Gators Trying to Refocus on Defense

The quick turnaround will be tougher than normal for Florida (16-4, 4-1 SEC). The Gators landed back in Gainesville at 1:15 Friday morning with just one day to prepare for Mississippi State (17-4, 4-2 SEC). Florida will host a talented Bulldogs team that can score in multiple ways. Head coach Billy Donovan is hoping for a defensive effort like the Gators showed during the second half at Ole Miss.

Mississippi State boasts four starters in double figures, led by forward Arnett Moultrie. The junior is averaging 17.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game and coming off a 28-point, 12-rebound performance in a win over LSU on Wednesday.

Florida could use a healthy Patric Young to guard him, but Donovan doesn't think it'll be that simple.

"It can't turn into this guy has this guy and that guy has that guy to play a one-on-one game," said Donovan, whose Gators host the Bulldogs Saturday at 1:30 p.m. "We have to be able to provide help and play collectively as a group to try to contain the ball if it's on the perimeter or low post."

The depth of the scoring is what Donovan is trying to prepare for the hardest. Redardo Sidney averages 10.1 points while Preseason First Team All-SEC guard Dee Bost is averaging 16. Freshman guard Rodney Hood is scoring 11.5 per game.

The Gators can't just focus on one Mississippi State player to slow down because they can score from all over the court. Even sophomore Jalen Steele comes off the bench to score 7.6 points per game.

"You're dealing with a team that has a lot of offensive weapons-- because Bost is a problem, Sidney is a problem, Hood is a problem, Moultrie is a problem—they've got a lot of answers at a lot of spots," Donovan said.

The frontcourt for the Bulldogs looks like what Florida faced on Thursday in Oxford, Miss. The Rebels started three players that were 6-8 or taller. Mississippi State starts three players that are 6-8 or taller, but they Sidney (6-10) and Moultrie (6-11) are the two tallest players the Gators will face this week.

"There are similarities between the teams," Donovan said. "They present a lot of problems up front. They're a real physical team. Talent-wise, it's a team that's as talented as any team we've played this year.

"They're a very good scoring team and gifted team offensively."

INJURY UPDATE: Donovan said Patric Young hasn't missed a day of practice, including Friday, this week. The staff will meet on Friday night and speak with Young before deciding whether or not to start him on Saturday afternoon.

"I think he has been fine," Donovan said. "I haven't seen any carry over after we held him out (last week) during the bye week. This whole week of practice, he has been in every second. I'm sure it's sore and takes him time to get going. He seems to be in a pretty good place."

OLE MISS REVIEW: The Gators secured an important comeback win on Thursday in Oxford, overcoming a 16-point deficit in the first half. The defense tightened in the second half, holding Ole Miss to just 22 points after scoring 38 in the first half.

"The one adjustment was we had to get up tighter," Donovan said. "We did a better job of guarding the ball in the second half. We were pressed up on the shooters more."

The game was also one of Erving Walker's best games of the season. He scored ten points and recorded nine assists while turning the ball over just once. The turnover was key, as he slipped late in the game to give Ole Miss the ball with a chance to tie, but he was an important part of the game.

"He played a very good floor game, got guys shots and made some very nice passes to Patric for some dunks," Donovan said. "He made the game easy for everybody else. He did a very good job."


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