Frontcourt Gives Gators an Offensive Lift

After shooting 28% at Auburn on Thursday, the Gators knew they needed to change the focus on offense to create open shots. It wouldn't be easy against Arkansas forward Delvon Johnson, the top shot blocker in the SEC, but Florida needed to pound the ball into the paint to have success.

Florida center Vernon Macklin didn't waste time executing the game plan. He scored the Gators' first eight points and went 4-for-4 from the field in that time. Alex Tyus scored the next four points for Florida, and the big men scored the first 12 points.

Tyus and Macklin ended the game with 13 points each.

"Coach Donovan told us to throw the ball inside and we wanted to start inside-out," Macklin said. "The boys found me, and I had to deliver for those guys. I made good plays."

When the two big men started to show they could hit shots, Arkansas was forced to change their defense. The Razorbacks started the game playing man-to-man defense, which was questionable for many reasons. The Gators couldn't shoot the ball well against Auburn on Thursday because the Tigers played zone defense and packed it into the paint, making it tough for Florida to get the ball to the big men.

"Coach Donovan told us they'd probably play man-to-man because they played it 90% of the time in their last game," Macklin said. "They saw how we struggled with zone at Auburn, but we were prepared for both plans, and when they came out in man, it was good for us."

Arkansas' man-to-man defense allowed Florida to get the ball to Macklin and Tyus with no problems. Macklin went right at Johnson and wasn't afraid to play aggressive.

The Razorbacks made an adjustment after Macklin's first eight points to double team him, and Macklin was able to pass the ball outside to guards for open shots. The center struggled earlier in the year with passes outside, but he found open guards for jump shots on Saturday. This time, the guards made the shots.

Kenny Boynton hit three three-pointers in the first half to help Florida run away with the game.

"I knew that after I made a couple buckets, those guys would start doubling and I could give it up to my teammates," Macklin said. "As long as we can get the ball inside, we'll be fine with our outside shooting."

The scouting report from the Auburn game is one that could haunt the Gators in the future. It was a perfect storm scenario, but it's one they are preparing for more as the weeks go on.

"They just sat down on Vernon and those guys, and we just couldn't get anything to fall from the outside," Boynton said.

The game plan was no different than when the Gators played South Carolina. The only difference is that the big men didn't see their shots fall against the Gamecocks. Instead, Sam Muldrow dominated the low post and kept the Florida big men from having success.

Against Arkansas, the shots fell.

Macklin and Tyus now must learn to continue playing with aggressiveness when the shots aren't falling.

"One of the things that Alex and Vernon need to do is when they catch the ball and it doesn't go in on their first attempts, they (have to) continue to play," Donovan said. "It's easy to play when the ball is going in the basket. What about when the ball isn't going in the basket, can you still show up and play?"

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