The Gators are coming off a strange game in their SEC home opener. Florida beat Ole Miss 78-68, but was pounded on the glass by the Rebels 46-22 taking a lot of the satisfaction out of that win and raising concerns about this team's ability to compete on the boards in the SEC.
Another concern for the 14-2 Gators is the recent play of sophomore forward Alex Tyus. After averaging 14 points and seven rebounds in the first dozen games, Tyus has produced only 18 points and 11 boards in the last three games combined.
I asked Gator head coach Billy Donovan about Tyus' recent struggles and what the Gators need to do about it.
"I think it's a couple of things," he said. "I think one, we've got to understand his game and how get him the ball and identify where he needs to get the ball. I think in a lot of the game a lot of his points came on run outs, it came on dribble penetration and dump down passes. He started out the (Ole Miss) game that way. He got a dunk in transition and Nick made a nice pass behind the defense and he got a lay up. So he got off to a good start, but in the SEC he's not going to be able to out run the front line and he's not going to always be able to sneak behind them and get the baskets he got early on. But there were some times when we could have thrown the ball in him when he was in a position where he could use his quickness and we missed it."
"The other thing he has to find a way to do is get the ball off the offensive backboard and help himself. Then he's also got to be much more aggressive when he's posting up and at least making himself available and providing some type of presence. I don't think he's ever going to be some kind of smash mouth physical post up guy. But are some times when coming down in transition the ball is passed up to the wing and the guy just throws the ball up top when if that guy on the wing would wait a second even though Alex has a man on him we can throw it to him and let him use his quickness."
Florida is getting set to face an Auburn team that is 10-5 on the year and lost its SEC opener at South Carolina 68-56. Auburn is not a team with much size, in fact their most notable inside player is 6-7 225 pound forward Korvotney Barber (12.5/8.8). A big concern for Florida has to be the fact that Barber snagged 18 rebounds in that contest against the Gamecocks. Donovan offered up his assessment of the game.
"Going on the road I think us handling the ball against them will be critical," he said. "I think we'll see some full court pressure. I think we'll see some changing defenses in the half court. So our ability to continue to do a good job with our assist to turnover ratio will be important. Another big key to the game will be those quickness plays and loose ball plays because they are so quick to the ball and they are so athletic. They're a little bit of a different team to defend, because they have the ability to put five guys out on the perimeter and have five three point shooters out there. We've got a lot to get ready for because they're a pretty complex team as it relates to their system. And I think you're also dealing with a team that's somewhat experienced and older with guys who have been in this league for several years."
Auburn Coach Jeff Lebo is on a bit of a hot seat in his fifth season on the plains. He has posted a 67-69 mark at the school, but his teams have been a dismal 19-46 in SEC action. With three of their top scorers from a year ago having moved on significant improvement may not be realistic.
The Florida/Auburn game will be televised by Raycom at 8:00 and can be seen on Fox Sports Net – Florida.
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