A close and stunning loss to Florida State wasn’t about lack of effort or ability. It was all about really narrowing in on the things the gators could control and them controlling them.
“From a competitive standpoint I thought we competed, I thought both teams played very hard,” Billy Donovan said Thursday afternoon. “There is a mental discipline, a focus, and they have to work through some of that stuff.
“It is a mental discipline. For example we are on the fast break and Michael Frazier is trying to get a three-point shot off and it’s not the best of passes and he reaches out with one hand. If you aren’t going to be able to shoot the ball, just catch it. Dorian Finney-Smith is on the baseline and he drives and makes a really good play to Chris Walker, but he doesn’t play off of two-feet and jumps off one leg and it’s a charge and turnover. Kasey Hill is on the break and doesn’t realize a guy is behind him, is trying to make the right play… turnover. Those kind of things add up and you couple that with the amount of layups and plays around the basket missed in the game and go 7-13 from the free throw the line, those things add up over a period of time.
“I think our press and turning them over helped keep us in the game. We didn’t get hurt in the back court with their size although they out-rebounded us by one. We did some good things, but at this level the margin for error is not great and this team is not at all.”
Gators familiar with UConn
When Florida hosts Kevin Ollie and his UConn Huskies on Saturday, they are seeing a foe they faced twice during their historic season a year ago, the Gators lost three games in the entire season and the Huskies were responsible for two of them. Despite that, Donovan says these are two different teams under two different set of circumstances.
“I’ve always believed that whatever words you want to use, revenge, pay back, whatever it may be… those games were their own specific competitive match up… the one at Connecticut and the one in the Final Four,” Donovan said. “Both teams had a chance to win both games and they ended up on top in both of them. These are two totally different teams and set of guys. There are some returning players, but the reality is this game has its own set of challenges.
“That game to go play in the national championship is exactly what it was and we came up short. We have to play against this UConn team. The same can be said for them.”
And yet despite the circumstance being totally different from a year ago for both squads, the two teams will see a good deal of similarities in style of play.
“When you play against them, just as they are playing against us, the coaches are the same,” Donovan said. “ Philosophically you will have some very similar things that both coaches believe in, in terms of how they see their team playing. There are similar things they are doing on offense. There are similar things we are doing on offense. There are things they have changed and we have changed. There is core to their system and style that Kevin believes in. They will be a tough physical basketball team defensively. They will pressure. They are good with their hands. They are terrific in the open floor. (Guard Ryan Boatright) is an explosive electrifying player.(7-foot center Amida Brimah) has really improved from where he is now. They have a freshman in Daniel Hamilton who is really gifted and talented, can play multiple positions and play off of the dribble.
“Who they are and the way they play is probably pretty similar in terms of Kevin’s philosophy. I think probably the same can be said for us. The parts and pieces have changed, but you are still trying to stay true philosophically to what you believe in.”
The Huskies were able to take Michael Frazier out of the game a year ago. They harassed the gators sharp shooter into only taking three shots all night and he went 1-3 from three point land. Donovan knows how important those shots are, but says when teams do that to him, Frazier needs to make a statement with the other parts of his game.
“They did a very good job,” Donovan said of the Huskies on Frazier a year ago. “The one thing is he has to really move well without the basketball. For Michael, in a game like that and him personally, when he gets guarded like that it helps the other four guys on the court. It creates spacing, driving opportunities. It opens up and frees things up.
“Do we want Michael to shoot the basketball? Absolutely. Do we need him to make shots in order to win? No. We can do it in other ways and other guys can step up. Michael has to understand the length and time relation in a game. He can help himself by moving better, getting open on penetration, and moving to open areas in open spots on the floor.”
Junior forward Alex Murphy was added to the starting lineup against Florida State and started strong before puttering down the stretch. Donovan is looking for a more thorough game from his star transfer.
“I thought he got off to a good start against Florida State and we didn’t get a whole lot from him in the second half,” Donovan said. “We need more from him… and not (just) scoring. We need rebounding. We need more of putting the ball on the floor and creating, making things easier for other guys. When he gets fouled, we need him to shoot a better percentage. Alex can get more from the game than he did in the second half.”
The UConn game Saturday is the final competition before heading into SEC play next week.