Florida beat Louisiana-Monroe with six scholarship players on Friday, but the Gators struggled to score and managed to score 61 points including an overtime period. Over the final 13 minutes of the game, including overtime, Florida made just one field goal -- a dunk by Jon Horford.
To try fixing it, the Gators went to work this weekend. Florida practiced three times on Saturday and twice on Sunday, trying to find lineups that worked and manufacture different ways to score. It’s possible that Eli Carter (foot) and Dorian Finney-Smith (hand) could be out for the entire Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, and they were expected to be two of Florida’s top three scorers this year.
So what now?
That’s the question for Florida, who will face a difficult opening game against Georgetown on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.
The scoring issues have started at point guard. Kasey Hill hasn’t played well this season, going 3-24 from the field through the first three games. Teams don’t respect his outside shot and are sagging off him around the three-point line, taking away his driving ability. The jump shots aren’t falling, and Hill has even struggled to finish at the basket so far this season. He has 13 assists and eight turnovers so far this year, but the Gators need him to hit more jump shots so that the defense respects it.
“We’ve broken down every shot he’s gotten, it’s not like he’s bombing 3-point shots,” Donovan said. “I think when you go 3-24 in your first three games, there’s no question that that definitely is playing on (his) mind right now. I’ve got confidence. In practice and in individual workouts, he can make 15-, 17-foot jump shots. He has proven to be able to do that, and he’s able to prove he can finish in the lane, but he’s got to be a better finisher when he gets in there.
“He’s had some drives where he has gotten to the front of the rim. He’s got to be able to make those plays. He’s got to be able to put the ball in the basket.”
Chris Walker made his return on Friday against Louisiana-Monroe, and it brought mixed results. He forced things offensively and had four points in 26 minutes.
Donovan said the film showed that Walker and Horford didn’t play well when they were on the court together, and that was a focus during the five practices over the weekend. Donovan also decided to move Devin Robinson to the power forward position because of a lack of numbers in the frontcourt. They’ve also worked more on lineups that feature Chris Chiozza and Hill on the floor together with Hill playing the shooting guard position.
Donovan knew he had to find ways to help his team score points, and he’s optimistic about what the team could look like until Carter and Finney-Smith return.
“You’re really limited offensively in what you can do,” Donovan said.
The lack of numbers also impacts what the Gators can do this week. Normally with a team that’s struggling to score, Donovan would turn up the heat on the opposition with the full court press. However, leaning on six scholarship players during a span that will have the Gators playing three games in three days doesn’t seem like the best idea to the Florida coach.
Donovan said that could mean minutes for his son, Billy Donovan, or walk-on Lexx Edwards.
“Our team needs to press,” Donovan said. “I don’t think we can sustain that kind of intensity -- nevermind three games in a row for 40 minutes. Just not enough depth.”
The Gators will be tested by Georgetown on Wednesday night. They can play big lineups that concern Donovan going forward, especially with center Joshua Smith. The Gators faced Smith when he was at UCLA during the 2011 NCAA Tournament, and he had 16 points and six rebounds.
He has lost weight since then, but the 6-10, 350-pounder still presents a challenge for the Gators in the paint.
“He will probably be the biggest, most physical frontcourt player we'll play all year long,” Donovan said. “I don't think there's anybody in college basketball like him, so he's certainly a handful and that will be a challenge for us."