Basketball Notebook: Free Throws an Issue

With talented shooters on the floor for the Gators, the free throw shooting struggles have Billy Donovan frustrated. Florida left eight points from missed free throws on the board in a seven-point loss at Ohio State, and the issues haven't been better in the other two games. Scoring shouldn't be an issue for Florida but giving up points could hurt the Gators when the competition improves.

"It's bothersome and irritates me because we have a good shooting team," Billy Donovan said after Florida's 91-55 win over North Florida. "I see more of a mechanical problem right now because I don't think our guys are using their legs like they need to. A lot of our free throws are short. We've spent some time shooting it, but there has to be more focus and discipline there.

The numbers from the line aren't pretty. Florida is 37-for-65 (56.9%) on free throws this year, the 11th best of any team in the SEC. Even in blowout wins, it has been an issue. The Gators opened the season with 40-point win over Jackson State but went 8-for-15 from the free throw line.

In Thursday's 36-point win over North Florida, Florida was 16-for-29 from the free throw line.

"Of course it worries us," Florida guard Mike Rosario said. "We'll be put in close situations and close games, and you have to be able to make free throws. That's something we're going to start doing every day now."

Donovan said after Tuesday's loss at Ohio State that the free throw shooting was his fault because the team didn't put enough work in to fix it during practice. Florida was held in Columbus overnight Tuesday because of weather and only got one practice back in Gainesville on Wednesday afternoon.

Donovan thinking players weren't using their legs enough while shooting, the quick turnaround didn't help. It's something they will spend time working on in practice before Monday's game against Wright State in Tampa, but there's only so much pressure that can be created in practice.

"I always think your free throw percentage in practice is going to be a lot higher because it's a different setting," Donovan said. "We try to create some pressure situations, but we have to invest some time there."

ROSARIO MUST IMPROVE DEFENSE: Mike Rosario's reputation as a scorer has held up in just three games at Florida. He was the second player in Rutgers history to break the 1,000-point plateau in his first two seasons.

Coming off the bench for the Gators, he has provided instant scoring. Rosario is averaging 13 points per game despite playing just an average of 19 minutes in each. Of the 39 points he has scored in three games, 30 of them have come on three-point shots.

"No matter what is going on in his game, when he's open and his feet are set, he's going to knock down a shot," Florida guard Kenny Boynton said about Rosario. "He's a great shooter and is always consistent."

The Gators saw in practice last season, as Rosario was forced to sit out because he transferred, that he was able to score. The issues come on the defensive end. His minutes have been limited because Donovan hasn't seen the devotion to defense that is necessary.

"The thing he has to get better at is he isn't defending like he needs to defend," Donovan said. "He was in the wrong spots in the press. It's different for him and moving a lot faster.

"He needs to be a much more consistent defender, and he's capable, but he has to be much more committed to it. He has had to do those things in the past. It's a matter of him getting himself recommitted to those things."

WALKER JUMPSTARTED IN SECOND HALF: After the first half against North Florida, Erving Walker was 2-for-12 with six points and five turnovers in the three previous halves of basketball.

Donovan challenged him at halftime Thursday. He was seeing Walker play with a sense of self-pity, wondering why the start of his senior year wasn't going better.

"When it's not going well, there's this ‘why me?' Erving Walker's entire life he has been a fighter," Donovan said. "I don't think that because he's a senior that he can stop fighting."

In the second half against North Florida, Walker scored 15 points while going 4-for-6 from the field while adding four assists and one turnover. He ran the offense smoother and looked more comfortable on the court.

"He competed and went back to having that fight in him," Donovan said. "We need him to have that fight because it impacts the rest of our team."

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