Shooting Slump Forces Ugly Win

Billy Donovan was worried about nights like Thursday before the season started. The Gators struggled to shoot from the field and couldn't get a rhythm from behind the three-point line. Despite coming out to a blazing start, Florida cooled off and found itself in a fight. Defense and timely free throws helped the Gators escape with a 74-66 win over South Carolina.

When the game started, it looked like it could become a blowout in a hurry. A layup by Brad Beal gave Florida a 27-10 lead just over ten minutes into the game, and it looked like the Gators could cruise to their sixth conference win. At that point, Florida was 5-for-8 from behind the three-point line and looked as if it would carry the torrid pace.

After Erving Walker hit a three-pointer with 10:41 left in the first half, the Gators ended the game by making just two of their next 20 three-point attempts.

"If we're open and just missing, it's just one of those nights," Walker said. "There's nothing we can do about it. We got great looks and we were satisfied with the looks we got. Coach encouraged us to just keep taking them. We're not going to have many nights like that."

Walker and Kenny Boynton, who led the team with 24 points, combined to shoot 6-for-14 from behind the arc. The rest of the Gators combined to go 1-for-14 from long range.

"I can't say that any of (the players other than Boynton and Walker) took bad shots," Donovan said. "I thought they were open. I'm kind of happy it happened because we won the game and it was a woeful shooting night for our team."

Florida had a shooting slump that carried over from the first half to the second half where it missed nine straight three-pointers. Boynton ended that streak when he hit a three with 7:23 left to play, pushing the Gators lead to 54-44. Florida then followed by ending the game with six straight missed three-point attempts.

Boynton's three-pointer was the only one of 13 second half attempts that a Florida player made.

"The same shots we made in the first 12-14 minutes in the beginning of the game were the same shots we could not buy (late)," Donovan said. "Our focus went from playing defense and rebounding to making shots. We had great looks.

"We almost got caught because of the things we can't control. I told those guys after the game that if you could control shooting the ball, we'd never miss a shot. There wasn't one guy that jumped up and shot saying, ‘I hope I miss.' They don't have control over that."

ATTACKING THE GLASS: The Gators made up for their lack of shooting by rebounding, especially on the offensive end. That came with an assist from Donovan. During the week of practice, he pointed out to Beal and Erik Murphy that they both had just two offensive rebounds a piece in six conference games. Boynton, who isn't known for his rebounding, had four.

The frontcourt players got his message. Beal pulled down five offensive boards while Murphy chipped in with two.

"Coach got into our heads all week in practice about going to get offensive rebounds," Donovan said. "We just wanted to attack the glass because they weren't blocking out. They mostly focused on trying to block Pat out, and that just left me open."

Florida had an early 14-1 edge in rebounds, as South Carolina didn't pull down its second rebound until there was 9:16 left in the first half. The Gators added 14 offensive rebounds in the first half and finished the game with 20.

Donovan gave them a quick lesson focused on a former Florida player.

"What made Chandler Parsons a great offensive rebounder is that he was on the perimeter a lot, but he was unbelievable and relentless every time a shot went up," Donovan said. "He made the effort to go to the backboard. Brad and Erik have got to get better at making that effort every time a shot is taken."

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