Billy Donovan looked very frust4rated and looking for answers following the game with Kentucky on Saturday. Florida has spots in the game where they play superb basketball, but they had too many places where they appeared to not even be on the court.
“We didn’t start the game very well, I was disappointed the way we started both halves,” Donovan said in his short segment on the Gator Radio Network following the game. “We got a four point lead in the first half then didn’t box out on the free throw line. We go into the half with a tie score and then took a seven point lead. Then whatever it was in the last seven minutes we didn’t score. We turned the ball over four times.”
The Gators missed their last 11 shots from the field and quite frankly took too many ill-advised shots at the goal with the lead and as a pretty good free throw shooting team.
“We had three crucial plays that I thought were crucial in the game, Donovan said. “Patric got a jump hook which he left short, Patric missed a layup. Scottie had a runner in the lane that he missed and one play Murphy was wide open and just missed him. You don’t need to score every time, but you need to score some.”
Florida played pretty well defensively as Kentucky shot only 39.3% from the field for the game. They went 4-7 in the last seven minutes, but the Gators also forced five turnovers in the time frame.
“I thought our defense was good enough coming down the stretch, someone has to make a shot,” Donovan said. “You just can’t go seven minutes without scoring.
Florida began a nice turnaround in the first half when Florida forced Kentucky’s 7-foot center Willie Cauley-Stein into foul trouble with three and he had to hit the bench. In the second half Cauley-Stein got a relatively quick fourth foul, but the Gators and Florida center Patric Young couldn’t get the big man out of there and he was a real difference in the way Florida played offense on the night.
“We went inside to Patric a few times and he didn’t foul and he wasn’t going to foul, that’s why we tried to go inside to Patric,” Donovan said in their attempt to get Cauley-Stein out of the game.
The Gators offensive play was quite baffling down the stretch. Young missed a couple of layups and a short jumper he has been making, guard Scottie Wilbekin took sidewinding shots at the basket as he approached the goal. Junior Casey Prather looked aggressive and got himself into good position only to miss a couple of shots he would normally make as well. One play Donovan talked about was a sure two-point dunk by Casey Prather that was drawn up on the chalk board and the lack of proper execution cost the Gators.
“The thing that was frustrating to me... we came out of a time out and Scottie throws a left handed pass to Casey for a lob,” Donovan said. “It’s THE play. It was what was called, but you can’t throw a left handed pass there, you have to be more disciplined.
“We gave them points and gave them the ball back, whether it be on offensive rebounds, fouling them, or loose balls. Someone has to step up and make a play. Someone has to deliver. We didn’t get what we need to get on that.”
One highlight in the overall game was the play of senior forward Erik Murphy. The 6-10 Murphy has a great inside-out game and tallied a double-double on the day going for 17 points and 11 rebounds. Still, he struggled just like the rest at the opening tip.
“I was really annoyed at him to start the game,” Donovan said about Murphy. “The first possession of the game Poythress basically dislodges him out of the post and grabs an offensive rebound and lays it in. Then we come right down the floor and he makes a very soft and weak move and the ball gets blocked back into his face.
“After he sat down and listened to me for a few minutes he went out there and I thought he played a really good game.”
Murphy and Prather totaled 20 rebounds on the day, but outside of their efforts on the boards, the Gators struggled and lost the rebounding battle 40-34.
“We got outrebounded and need to get more rebounding from our front court,” Donovan said. “Casey and Erik did a really good job, but we have to get more.”
Donovan was quick not to use being flat excuse. After winning the SEC on Wednesday some might believe the Gators were just not ready to play the game. It shouldn’t matter according to Donovan.
“Wednesday night was a great night, but there are going to be times in the SEC tournament with an emotional win and you have to play through that,” he said. “I was discouraged with the way we started. Being down 11-2 and knowing Kentucky was going to come out and play with that energy and us not being ready. I must have not done a very good job of us preparing us to be ready. But to their credit we regrouped and went into the half tied.”