Practice time gives opportunity to improve

Eight days between the last game against Air Force and Florida's road game at Yale on Sunday has given the team a chance to focus on improvement. Despite being 9-2 so far this season, Florida head coach Billy Donovan has found plenty of areas that need to get better. The Gators started the year as one of the best defenses in the country, but those numbers have started to trail off in recent games.

"This has been really good," Billy Donovan said about the team getting a break from games. "It has been pretty demanding. Anytime you're in a situation where there's no school and no time constraints, you're in a position with unlimited time to work and get better.

"From a teaching standpoint, it's a good opportunity to break things down and try to show our guys that we've got to get better."

The Gators closed out a 17-point win over Air Force on December 29 in Sunrise, Fla. The team made the long bus trip back before spending Sunday watching film and going through a light walkthrough to correct some issues brought to light the day before by Air Force.

Donovan wanted to push his team early in the week. They practiced hard on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, mixing in two practices per day at least once. The team had Thurday off before getting back on the court Friday to start preparation for playing at Yale on Sunday.

"We turned our intensity up in practice," senior guard Kenny Boynton said. "As a team, we're addressing the weaknesses we have. We're getting better. It just has to translate to the games."

The emphasis was especially focused the defensive end. The Gators were the second ranked scoring defense in the country at one point this season. That number has dropped to fifth in the country in recent games, but that isn't something Donovan is focusing on as much.

He's looking at the field goal percentage and three-point percentage defense, plus points per possession that his team is allowing. The numbers have gone up in recent games.

"Generally, you give up a lot of points when you foul or give up three-point shots," Donovan said. "In the Kansas State game, we put them at the free throw line too many times. Against Air Force, we gave up way too many three-point shots. We've had some slippage defensively that needs to get better."

The Gators will be tested on it immediately. They'll make the trip to play at Yale, serving as a homecoming game for senior forward Erik Murphy, on Sunday. It's a Yale team that would prefer to shoot a high number of shots from behind the three-point line, just like Air Force did last week.

"With a team like Yale, there are ten players that can shoot threes," Boynton said. "The three-point line is the biggest thing we're focusing on lately."

There was still time spent working on the offensive side of the ball. The Florida offense has been inconsistent this year, but Donovan spent the week of practice preaching unselfishness. It's not that the Florida players are intentionally trying to take bad shots, but the film has shown wide open players not being found when the Gators have the ball.

That's what Donovan wants to get corrected.

"Our ability to understand how to utilize each other and make the right decision and play," he said when asked what needs to improve the most. "We're getting guys in the paint, but they've got to make the right read to see who's open and make the right passes to one another."

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