No. 7 Florida preparing for short turnaround

Preparation was forced to begin early Monday morning. With one day of preparation between a win over Middle Tennessee State and a game against Savannah State, No. 7 Florida was forced to rush through preparation while still giving the players a rest. It's a tough line to walk for head coach Billy Donovan as Florida heads into Tuesday's game.

"You try to condense or create a focus of what's really important, what we need to do in the game and how we need to approach certain things they're going to do offensively and defensively," Florida coach Billy Donovan said before Monday's practice. "You try to condense because you don't have a lot of time."

The preparation has a lot to do with watching film. The coaches selected some film from Sunday's 21-point win over Middle Tennessee State to show the players time where they struggled. It's a chance to showcase some of the issues on film while still saving the players' legs.

However, there's still physical activity.

Donovan pointed out that some coaches like to go through a light practice the day before a game and the day after the game, but as the season gets into a groove, that limits how many true practices a team can have.

"Before you know it, you're going to light all the time," Donovan said. "There has to be intensity."

There's still an opportunity to save players' legs while getting physical reps on the court. The key is to condense as much preparation as possible, helping the players focus on a few key points as they prepare for Savannah State.

"You want to make you corrections from the previous game," Donovan said. "We're in the process of doing that — bringing guys in, showing them film and talking about different things. Then, it's really getting to the meat and potatoes of what we have to prepare for with Savannah State."

The Tigers aren't nationally known for their basketball team, but Donovan still thinks they bring some tough matchups for the Gators. Florida and Savannah State have played two common opponents so far — Alabama State and Middle Tennessee State. The Tigers dropped a 58-55 decision to Middle Tennessee State but recorded a 59-54 win over Alabama State.

The Gators beat both of those teams by an average of 35 points.

However, Savannah State caught some attention when they almost beat UCF in Orlando on Sunday night. The Tigers had a lead in the final minutes of the game before the Knights edged out a 53-50 win.

"They've been playing very good basketball," Donovan said of Savannah State. "They've been in a lot of really close games. They change defenses and shoot it.

"Although in some games they've come up a little short, they've been right in those games."

Forward Rashad Hassan, who is scoring 16 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, leads the Tigers. Guard Preston Blackman is averaging 10.2 points and three assists per game.

Savannah State is averaging 60.4 points per game, but the Florida defense has been the backbone of the team this season. The Gators are third in the country so far this year in scoring defense (45.3 points against) and opponent's field goal percentage (29.7).

That isn't by accident. With so many returning players this season, Donovan wanted his team's defense to improve.

"Going into the year, we tried to look at areas we needed to improve and get better with a lot of players coming back, and one of the things is we could be a better defensive team than a year ago," Donovan said. "That has been a focus for us going into the season. Our players have done a pretty good job. It's something that we've improved and got better at."

It has come against in different types of games so far this year, too. The Gators forced a quick tempo game against Wisconsin last week in an 18-point win. On Sunday, it was a slow, physical game in a 21-point win over Middle Tennessee State. The Gators have proven they can play in either style of game and play strong defense against different schemes.

"The one thing that has been good for us in this time of year is we've played Georgetown with a Princeton style of offense, Wisconsin with a swing kind of offense and Middle (Tennessee State) where it turns into an in the paint, grind it out and physical (game)," Donovan said. "I think the styles that we're going against have been good for our team in gaining experience.

"We won on Wednesday (against Wisconsin) playing up and down the floor, trying to press and trap all over the place. We come back against Middle on Sunday, and it turns out to be a half court, grind it out game. You've got to win different ways."

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