Gators Focused to Slow Craft

On both ends of the floor, Jared Sullinger is the focal point for Ohio State. The Gators know he will get his points on Tuesday night, but it's point guard Aaron Craft that runs the show. His quickness with the ball created matchup issues for Florida's press in the game last season. Film study and preparation has the Gators believing they can attack him in a different way this year.

"There are also other guys on their team (besides Jared Sullinger) that are good players, too," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said before Florida practiced on Monday. "That's what makes them a team that's ranked so high and a preseason favorite just because they have so many guys."

The guard play is what makes Sullinger tough to stop. Sophomore Aaron Craft, who Donovan believes is one of the best point guards in the country, served as a difference maker in last year's game. Despite coming off the bench, Craft showed poise in his second career game to help him beat the Florida full court press.

This year, the Florida defense is quicker. The additions of freshman Brad Beal and Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario have helped the Gators in the backcourt, and Donovan has added depth to help the press Tuesday night.

With Craft's success against the press last year, Florida has been watching film to figure out what happened.

"I think we kind of helped him out," Florida guard Kenny Boynton said. "We ran and jumped at him last year, and he would just make the next play."

That next play usually involved a pass past midcourt to William Buford, who led multiple two-on-one fast breaks with Sullinger during last year's game.

The solution this year is for the Florida players to keep their feet. Instead of sprinting at Craft and letting him blow by them, the Gators know they have to stay on the ground and not attack him unless the perfect opportunity presents itself.

"In the press, don't run up at him," Boynton said about fixing the press against Craft this year. "We'll try not to speed him up because he's a smart player. It's going to be hard to turn him over."

The Buckeyes did lose some key pieces from last year's team. David Lighty had 26 points in last season's matchup, while Jon Diebler poured in 14, including four three-pointers. Dallas Lauderdale provided a big body alongside Sullinger last season. All three of those starters have graduated.

The Gators are hoping the insertion of three sophomores into the starting lineup will help the press be more effective. Florida has combined to force 47 turnovers in its exhibition and regular season opener, while Ohio State has turned the ball over 27 times this season.

"They don't have the same leadership is Diebler and Lighty like they did last year, but they're still a really good team," Florida center Patric Young said. "We feel like we have the ability to disrupt their guys because their chemistry isn't as good as it was last year because of the leadership they had last year."

There's no doubt in the Florida players minds that while it's Sullinger who gets the headlines, Craft sets up the offense and runs the show.

"He probably doesn't get enough recognition for his quickness," Donovan said. "He's a tough kid and another guy I enjoy watching play. The thing that people don't talk about is that he was on the All-Defense team in the Big Ten. He's a great defender and great with his hands to come up with a lot of steals."


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