Exhibition takeaways: Defense lagging behind

Billy Donovan has warned about it since before the Gators opened practice. This Florida team has a ways to go on the defensive end. The Gators ended last season third in the country, allowing just 54.4 points per game. Limited numbers in preseason practice has the Florida defense off to a slow start after allowing 88 points to Florida Southern in Friday's exhibition win.

"We gave up 41 points in the first half and 47 in the second half, so 88 points? That's never happened to this group," Billy Donovan said. "We're a long way away defensively."

It starts behind the three-point line. The Gators will have experience and size in the paint, but the perimeter won't be the same. Florida lost Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario from last year's team that finished the year allowing 31 percent from behind the three-point line, the 46th lowest mark in the country.

This year's group needs to improve its three-point defense, and that's why Donovan liked to see his team play Florida Southern. The Mocs have an offense that leans heavily on the three-point line and challenged the Gators from behind the stripe. Florida Southern went 13-for-30 from behind the three-point line last Friday.

"It's not so much our positioning on the ball, it's off the ball," Donovan said. "We put ourselves in very, very difficult situations. We started the second half talking about (defending) the three-point line, and they hit three in a row. You've got to understand the position you've got to be in to stop the three-point line. Some of our new players don't understand that yet. We're caught in these bad positions."

FRONTCOURT VETERANS: The Gators will have experience up front with forward Will Yeguete and center Patric Young returning for their senior season. Young displayed the energy Donovan wants on Friday and showed an improved stroke from the free throw line, going 7-for-10.

"Really happy with Patric," Donovan said. "He had a great motor (Friday) and was really aggressive. He came out passionate and ran the floor. His conditioning was really good. I really liked the way he played.

"You can see he spent some time on his free throw shooting."

Donovan has spent most of Young's career talking about the need for consistency out of the three-year starter. That's still the case after Friday's game, but it's a positive that Young opened the 2013-14 season with that energy.

"I was very happy with Patric," Donovan said. "We need that consistency from him every game. He didn't really do anything in terms of fantastic moves. He ran to the post, posted up, jump hooked and he rebounded. He got fouled, went to the free throw line and made free throws. That's the expectation I have for Patric."

Yeguete is still dealing with knee pain. He had arthroscopic knee surgery in the offseason and is still fighting through soreness and normal post-surgery issues. At first he wasn't sure about playing on Friday, but Donovan talked to him and thought it would be a good idea for the senior to get on the court during a game and see how the knee felt.

He responded by pulling down nine rebounds in 18 minutes.

"One of the things Will has been really struggling with is he felt like on the floor moving, he was pretty good," Donovan said. "He didn't feel like he was doing well off the floor. That's one thing Will has always been really good at -- rebounding, reacting and getting his hands on balls.

"I'm happy for him from a confidence standpoint that he is starting to react better."

KURTZ EARNING A ROLE: Jacob Kurtz earned the start against Florida Southern because he didn't miss one day of practice during the preseason. For a team dealing with the injury bug, that consistency was important to the team. On Friday, Kurtz proved to Donovan that he could earn a role on the team this season.

Kurtz went 5-for-6 from the field for 11 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes. He also had one assist, one steal and no turnovers.

"I think he can really, really help us," Donovan said. "He's a really smart player. He's really bright. He's not a great three-point shooter, but he doesn't do anything he's incapable of doing. He just knows how to play."

After making his way onto the team roster as a team manager and then a walk-on, Kurtz has become one of the smartest players on the team. The mechanical engineering major knows the ins and outs of the Florida offense and helps the Gators on the court.

"He's a good player," Donovan said. "What you saw out there (Friday) is what I see every day in practice. He just kind of hangs around, grabs a couple rebounds, comes up with loose basketballs and makes a couple nice passes. He hangs around the basket and make a layup, he'll deflect the ball."

CARTER GETTING COMFORTABLE: Eli Carter's leg is completely healthy, but it might not look that way. After breaking his leg last season at Rutgers, the surgery worked to correct it, but Carter is still running with a slight limp while dealing with normal soreness.

"The problem is, he's got some lack of mobility in his ankle and he's not moving through his ankle like he needs to," Donovan said. "It's going to be a bit of a process, but he gets better every day. He's really a smart player. I really wish for our team and him that he'd be healthy because I think he'd be a really fun guy to coach. He's got such a great feel for how to play."

It's easy to see how much Donovan likes Carter by just listening to him talk about the transfer. Carter ended the game on Friday with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-9 from behind the three-point line. He started slow before settling into the game, but as he grew more comfortable, Carter's intelligence and scoring ability took over.

"You can see he's hobbled, but he's a really good player," Donovan said. "He's smart, knows how to play. It's pretty impressive that a guy can be effective out there and he's only playing on one foot."

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