Ball movement improving for Florida

When the Gators were struggling to find offense at the end of their non-conference schedule, Billy Donovan continued to pound a specific message into the minds of his players.

If they didn’t pass the ball more and increase the ball movement, the offense would continue to be stagnant. It’s the reason Donovan screams at his point guards Chris Chiozza and Kasey Hill to sprint the ball up the floor and get into the offense. But it’s even more obvious when the echoes of his screams can be heard throughout the O’Connell Center when the ball stops in a players’ hands.

It didn’t happen much on Saturday.

Florida’s dominant 72-47 win over Mississippi State on Saturday featured the best ball movement in recent games. The Gators had 19 assists on 28 made field goals and only seven turnovers.

They took care of the basketball but still shared it to Donovan’s expectations.

“We’re getting better there. (Mississippi State is) a hard team to run offense against because of the way they play defense because they disrupt what you’re trying to do. But we did a much better job. Our ball movement was really good. We shared it and played unselfishly.”

The players insist that they’re finally starting to understand Donovan’s expectations with the basketball. There’s only so much they’ve been able to see in practices, but the improved ball movement in conference games against Mississippi State and South Carolina shows signs of where the Florida offense is headed.

“It’s about being an unselfish team,” said Florida point guard Kasey Hill, who had seven assists and one turnover. “Coach keeps hounding on us and hounding on us that we need to be an unselfish team. When we work together, we win. But we have to be together for us to win.”

Hill’s play goes a long way in determining the production of the Florida offense. The Gators were able to overcome a one-assist, six-turnover game at South Carolina last week, but they haven’t been able to win when he doesn’t play well much this season.

The sophomore guard was much better against the Bulldogs on Saturday night, but part of that is Donovan’s biggest complaint. He’s too inconsistent.

“It’s the same song,” Donovan said. “It’s one assist, six turnovers (Wednesday). Then seven assists, one turnover (Saturday). What does (Thursday against Auburn) bring? I don’t know. We’ve got to be a little more consistent.”

Donovan called Hill’s effort on Saturday “locked in and engaged,” and it looked like it. Hill had seven points, seven assists, one turnover and two steals in 29 minutes of action. The game came on the heels of some intent film study this week.

After his down game in Columbia, Donovan and Hill watched film together to prepare for Mississippi State. The Florida coach wanted to point out some things going wrong with Hill and the entire offense, making sure his point guard knew where the fixes needed to come.

Hill’s approach to film study has always been an important part of his growth.

“The one thing that’s great about Kasey is there’s some guys who don’t want the truth and there’s some guys that don’t like to be confronted,” Donovan said. “He wants that. He wants to be told exactly what reality is. I really admire that about him and love coaching him because of that. He’s always wanting feedback. If it’s negative feedback of where he’s got to get better, he likes that. He doesn’t want to be told how great he is. That’s the sign of a player who is going to get better.

WALKER FEELING FINE: Chris Walker limped off the floor late in the game Saturday, but Donovan said it was just cramps and that it isn’t a concern. The biggest problem for Walker has been his physical condition this year. He can’t stay on the floor long, and he struggles to fight through fatigue and still produce when he’s tired.

He’s showing signs of improving at it after the first two conference games of the year.

“I think he’s getting a little better,” Donovan said. “When you see the fatigue, I see it in practice all the time. I’m trying to get him to push through it. He’s getting better, trying harder. He’s really, really working at that right now.”

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