head coach was noticeably irritated with his team on Thursday before practice. The Gators have played four ranked teams this year -- tied with Oakland for the most in the country -- and just completed an exciting 77-75 win over Memphis
, but the head coach wasn't kind about the way his team played.
"I was disappointed with the way we played against Memphis," Billy Donovan said. "I didn't think we played to the level or standard that we want to play in. We played a really, really poor second half against Kansas. I thought we were sporadic at best in the Memphis game."
The inconsistency was the most frustrating part for Donovan. The Gators sprinted out to a 10-point lead less than eight minutes into the game on Tuesday. For the final 32 minutes, the inconsistency started to show. Florida made it to halftime with a three-point lead despite foul trouble, but once everyone was back on the court for the second half, Memphis started it on a 6-2 run.
Those are the problems Donovan sees. After struggling in the second half and allowing Kansas to get back in the game, the inconsistency shown by the tape frustrated him. It's even more frustrated because of the experience. Florida starts four seniors that have been around the program and in Donovan's system for four years now. He holds them to a high standard because of that experience.
"We aren't defending to the level that we want to defend at right now," Donovan said.
Memphis shot 47.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from the three-point line, two numbers that stood out in Donovan's mind. He spoke with a disgusted look on his face, running through his mind the "way, way too many breakdowns defensively."
Donovan wanted to lean on his veteran team to be smart with the ball, pointing out multiple times before the gave that Memphis was deadly in transition and got plenty of points on fastbreaks. Instead, Florida turned the ball over 17 times and only had 13 assists.
Wilbekin and Young anchor the defense
Memphis guard Joe Jackson
looked unstoppable at times while posting 17 points. The Gators tried to put Scottie Wilbekin
, who Donovan called "as good as there is as a defender on the perimeter in the country," on Jackson.
"It looked like Scottie couldn't guard the guy, but we had guys all spread all over the floor that need to be in better position to help," Donovan said. "Those are things to me that are disappointing because we're dealing with older guys that know. You start to question as a coach, ‘how bad do you want to be great as a team? Because if you want to be great as a team, here are the things that need to get corrected.'
"It's not like we're dealing with Chris Walker where we're starting from ground zero and we've got to all of a sudden build this hope. These guys already know."
Mixed in Donovan's frustration was a sense of confusion. Wilbekin's strength as a perimeter defender is well known throughout the country, and Donovan even called center Patric Young "maybe the best defensive frontcourt player in the country." Those two anchor the Florida defense, making Donovan expect the other players on the court around them to step up, singling out Dorian Finney-Smith, Michael Frazier, Kasey Hill and Casey Prather.
The energy needs to improve, too.
Donovan said the Gators have recovered only 53 percent of the 50-50 balls this season, a statistic that he called "not good enough."
"I think what happens is people look at the end result of winning games against ranked teams and they don't look at what's going on possession by possession and how we're playing," Donovan said. "I don't think that we've played to that standard that we expect these guys to be able to play to. The result is the result. But I think sometimes you get caught up in the results and you don't really identify inside the process. And the fact of the matter is guys aren't doing their jobs.
The Gators just completed their first stretch under Billy Donovan with back-to-back wins over top 15 teams in non-conference play, earning victories over national basketball powers Kansas and Memphis. Florida fought through injuries, suspensions and academic issues to strengthen its resume with impressive wins, but you wouldn't know it by listening to Donovan.