Notes: Finishing at the rim

With the team field goal percentage dropping over the last two games, the Gators have spent time in practice working on finishing at the rim.

Florida coach Billy Donovan has said before that his team works on it in practice, but in the days since Saturday’s win over Arkansas, the Gators have focused more time on being able to finish. Sometimes the problems creep up in transition, and other times they can come in the half court offense or on offensive rebounds.

To help an offense struggling with jump shots, Donovan knows his team has to improve from point-blank range.

“It's like free throw shooting sometimes,” Donovan said. “You can go in there and shoot hundreds of free throws and that's a good thing. But sometimes it's a little bit different in trying to actually create the game situations.”

The Florida staff came up with a way to best combat that. They’ve stuck John Egbunu (6-11, 266), Schuyler Rimmer (6-10, 250) and Chris Walker (6-10, 220) in the paint and challenge the players to score at the rim. It forces the players to work on angles to the rim and being smart with their finishes in the paint.

“Our guys need to work on some of those things against defense,” Donovan said. “That's what we've been trying to do, to get them to understand angles, positioning, where the defense is, how to use the backboard and rim, those kind of things. It's not necessarily that what they did was bad, but how they went about trying to shoot the ball made it a lot more difficult than it needed to be."

Finishing at the rim was the biggest weakness Dorian Finney-Smith struggled with last season. He missed dunks and bounced easy put backs off the side of the rim. It sounds like a simple thing for a basketball player to do, especially one that can shoot from the perimeter, but it can be a challenge for different players.

“Yeah, we need to finish more plays,” Finney-Smith said. “We get down in the lane all the time. (Opponents are) starting to switch us, so our guards get down the lane and sometimes they drop the drop down pass to me, Chris (Walker) or Jon Horford and we’ve got to finish around the goal. And also they do, too.”

Finney-Smith’s improvement has been easy to see this year. After being tentative around the rim last season, he’s now being more aggressive. He attacked the basket for a big dunk that won the game at Alabama, and he had two thunderous dunks against Arkansas on Saturday.

“I’m just trying to go up stronger,” Finney-Smith said. “If I see any gaps, if I think I can go dunk it, just go up strong.”

SHOOTING THE BALL: The Gators have struggled to shoot the ball from the perimeter this season, but Donovan still thinks the team has potential to change that. Michael Frazier is the best shooter, but he’s hitting 38.3 percent of his threes compared to 46.8 percent as a freshman and 44.7 percent as a sophomore.

Eli Carter and Finney-Smith can also be threats from long range, but the team as a whole hasn’t hit as many three-pointers as it was expected to this year.

“I think we have potential and there’s been some times I’ve seen us really shoot the ball well,” Donovan said. “Clearly for us, a guy like Michael Frazier opens things up for us when he’s shooting the ball well and the last two games in particular. He struggled with his hip at Alabama and then coming back against Arkansas, he just didn’t have a great shooting game.

“He got up a good number of shots. He just didn’t make a lot of them. I think Eli has shown signs of being a good shooter, but there’s been some streakiness to him as well.”

WALKER’S DECISION: Chris Walker elected to return to Gainesville last season after a freshman year that didn’t show much production but still created hype around his NBA potential.

This year, Walker’s minutes have increased, but more questions have been raised about what he will decide to do after the season. He hasn’t played like the obvious first round pick that he was billed as coming out of high school.

Donovan made it clear on Monday that there have been no conversations about what the sophomore will do after this season, but he has the full support of the Florida program in whatever he chooses.

"Once the year ends, it gets back to the individuals in terms of what's best for them and what they want to do,” Donovan said. “Whatever decision Chris decides to make or doesn't make at the end of the year, I'm going to support him because I certainly supported him when he came here, and if he made a decision after the year was over to leave, I would support him there too."

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