The Florida Gators men’s basketball team held a tuneup scrimmage last night against Division II Nebraska-Kearney defeating them 101-71. Surprisingly, the team was led by a group of freshman as Billy Donovan, unhappy with the effort of the starters, chose to bench them for much of the second half.
Of the veteran players, Will Yeguete was the only player that appeared to play at the level Donovan is looking for posting 20 points with 11 rebounds. Ironically, Yeguete is the player Donovan has been singling out for his inconsistency in the preseason. Apparently, Billy’s message has gotten through to Yeguete who has appeared to struggle with additional weight he put on in the offseason. Hopefully, the rest of the veteran’s will get Billy’s message as well before the regular season gets underway November 9th against Georgetown.
The biggest concern for Donovan was the defensive intensity, or rather the lack of it, by the veteran players.
Billy led off his postgame press conference saying, “I was really, really disappointed with our defense” mentioning the amount of time they’ve spent watching video of every aspect of their defense from half court to transition and felt the necessary effort wasn’t there last night by the veterans.
Stating his dissatisfaction with the Gators giving up 71 points to a Division II team Donovan said, “From a talent and size standpoint, we had a huge advantage over them. We just saw time and time again our older, veteran guys getting beat off the dribble and not rebounding the basketball.”
The frontcourt duo of superstar center Patric Young and power forward Erik Murphy had only 7 rebounds between them and the team as a whole held only a 3 rebound edge for the game against a team whose tallest players stands 6’7″.
Donovan mentioned timing issues trying to get the ball inside to Young, sloppy play that led to turnovers, and fast break issues where they should have just settled into the half court and set up their offense.
Senior guard Mike Rosario, getting the first start of his Gator career, played sloppily at one point dribbling a ball off his foot leading to a turnover and fast break bucket for Nebraska-Kearney. He finished with four points and four turnovers.
“Michael tried today, but when you turn the ball over like that, and we’re getting his liability on defense, I think he tried on defense, but he has to get better.”
The lackluster effort led Donovan to sit starters for much of the second half and go to a smaller lineup with primarily freshman players. Of the freshman, Michael Frazier II led the way with 21 points on 8-10 shooting and 5-6 from outside the arc. The guard duo of Braxton Ogbueze and Dillon Graham added 16 and 12 points respectively.
Of the freshman’s performance Billy said, “They are committed to working hard, they are committed to getting better” but cautioned, “I’ve seen a lot of different guys come out as freshmen in their first game and make a lot of shots.” “It’s a long year. I never try to put anything into a game.”
So, now, the Gators must get back to work and iron out the issues that caused them to struggle last night. In the week ahead, I suspect Donovan will find ways to motivate the veteran’s to play with more effort and intensity, particularly on the defensive end. Last night it just was not there for them.