Veterans respond to poor exhibition

Florida coach Billy Donovan hopes his veterans got their bad game out of the way before the regular season even started. Donovan was critical after Florida's exhibition win over Nebraska-Kearney was highlighted by the freshmen. At times, the veterans looked sluggish and uninterested. With the season opening on Friday against Georgetown, Donovan thinks his veterans have flipped the switch.

It happened when the team came in for meetings and film watching the day after the exhibition game. The veterans owned up to what happened, and the coaches moved on with the learning portion on film.

"I was really pleased with the way we came back the next day that Friday," Billy Donovan said. "They agreed there were a lot of things we did in that game that were uncharacteristic of the way we practiced. There was a recognition of areas that we needed to get better in. They responded well."

There were plenty of areas that struggled. While trying to prove he deserved a starting role, senior Mike Rosario scored as many points as he had turnovers (four). Scottie Wilbekin went just 2-8 from the field to start a season where the Gators will count on his to lead the point guard position.

Center Patric Young and forward Erik Murphy played a combined 40 minutes and totaled just seven rebounds against a team that didn't have a player taller than 6-7. The effort and energy on the glass wasn't there.

"I'm pretty hard on myself overall," Patric Young said. "I thought I could've done a few things a lot better for us, like rebounding and defending in the post. It was our first time back and playing someone else. It was just getting back adjusted to the environment and atmosphere."

The rebounding is Donovan's concern going forward. To make it worse, the Gators will be without forward Casey Prather on Friday against Georgetown. Prather was held out of the exhibition game because of a concussion. He returned to practice on Monday after being cleared, and halfway through practice, he suffered another concussion when Young unintentionally hit him while going for a rebound.

It gives the Gators three trusted big men — Murphy, Young and Will Yeguete.

"It's still a major concern," Donovan said of the rebounding. "I don't like it. I think we can be a whole lot better. It's got to be a collective effort by our guys."

The current roster construction doesn't set Florida up to dominate the glass. It's why Donovan fought for Cody Larson to stay on the team despite his desire to leave. Even with just three trusted big men this weekend, the questions aren't around the talent. The Gators have size and athleticism that should help them get rebounds.

More concerning for Donovan, his questions are about effort.

"One of the things bothering me as a coach is that we don't leave the floor. We're the best on the floor rebounding team in the country, but unfortunately, as we're standing on the ground, someone else is jumping," Donovan quipped. "It's a point that has really been pounded home."

Playing against a Georgetown starting lineup that will feature just one player shorter than 6-8, the Gators will have to prepare for hitting the boards.

"We're playing a team in Georgetown that is very long and very athletic," Donovan said. "This is going to really expose what kind of commitment we've made to rebounding the basketball. My expectation is that because we're playing outside and it's cold, there will be more missed shots than a normal game.

"If this is a game where they're getting second-chance points, getting to the free throw line, getting back door cuts and getting out in transition, it'll be a very difficult game for us to overcome those things."

Donovan was originally resistant to a lineup that included Murphy, Yeguete and Young on the floor together. All three are good enough athletes, but the coaching staff's concern was about the offense being enough to get by with that group on the floor.

With Prather being out and the rebounding concerns already an issue, Donovan said his staff would be working with the team to make the lineup work with Murphy, Yeguete and Young on the floor.

"We're going to have to look at that now with Casey's situation," Donovan said. "We haven't done that a lot. I felt like, with Casey's injury, I knew he was going to be back for this game (before the second concussion). We've got three days that we'll have to look at some different things."

The players understand the importance of rebounding. While the frontcourt players were the ones that Donovan challenged to make a bigger impact on the glass, the guards know they have to contribute, too.

"It's big," Kenny Boynton said. "We had a similar problem last year at the beginning of the year. The way we practice and the drills we've done, we understand the importance of rebounding now."

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