Trying to Solve the Late Game Puzzle

Florida basketball's late game struggles have come in a variety of situations. Missed free throws and a defensive breakdown cost them the South Carolina game. More free throw difficulties and a sensational shot by Jodie Meeks did them in against Kentucky. Scoring just two points in the final 5:52, including a last possession to tie where Nick Calathes did not touch the ball, doomed them in Athens

Three winnable SEC road games got away by a total of six points. What can be done to fix the ongoing issues? Billy Donovan and his players continue to look for answers.

This is a team populated largely by underclassmen, something Donovan feels has led to growing pains at times in pressure moments.

"I think in order to really get good at those situations, you've got to go through those situations and be in those situations to understand the mental part of it," Donovan said. "I think our guys are playing very hard, but I think they're also understanding there's a lot more to this mentally in terms of how you handle those situations."

One area Donovan is frustrated with is his players judgment on when to attempt to make a play and when to opt for the safer strategy. Multiple times in the Georgia game players committed fouls going for steals late in the clock or with someone nearing a ten second count.

"There's certain things that impact winning and the outcome of games, and sometimes you've got to make those plays," said Donovan.

Donovan emphasized his players need to keep their intensity in the final minutes rather than getting caught up in previous difficulties.

Sophomore Nick Calathes has missed multiple critical free throws late in the losses, possibly because of fatigue as a result of playing so many minutes. He said the Gators know what they need to do late, but the execution hasn't been good enough.

"You've got to close your game out. We've got to finish it right," Calathes said. "What we've got to do is get shots and make plays for other people."

Calathes insisted the team's confidence has not been damaged by the recent disappointments, and says they still believe they're going to be successful late.

"Our backs are against the wall, that's how it is right now and we've got to respond. I think we will."

"I'm not worried about our guys confidence at all," Donovan said. "I think when you have a confidence issue you see guys being maybe really tentative and passive. I think our team has really remained aggressive."

Florida is done with SEC East division road games, and has a chance to rebuild some momentum with home games against Alabama and Vanderbilt this week.

Discuss on the FightinGators.com premium forums


Fightin Gators Top Stories