ve certainly played extremely well at home this year. I think, and I said this after last year, I think Rick’s got a really, really good nucleus of four or five guys. Roquez Johnson, younger guys that I think can really continue to grow and improve, and they have from last year to this year.”

» Donovan on the Bulldogs’ style of play and what the Gators can expect: “They’re very aggressive. Going to see some changing defenses, 1-3-1 zone, 2-3 [zone], switching man-to-man. They get out in the passing lanes and can deny, good speed and quickness, getting to the free throw line at home an enormous amount. … They’ve done a good job by getting into the lane and getting fouled. You know, defensively, like I said, they’re going to try to turn you over with some pressure. They’re a really, really good help defensive team. They rotate very, very well and they’ve got good speed and quickness out on the perimeter.”

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