Donovan Looking for Gators to Respond

Tuesday night's loss to Ohio State gave Florida a chance to learn. They outscored a top-five team in the first half, only to lose focus in the second half and see their lead turn into a blowout loss. It's now head coach Billy Donovan's turn to help his team turn the loss into a growing experience for the rest of the season.

"The season is about how you respond from game-to-game," Billy Donovan said. "Something is going to happen in the previous game, whether it is good or bad, and how do you handle it going forward? This is another test for our team."

The chance to respond comes Thursday night at 7 p.m. as the Gators host North Carolina A&T. The Bulldogs lost their season opener at Ohio State, 102-61, and were outrebounded by the Buckeyes 60-22.

The possibility for a letdown is there, but Donovan realizes that chance is there regardless of who wins and loses the big game. The raised emotion can always cause the team to be sluggish out of the gates.

"It's going to be one of two things," Donovan said. "If we would've won the game, you're worried about a letdown. If you lose the game, you're worried the guys may come out down and disappointed."

TYUS INJURY STATUS: The Gators didn't escape the Ohio State loss healthy, either. Alex Tyus suffered a minor concussion and is listed as doubtful Thursday night.

"I'm not sure what we're doing starting-wise," Donovan said. "We're probably looking at three options in (Erik) Murphy, (Will) Yeguette or Patric Young. I'll look more at A&T to see what the best lineup would be for us to start with."

Murphy registered eight points, four rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes on the court against Ohio State. His play has been improved this season, and it's because of his dedication in the offseason.

"He's really made a nice jump from freshman to sophomore year," Donovan said. "He spent a lot of time here this summer. He's getting tougher and more aggressive. It was good to see him rebound the way he did."

OHIO STATE REVIEW: After watching the film, Donovan came away impressed with the rebounding. The added size to this year's team will give them the ability to rebound the ball better than in past year. Against an Ohio State team that pulled down 30 offensive rebounds in their season opener, the Gators were able to outrebound them 28-20.

However, the breakdown came in the second half. Ohio State split Florida's press up the middle, leading to open three-pointers or easy dunks.

"When we don't get a steal or turnover in the press, we still have the ability to get back and play defense," Donovan said. "We had some poor rotations or the wrong guy rotated. We gave up easy layups and dunks. Those are things I've got to get fixed."

The press was set to trap the Ohio State ball handler when he got near the midcourt line. Instead of panicking, the Buckeyes sent a player to the top of the key, slightly behind the three-point line. Freshman point guard Aaron Craft threw over the trap to the open player, and Ohio State either threw down for an easy dunk by Jared Sullinger or kicked outside for an open 3-pointer.

After watching the film, Donovan wishes his players had been more aggressive in guarding the original pass from Craft. At the least, he wanted them to regroup better and set up the half court defense.

"When you press against good teams, they're not going to turn it over 25-30 times," Donovan said. "What you're doing is creating these scrambling situations where they have to regroup to run offense."

As the game started the get away from the Gators in the second half, guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker tried too hard to get the team back into the game. There were 11 Florida turnovers in the final 11 minutes of the game.

"In the first half, there was a high level of field goals attempted and made near the basket," Donovan said. "It was two different halves. We had control on the paint in the first half, and they did in the second half. We went (the last eleven minutes) where I don't know if we had a post feed or a post catch."

The biggest frustration for Donovan was watching Walker turn the ball over seven times, even when Ohio State didn't use a full court press at any point in the game.

"Our point guard is a junior and turns the ball over seven times," Donovan said. "As a veteran team, there's got to be more discipline and more of a responsibility to take care of the ball. That's the step this team has to take to be a really good team."

MACKLIN HEALTH STATUS: The Gators continue to be cautious with Vernon Macklin. He didn't practice on Wednesday, but Donovan expects him to play Thursday night.

"I think it's probably going to be a battle we're dealing with for a while," Donovan said. "I don't know if it'll be a whole year situation, but for the next couple weeks, we'll be trying to find ways to rest him and get him ready."
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