Gators Look to End Brief Slide

At the start of the season just about every fan and observer of Florida Basketball would have considered an 8-2 start to be outstanding. With a much tougher schedule along with the absence of Nick Calathes, Florida was expected to take some lumps during the pre-conference portion of the 2009-10 slate. However after an 8-0 start, 8-2 doesn't look so good.

Billy Donovan's team will try to bounce back from consecutive losses to Syracuse and Richmond tonight in the O'Dome when South Alabama comes to town. The Jaguars are 8-4 on the year including an impressive 74-61 win over Arkansas. The Jaguars are a different kind of team in that they are undersized, but very quick. They use their quickness to force 17 turnovers a game, but they don't turn those takeaways into many points. South Alabama averages just 70 points a game and about 60 in its four losses.

They have three players scoring in double figures in Tim Williams (12.9), Bryan Sherrer (11.3) and Martino Brock (10.7). Brock, at 6-5 is the tallest of the trio and the second tallest starter. They foul a lot in their pressure and they are very good at getting to the free throw line themselves (26 times/g). The game could come down to a free throw shooting contest, and if it does the Jaguars (72%) have a slight edge on the Gators (69%).

For the Gators, Donovan is still looking for improvement in terms of assists and turnovers. The Gators average about 15 of each when you would like to be getting about 18 assists a game and limit your turnovers to a dozen or so. Florida also is not particularly healthy with Erik Murphy (shoulder), Kenny Kadji (back spasms), Chandler Parsons (torn muscle in leg) and Vernon Macklin (strained gluteus) all dealing with physical woes.

Florida could use a return to form from Ray Shipman. The sophomore guard scoring 19 points in the Gators' wins over FSU and Michigan State and added 10 more in the wins over Rutgers and FAMU. However he has contributed just two points in the last three games combined.

Florida also has to get freshman shooting guard Kenny Boynton to start connecting. The talented newcomer is playing extremely well in most phases of the game, but his 22 percent (16-for-73) shooting from behind the three point line is a concern. Aside from Boynton the rest of the team is connecting on an impressive 38 percent from long distance.

Donovan discussed several things, including his view of the Jaguars.


On facing South Alabama:

"They have a very good program. (Coach) Ronnie Arrow is in his second stint there and he's had great success there. Cliff Ellis had great success there and then John (Pelphrey) went there and took over a difficult situation and really turned it around into a great situation taking them to the NCAA Basketball Tournament. They have excellent basketball tradition and very good teams."

I asked Donovan what stands out about this South Alabama team:

"(They have) great speed and great quickness. They are undersized, maybe but they race the ball up the floor hard. They are very good defensively and a terrific offensive rebounding team."

On Florida's schedule to this point:

"One thing that I think has been a positive about our non-conference schedule is we have played a variety of different styles. We played a Michigan State team that runs a thousand sets and is a great offensive rebounding team. Florida State was a long, athletic terrific defensive team. We played against Syracuse who is all zone. We played against Richmond which is all match up zone with a Princeton style offense and now we're playing against a team that really runs it up the floor, is very athletic and very deep."

Are there concerns about the Gators lack of depth right now?

"I think that's always going to be a concern any time you're at this point of the season. It's been a long stretch and guys are really banged up. Those kinds of injuries that we have right now are probably similar to a lot of teams and what they're going through. But there's no question depth-wise they have a lot more depth than we have right now."

On Boynton's shooting woes:

"As a freshman in college there (are) lot of ups and downs. I think if you look at a lot of freshman that have come in here, guys who were very good shooters had their ups and downs. The biggest thing with Kenny for me, as a coach he's got to have freedom and he's got to play with freedom. (But) he's got to take good shots. He had some shots in the (Richmond) game that were not great shots, and it wasn't just him. But he does a lot of things. He and Erving (Walker) are the only guys on our team with positive assist/turnover ratios. As long as he's taking good shots I think you gotta let him shoot the ball."


Florida needs to get this win to keep from entering Christmas break with a three-game losing streak. While the Richmond loss wouldn't be considered a "bad" loss come NCAA selection time, dropping a home game against South Alabama would be.

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