Donovan rips Florida after win

Friday started like a normal season opener for the Gators. No. 10 Florida jumped out to an 18-point lead with just over six minutes left in the first half and seemed destined to cruise to an easy win. That's when the negatives started to pop up. North Florida fought back and cut the deficit to six points at halftime, and the Owls didn't go away in the second half.

The first 15 minutes weren't the problem.

Florida looked smooth on offense and allowed just 15 points in the first 15 minutes of play. Over the final 25 minutes, the Gators allowed North Florida to score 54 points. The lack of concentration was evident as Florida allowed the Ospreys to get back in the game after having at least one 18-point lead in each half.

"Our resiliency, our fight, our grit," Billy Donovan said in his laundry list of issues with Friday's 77-69 win. "I'd say North Florida had a lot of grit tonight. They got down by (18) in the first half and could've sit there and mailed it in or got pouty. You know what, they fought and cut it to six.

"Then they get 19 down (in the second half), and they fought back. When the roles were reversed and that happened to our team, we did not show even remotely close to the grit that North Florida showed. Maybe our guys can learn something from them."

With Florida leading by 18 with 6:04 left to play in the first half, a few things changed. Freshman point guard Kasey Hill had to come off the floor with two fouls, causing the offense to become stagnant without a true point guard in the game since Scottie Wilbekin is suspended. Center Patric Young played just eight minutes because of foul trouble.

The Gators were running what Donovan called a "makeshift lineup" on the court, but even with less size or offensive composure, the Gators let UNF back into the game right before halftime. And after extending the lead in the second half to 19 points, Florida lost focus again and the Ospreys cut the lead to eight points with 3:53 left to play in the game.

"Some of our younger guys don't understand how quickly momentum can change," Donovan said.

The game was kept close by a few factors. Decision-making wasn't sharp, and the Gators were outrebounded 37-35. UNF used a lot of shot clock, and once the Gators did get the ball back, they made several poor decision in transition to turn the ball over, which they did 13 times to only 11 assists.

When UNF got into transition, the Gators were late to get back on defense, opening up three-point shots. The Ospreys went 9-24 from behind the three-point line.

Donovan even pointed to a time after Florida shot free throws, and the Gators were trying to set up their press. However, two Florida players were guarding the same UNF player without even realizing it until the ball was inbounded.

"The basketball IQ of anticipating, reading where and where the shooter's at -- sometimes we're totally lost," Donovan said.

The second half was even more disappointing to Donovan. There was a point where he counted six straight UNF possessions that ended in transition baskets.

"Stuff like that never happened to us last year," he said.

This year's team isn't at full strength. Florida played on Friday without three suspended players -- Dorian Finney-Smith, Damontre Harris and Scottie Wilbekin. It's also easy to see where the departures of Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy and Mike Rosario hurt the Gators.

Donovan talked about the departures of Al Horford and Joakim Noah when they left for the NBA and the frustrations that came in the next few season. His mind would often drift to wondering if the players on those teams even watched the preparation and determination Horford and Noah showed every day in practice.

On Friday in the O'Connell Center, he went back to wondering if his team even watched how last year's senior trio prepared.

"You see a guy like Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Mike Rosario -- yes they scored a lot of points and hit a lot of three-pointers," Donovan said. "But their basketball IQ of understanding where to be, what's going on -- it's at a totally different level than what we're doing."

In the second half, it led to only outscoring UNF 40-38.

"We got outhustled, they beat us to loose basketballs," Donovan said. "We could not come up with a rebound."

The rebounding issues came from veterans. Even though foul trouble limited Patric Young to 20 minutes, he only grabbed two rebounds while taking and missing two field goals. Will Yeguete played 22 minutes and had five rebounds. Michael Frazier and Casey Prather combined for 17 rebounds in an opener that Frazier was questionable to play in as he continues to recover from mono.

"We should not get outrebounded. I know we were undersized at times," Donovan said. "I guess my expectation is more based on what out team looks like, what we're capable of and if we're playing to the level we're expected to. I was really disappointed in our team tonight, about as disappointed as I've been.

"The expectations I have is for Patric Young to get more than two rebounds."

Donovan's concern isn't on the offensive end. Florida scored 77 points against a UNF team that wanted to run the shot clock and limit possession. The head coach knows that will continue to improve as Florida gets its pieces back.

The defensive end is where the concern remains. It has been there since preseason practice, and it hasn't gone away yet.

"We are light years away from being a remotely good defensive team right now and light years away from being a ranked team," Donovan said.

The changes have to come fast. Florida heads on the road to face No. 20 Wisconsin on Tuesday, and Florida's suspended trio of players will remain suspended. The Gators beat Wisconsin by 18 in Gainesville last year, but with a short roster and a team searching for consistent defense, next week will be a challenge.

"No disrespect to North Florida, but we're going to play against higher level people come Tuesday," Donovan said. "We've got a long, long, long way to go. What's going on right now, it's not sinking into these guys."


Fightin Gators Top Stories