Preparing for Length

The trouble Florida has experienced from Kentucky in recent years isn't a coincidence. Besides the obvious talent the Wildcats have added in recent years, the Gators have struggled with long, athletic guards. That's what happens when the backcourt is undersized. Erving Walker has struggled to get his shots off against the UK because of the Wildcats' aggressive defense.

The length of opponents can create problems for the two guards, especially Walker. In his career, Walker is shooting 24.7% (22-89) from the field and 28.9% (15-52) from behind the three-point line. The length of the guards Kentucky has played in recent years finds ways to create problems and hold Walker to just 8.9 points per game when the two play.

Junior guard Kenny Boynton is shooting 35.9% (33-92) from the field and 34% (16-47) from behind the three-point line. Boynton averages 13 points against Kentucky in his career, so while they have slowed him down some, the Wildcats haven't stopped him like they have Walker.

Whether it was John Wall years ago or Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb on Sunday, Kentucky's athleticism and length is the difference. They play aggressive on Walker, knowing that he is capable of hitting three-pointers from well beyond the three-point line.

"There is some limitation with a guy 5-foot-8, especially if someone's going to stay pressed up on him and make him finish in and around the basket against trees," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "So then he's got to try to find the open man and get the ball to different people and there's been teams that we've played against where we've been able to offset and move the floor around a little bit and then he's been able to get in there and drive the basketball to the rim and make some shots or get guys open shots."

Walker came into the matchup with Kentucky off a 15-point outing at Vanderbilt. The difference is in the paint. Florida was able to draw Commodores' center Festus Ezeli out of the paint last Tuesday, allowing Walker to attack with him on the perimeter.

The Gators tried to do that against Kentucky center Anthony Davis. A lot of teams have tried it this year but few can actually make it work.

"The difference is with Kentucky, even if you pull Davis away, you're still dealing with Gilchrist, you're still dealing with Terrence Jones," Donovan said. "There's still incredible size at the basket. I did not think Erving played very well at all in Lexington. I actually thought he played with great intensity and great passion. He didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but none of our guards shot the ball well."

As the Gators move into one-and-done scenarios in the SEC and NCAA Tournament, they have to prepare for similar situations. Donovan said that Florida's speed gives them an advantage in the open court if they can get long rebounds and start fast breaks.

LIFE AFTER YEGUETE: It doesn't look good in the record books since Will Yeguete was lost to the season. The Gators are 0-3 since he broke his foot against Auburn on February 21. However, Donovan thinks his team has shown progress since then.

"I think that there is definitely more confidence and we're more comfortable in terms of things we're trying to do," Donovan said. "I still think we can get better at it. I think we're getting a better understanding of what we're trying to do."

The worst loss of the three-game losing streak was the first one. Florida suffered a 14-point loss at Georgia in a game that wasn't close. After leaning on Yeguete for energy and rebounding, the Gators were stunned without him.

Since that game ended and Donovan vocally questioned his team's love for basketball, they have played better. All Florida has to show for that is two losses. Donovan is trying to get across to his team the positives that occurred in the losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

Part of it also comes from the new lineups. The Gators are going to be undersized regardless of the lineup on the court, so Donovan has experimented with more four-guard lineups. It makes Florida worse at rebounding, but without the size, Donovan can elect to ignore that and run a high-energy lineup on the floor.

"We are going to play four guards," Donovan said. "We will do some of that. We have the opportunity to look at shifting, but it can't be at the expense where at the defensive end of the floor we're unable to rebound and defend like we need to.

"So we'll be prepared going into any game based on whether or not we think we have an advantage where we can maybe utilize Murphy at the 5 and get him some more jump shots from that position. Also utilize Beal at the power forward spot, playing four guards, and also try to utilize Casey (Prather)."


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