Donovan Wants His Players to Get Defensive

Five games into the 2008-09 basketball season the Florida Gators are not quite was we expected. Florida was supposed to be a much deeper team; but with the transfer of Jai Lucas and injuries to Eloy Vargas and Adam Allen they really aren't. The Gators were going to be a better defensive team, but after giving up more than 80 points on back to back nights that hasn't happened either.

Florida Coach Billy Donovan would like to see both things change, with defense at the top of the list. Donovan's team is allowing opponents to shoot 49 percent from the field and 37 percent from the three-point line and those are numbers than can get you beaten on a regular basis.

Donovan talked about the situation on Friday.

"I still think that – and I've said this before – there's difference between effort and commitment. Our guys' effort has been very good since the start of practice. But now the biggest part is do they want to get committed to really try to defend better than we're defending. It was no surprise to people going into the off-season and going into this pre-season the consensus was that we needed to get better on the defensive end of the floor. There have not been the strides defensively that maybe we would have hoped for."

Sunday the Gators face Missouri-Kansas City in Orlando. It's an unusual situation, considering the Gators were just in Kansas City playing Syracuse and Washington while the Kangaroos were in Florida for three games. The contest in Orlando is a homecoming of sorts for Gator sophomores Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons. Even though Gainesville is pretty close to Orlando, Donovan sees the trip being a little bit special for his guys.

"I knew the feeling going to St. Johns when I was playing (for Providence). There was something a little bit different about going back home and playing. I'm not sure there's anything you can say to a player that takes away how they're feeling about what they're going through. I think a lot of times there's just added pressure they place on themselves wanting to perform and do well while they're home. This is not a situation for a guy like Dan Werner where we're going all the way back to New Jersey and playing Rutgers (next year). It's not a situation like Erving Walker and we're going back and playing St. Johns. Two hours away from Orlando their families get to go back and forth and see them play so I don't think it's that big of a deal for them."

UMKC comes into the game with a 3-4 record with only one of those games being played at home. The teams have one common opponent in Bradley. Florida beat Bradley by 23, The Kangaroos by 12. They also have a win over Florida Gulf Coast 73-69, a team that Gators face on December 10.

UMKC is a relatively small team with just two players listed at 6-7 and two more at 6-6. They are led by sophomore guard Reggie Hamilton who averages 19 points and a game and senior wing Dane Brumangin who adds 14.7. Their lack of size really hurts them on the glass. UMKC has been out rebounded by seven a game.

For the Gators, other than improving on defense Florida has other areas to work on. The Gators have been a poor free throw shooting team, making only 66 percent and that almost cost them the Washington game. Dan Werner (5-10), Alex Tyus (8-15) and Kenny Kadji (1-6) have been the prime offenders. That trio is a combined 14-31 (.452) while the rest of the team is a solid .753 from the charity stripe. The Gators could use some improvement in rebounding as well. They have been out rebounded by two through the first five games and no Gator averages as many as six a night.

Bill Koss and I will have the call on Sun Sports Sunday at 1:00.

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