Exhausting Pace Benefits Florida

The pace Florida sustained Friday night is nauseating for opponents. It has guards sprinting up the court with the ball and big men in a race down the floor on offense to get position. It's a quick-strike offense centered on ball movement and unselfishness. The guards are exhausted at the end of a game, but the depth allows it to work. It's exactly the way Billy Donovan wants his team to play.

"I thought this game was the best game we've played in terms of how I envision our team playing offensively and defensively," head coach Billy Donovan said after a 107-62 win over Jacksonville. "We played the right way tonight."

Florida scored 14 fast break points, but even when that offense wasn't producing layups or dunks, the ball movement and quickness of the Florida guards forced Jacksonville to play cautious. If they overplayed and went for a steal, it would leave one of the guards wide open for a three-pointer.

That's where the Gators have thrived on offense this season. They knocked down 11 three-pointers on Friday and have hit at least ten three-pointers in all five games this season. Florida only did that in two games last season.

It's rare to see Erving Walker or Kenny Boynton walk the ball up the court. At minimum, it's a jog. It might not pay off in the first half, but when it's time for the Gators to deliver the knockout blow in the second half, the up-tempo offense usually takes enough out of the opponent to help Florida deliver.

"We definitely felt like they gave up tonight, and that's our goal," said Boynton, after scoring 22 points on 4-for-7 shooting from behind the arc. "Once we feel like a team gave up, we want to keep pushing and try to kill them."

The conditioning benefit is a key component for why the offense works. With a guard-heavy team, the Gators knew this offense would be their strong suit this season. Their conditioning level helps them to run by opponents in the second half.

It's also helped by depth. The four-guard lineup of Boynton, Walker, Brad Beal and Mike Rosario creates enough problems on its own, but Scottie Wilbekin provides even more depth off the bench.

"That's how we practice every day," Walker said of the quick pace. "We've got the guards that love to get up and run, and even Pat is a good runner. That's our style of play."

Even the big men love it. Patric Young, playing with glasses on to protect his eye that was poked on Monday against Wright State, got up the floor to clean up around the glass. His second-half dunk off a fast break alley-oop from Boynton sent the O'Connell Center into a celebration.

If the pace will continue, the Gators have to continue taking care of the basketball. They turned the ball over just seven times on Friday despite sprinting up and down the court at will.

"We did a really good job taking care of the ball, and that's the key that coach is emphasizing," Young said after Florida secured its third of four wins by at least 40 points. "Just because we're going so fast doesn't mean we have to take a quick shot. We want to make teams have to play defense against us. We did a really good job of that tonight."

MURPHY INJURED: Florida junior forward Erik Murphy injured his right knee and was held out of Friday night's game. The mystery comes in figuring out when the injury occurred. Murphy practiced completely on Thursday and didn't experience any pain.

The team ate Thanksgiving dinner at Donovan's house Thursday night, and that's when the knee started to act up. Donovan said their ability to get an x-ray was limited because of it being Thanksgiving, but Murphy went to the hospital to get it checked out Friday morning. Donovan did remember a play in practice where Murphy banged knees with a teammate, but it didn't limit him.

"We don't know what the prognosis is right now," said Donovan, noting that he would know more information late Saturday. "Our trainer has ruled out an ACL. We don't think it's that or a season-ending injury. We don't think that. What actually is the problem in his knee, we'll hopefully find out tomorrow."

Murphy sat on the bench with the team but hobbled out on crutches from the locker room. Murphy wasn't putting much weight on his right leg.


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