Wilbekin learned from benching

Florida head coach Billy Donovan was hoping it would go this way. He removed point guard Scottie Wilbekin from the starting lineup on Saturday because he didn't like where the junior's head was. It served as an opportunity to refocus. Wilbekin has always been a player that takes the court with a chip on his shoulder. After a down performance at Arkansas, he didn't have that chip anymore.

Without the chip, Scottie Wilbekin wasn't himself. He didn't have the same drive or command of the offense in practice as the Gators started to prepare for Mississippi State. Billy Donovan tried to reel him in. They had multiple conversations on Thursday and another one on Friday before Donovan made the decision.

"My biggest thing with Scottie is I have such a high opinion and a high regard for him as a player and how he can impact and affect our team," Donovan said. "As a coach, I think it is my responsibility to hold him to that standard."

The best way to get Wilbekin back to his own standards was to bench him. He came into the game against Mississippi State just over four minutes into it, so the minutes weren't an issue. It was about getting his mentality right. Wilbekin has been a pass-first point guard since coming to Florida. In the previous two games against Ole Miss and Arkansas, Wilbekin launched up 30 shots.

That's not the kind of player he is. During 33 minutes on Saturday against the Bulldogs, Wilbekin took just four shots from the field but played an impressive game.

"I think he played really, really well in the game. He played 33 minutes, and he really played the right way," Donovan said. "I thought he was really focused. I think he made really good decisions with the basketball. I thought he got it where it needed to go. He and Boynton accounted for half our assists in the game, which was great. I was really impressed."

It was all about Donovan helped Wilbekin realize that he wasn't living up to his own expectations. After his down performance at Arkansas, he was down in practice and seemed to let it affect him. Wilbekin always took the court with something to prove, but after one of his worst games of the year, that wasn't there.

That's the reason for the benching. And Donovan thinks it has worked. He'll be back in the starting lineup when Florida hosts Kentucky on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

"Scottie is a guy that is very, very tough on himself," Donovan said. "He's very demanding on himself. He has an expectation of himself how he needs to play and what he needs to do. When you get into a situation where you're not living up to an individual standard or playing at the level you need to play at, how you respond to it, to me, is much more important.

"To his credit, coming back to the game, I think he knew what he needed to do against Mississippi State and he went out there and played well."

THREE-POINT DEFENSE: With as dominant as the Florida defense has been at times this year, the Gators have seen some struggles defending the three-point line in recent games. During the first seven games of conference play, the Gators were holding opponents close to 27% from behind the three-point line.

In the last three games against Ole Miss, Arkansas and Mississippi State, the Gators are allowing opponents to shoot 41.2% (21-for-51) from behind the arc.

"I just think that our close-outs have been a little bit shorter than normal," Donovan said. "We have not gotten out there. We need to do a better job. That is an area where we need to do a better job. We need a greater sense of urgency, understanding your personnel, understanding who we're closing out to. Those kinds of thing are important."

Donovan has spent time showing his players the breakdowns on film in the last week. For as good as the defense has been, this was an issue for the Gators last season and is starting to be this year, too.

"Everyone keeps talking about our defense," Donovan said. "I think we've made some strides and we've gotten better, but I also understand as a coach how fragile all this is. Just because you're doing something well doesn't mean you're going to maintain doing something well. It's an everyday commitment and a process and a focus into doing that stuff."

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