Gators fend off deep shooting Rattlers

The Florida Gators got off to a hot start beyond the 3-point line Tuesday against Florida A&M and went on to win the game 73-58 in front of a crowd of 10,007 at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville. While the Gators shot well from behind the arc, Florida Head Coach Billy Donovan was not particularly happy with their play on offense or defense on the night.

Florida made seven of their first eight 3-point attempts including six in a row to start the game and got out to an early 15-point lead on the Rattlers with 10:01 left in the first half. From there, the Gators' shot would grow cold from the arc and only make three of their last 18 shots from deep.

The Rattlers came in shooting a lot of 3-pointers and actually out shot the Gators from long distance making 11-of-24 on the night to the Gators 10. Donovan was not thrilled with the defense of the perimeter shooting.

The struggles shooting deep in the latter part of the game for the Gators came because the Gators were rushing shots and not working the offense. Donovan again was not happy with his team's patience and will to work the ball and work inside in a game that pitted the Gators against a much smaller three guard lineup.

"I thought we (went) way too early with shooting the ball," Donovan said after the game. "Our guys are going to have to find a way to be a little more physical in terms of how we compete and play. They were making us guard for 35 seconds and we were trying to take quick shots. We were trying to get a little too cute.

"I thought we contributed to their success because our guys were taking too many threes. I understood a little bit in the first half because they did start a zone against us and sometime against the zone you have to work the inside out and shoot the three. But, I really felt we had an opportunity to go inside and create a presence around the basket. I felt like we just became a jump shooting team."

The Gators were led on the night by All-American point guard Nick Calathes who led the team in scoring (16), assists (7) and steals (3). He finished second on the team with five rebounds on the evening.

Florida saw little production from senior guard Walter Hodge, who only played 13 minutes in the game and finished with three points and no other positive stats on the night. Hodge and junior Dan Werner caught the ire of Donovan for their lack of defensive effort, which is not the norm for either. Werner started the game but had only three points to go with five rebounds, four assists and a steal.

"One of the things I always talk about is defending the three point line," Donovan said. "Particularly in the second half, I thought we got very lax and loose in our defense. Guys lost sight of guys. For the most part, Dan Werner was giving up threes, Walter Hodge was giving up threes. We had some guys really falling asleep, older guys that you would think could take those shots away.

"When I say our team isn't playing well, generally that's a sign of youthfulness," Donovan said. "Generally young teams are inconsistent, but really the two guys we have to get to be more consistent are Hodge and Werner. Two of our older guys can provide more for our team."

Sophomore center Alex Tyus continued his hot inside play with 15 points, a team leading six rebounds, a block and a steal. Donovan is happy with his continued maturation, but knows he has to still be more physical.

"Alex has played well in terms of his scoring and point production," Donovan said. "I am happy to see his growth. There is no question he is playing with more energy. But, there are still parts of the game physically that he is going to have to address."

The last starter for the Gators was freshman guard Erving Walker who played a team high 33 minutes, had 13 points, an assist, a steal, and two rebounds on the evening.

Bench play was sparked by sophomore forward Chandler Parsons who came off the bench for the third game in a row. Parsons was active around the rim in his 28 minutes of play. He pulled in four rebounds and finished with 15 points, an assist, and two steals on the night.

Donovan wasn't happy with the 3-point defense against a team that had a distinct height disadvantage and that the Gators knew would be coming in shooting a lot of threes. Donovan wanted the defense to extend better and not allow so many threes as the Rattlers shot 24 on the night and made 11, far more than the Gators are used to giving up.

"I believe in taking the three totally away and you are never going to be able to prevent a team from never taking a three point shot, but you want to take it away," he said. "Last game they took 35 and this game they took 24. They've been a team where they haven't shot the ball well from behind the three point line. They were beaten handily on the road against (good) teams, but this is the one night they made a lot of threes. I am happy they did and happy we won, because this is one of those games that hopefully a young team can understand the lessons about guarding the three point line."

The Rattlers were led by 6-4 senior forward Lamar Twitty and his 20 points and 4-7 shooting from behind the arc. Twitty also pulled down six rebounds to lead the Rattlers in his 32 minutes of play.

The Gators did get plenty of play from their bench with the bad nights from Werner and Hodge. Parsons had a big night and freshmen Ray Shipman, Allan Chaney, and and Kenny Kadji all had double digit minutes on the night. Shipman was the most productive with four points, five rebounds, and a steal.

As much as the Gators have had their nights where they depend on the 3-point line, Tuesday was a night where they played a team that also was dependent on the long distance shot. Donovan hopes that his team will learn from the game and hopes that when the competition is better and skill level is higher, they will learn to defend the deep ball.

"I'm hoping it was a good lesson for our team," Donovan said. "I've been a part of it and seen it a lot.. a team that takes a lot of threes and you look at their percentages and see they aren't a good shooting team. I believe if the ball is going towards the basket, there can be one of those nights where they knocked down a lot of shots. I can't remember since I have been here a time when we have given up 11 three point shots made."

This time the Gators were able to prevail, he hopes there won't be a next time.

"I don't think we've played well at all. I don't know what the reason is for that. We have had spurts. They are giving a good effort. I was worried coming into this game and what happened to us tonight is exactly what I was worried about. If the halves were reversed, we are walking into halftime tied."

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