Florida faces test with FSU length

Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State teams usually have a similar look. They’re long and athletic with shot blockers in the paint, and that recipe gave Florida problems last season.

A pair of 7-footers kept the Seminoles in the game last year in Gainesville. The 7-3 Boris Bojanovsky had 14 points, five rebounds and two blocks while the 7-1 Michael Ojo came off the bench with 10 points, six rebounds and one block. They stonewalled Florida center Patric Young, keeping him from using his power moves to get to the basket.

Without Young on the Florida roster, the Gators have a different look. They don’t have a post player that can catch the ball and score with his back to the basket. But the length near the basket is still a challenge for Florida when it travels to Tallahassee to face the Seminoles at 7 p.m. on Tuesday (ESPN2).

“I think all of Leonard’s teams have had great length, great size,” Billy Donovan said. “They can play very big across the front line. They have shot-blocking ability. I don’t think there’s any question, at this level, that when you go into the lane, the choices and decisions you make as a player are always going to be very, very important.”

The Gators have the ability to replicate it more in practice than they could last season. With Chris Walker not on campus and John Egbunu still playing at South Florida, the big men on the Florida roster didn’t have the size or shot blocking ability to give the players a look at what they could face on the court.

Egbunu and Walker have helped the team this year. Even while Egbunu sits out this season because of NCAA transfer rules, his 6-11, 266-pound frame is the closest thing the Gators have to Bojanovsky or Ojo. At 6-10, 220 pounds, Walker doesn’t provide the girth in the paint that the Seminoles have, but he does have the vertical and shot blocking ability to simulate the difficulties Florida could have scoring at the basket on Tuesday.

The Seminoles blocked 15 shots in a win over South Florida on December 20.

“They’re always a big physical team,” said Florida forward Alex Murphy, who faced the Seminoles in his time at Duke. “They like to get out and run in transition. The guys that I played against or the guys that I saw play when I was at Duke, they’re probably different now but same style of play same hard-nosed mentality. They always do a good job at that.”

Florida has also seen shot blockers this season. Georgetown’s Josh Smith is a big, physical body that challenged the Gators near the rim. Kansas and North Carolina also had rosters with shot blockers that gave Florida problems in the paint.

When the blocked shots come near the basket, it pushes the Seminoles out into fast breaks and gets easy points. Florida State has struggled to score at times this year, and those easy baskets in transition can go a long way to getting them going.

“Against teams with length, you’re going to have make good and wise choices when you’re in there,” Donovan said. “Florida State does an outstanding good job at the basket, protecting the basket and creating those blocked shots that lead them out on the break. That’s where they’re very, very good, when they’re in transition and playing fast.”

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