Ball Movement Improves Florida Offense

Sitting in the film room weeks ago, the Florida players realized what the issue was on offense. There was no ball movement. Players got caught watching the person with the ball and not moving when they didn't have the ball. The team put an emphasis on ball movement and moving without the ball in practice, and the Gators have scored more than 70 points in three straight games.

"We just realized that we were making silly turnovers and not moving," senior forward Chandler Parsons said. "We were dropping the ball and making not so smart passes. It's little things like that we can control ourselves to get better."

Christmas break gave the team more practice time to improve. They were back in Gainesville on December 26 with a game scheduled for the next day with Fairfield. However, it was cancelled because snowstorms wouldn't allow Fairfield to get to Gainesville.

That gave Florida head coach Billy Donovan five days with his team. School wasn't in session and the players spent more hours than normal in the practice facility.

"Our shot distribution is better balanced," Donovan said. "Our guys are a little more patient. We have a better balance of inside and out than we've had in the last few months or so."

The improved ball movement has made the Gators more difficult to defend. With a 6-10 small forward capable of dribbling the ball in Parsons and a 6-8 power forward capable of taking defenders off the dribble in Alex Tyus, the Gators have too many playmakers to stand still on offense.

The ball movement was great in a 77-70 win over Ole Miss Saturday night. The Gators hit 28 shots from the field and racked up 22 assists.

"We're getting better and starting to utilize each other," Donovan said. "We're taking higher percentage shots. There's not question that with 22 assists and seven turnovers, that's how I'd like our teams to play. 20+ assists is a goal for us every game, and with the last couple of games, we're moving towards that."

The seven turnovers sounded like the aspect of the game Donovan was the most proud of. The Gators turned the ball over at high rates early in the season, even when teams didn't run a full court press. Ole Miss used some press, but the Gators still managed to turn the ball over only seven times.

"Coaches have emphasized all year long that when we have the ball in our hands, we need to make good decisions," Parsons said. "We want to keep getting those high assists numbers and low turnovers. I think we did a really good job at making better decisions."

The improvement on ball movement has also improved the shooting from the perimeter. The three-point shooters are getting better looks at the basket, which has helped Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton. Walker is shooting 44.9% from behind the three-point line, while Boynton is struggling to shoot 28.7%.

"We're going to keep taking good threes," Walker said. "If they go in, they go in. We aren't going to base our whole offense on threes because any given night they can go in or miss."

The outside shots are also made easier when Vernon Macklin has his offensive game going down low. The center is shooting 58.1% from the field this season, and his offensive game continues to improve.

The defense is forced to close down on Macklin to stop him, and when he does, the perimeter shots open up even more.

"That gets us open shots," Boynton said. "Us passing the ball down to Vern and when he's finishing down there, it opens up the outside for us."

The offensive improvements have come slowly, but the veteran players are just happy it has come as conference play is beginning.

"It's just as growing together and gelling," Parsons said. "We're starting to be unselfish. I want to see Kenny do good, and Kenny wants to see me do good. We have high goals as a team, and to be the best team we can, it comes down to getting the best shot we can."

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