The stat line doesn’t look terrible for Dorian Finney-Smith’s game against Miami. He had 12 points on 4-7 shooting with six rebounds. But first-year coach Mike White knows he needs more out of his senior leader.
The problems came at the free throw line, where Finney-Smith went 3-8 and is shooting just 63.2 percent this season. White saw Finney-Smith get frustrated. Miami put athletic defender Kamari Murphy, who White credited for having great size and length plus foot speed, on Finney-Smith and frustrated Florida’s most consistent player.
Finney-Smith had seven shots on the night, one of six players on the Florida roster to take at least that many. If the Gators are going to improve on the offensive end of the floor, the senior has to take the ball and get his shot.
“I should've been more aggressive than that,” Finney-Smith said. “I should've just shot the ball. I don't think I made second- and third-efforts either, as well on the glass. I don't mind taking seven shots if we win. Of course, I'm going to evaluate my game."
The Florida staff’s biggest challenge to Finney-Smith is to play with energy on both ends of the floor. When one end isn’t going well for him, it can’t bleed into the other end.
“We continue to challenge Dorian with not allowing his offense and his touches and shot attempts, his makes, it can’t dictate his intensity level and he knows that,” White said. “Dorian cares. He’s a competitive guy. It wasn’t going well for him. Dorian, he fought and wasn’t bad defensively. He wasn’t great. He was great a couple games ago defensively.
“It’s easier for all of us to play with crazy energy when we’re making a bunch of shots and scoring. That’s a challenge for Dorian and the rest of the guys that play for us.”
PROGRESSION FOR EGBUNU
Word of John Egbunu’s defensive dominance leaked out of practice last season when he was forced to sit out because of NCAA transfer rules. The former South Florida signee was exactly what the Gators needed last season, a tough-nosed rebounder that could block shots and still score.
The redshirt sophomore has been everything advertised so far this season. He’s averaging 12.9 points and 7.9 rebounds so far, shooting a surprising 76.7 percent from the free throw line.
White knew the 6-11 big man would be an imposing defender, but Egbunu struggled with ball screen defense against Miami and has a lot to learn in that area. His offense has been a pleasant surprise for the first-year coaching staff, but he needs to continue being active on the boards.
“The challenge for John is to be as good as he possibly can be on the glass and defensively because those are things he can control,” White said. “Those are things he’s really good at when he’s locked in. offensively, he has shown everyone how hard he has worked. He has come a long way with his skill level. As he continues to develop, we’ll continue to get him the ball.”
SHOOTING NEEDS IMPROVEMENT
The biggest problem for the Gators this season comes on the offensive end. They simply haven’t shot the ball well enough. Florida is shooting 42.2 percent from the field and 28.9 percent from behind the three-point line.
The players say shooting isn’t a problem in practice. The issue is translating it to the court during games.
“A couple shots need to run together a little bit,” Finney-Smith said. “That's what happens. You hit one or two. I think it's new guys on a young team. We've just got to keep playing with a lot of confidence.
"I think they're good shots. I know we see them make them every day in practice. Just got to shoot it with confidence and stop beating yourself."