I know football is the king of glory sports, but our basketball team appears to be much better right now. Besides, there’s a long offseason ahead, and aside from the occasional verbal committment from a player, not much really goes on there.
So onto our next subject: Billy Ball.
The Arizona Wildcats came to town last night to give the Gators a good test against a decent team. Don’t mistake Arizona for a DIII school, but they aren’t exactly North Carolina, either. Anyway, they came in and gave the 12th ranked Gators a run for their money. It was a close game the whole time, until unranked Arizona pulled ahead 59-52 with about 6 minutes left.
Then our biggest guy, Patric Young got involved.
He rescued the sleeping Gators, grabbing a huge rebound to complete the comeback and give Florida a one point lead with 14 seconds left. After a turnover and two made free throws, the Gators appeared to have the game wrapped up with a 66-63 lead with 8 seconds left. But a highly controversial foul call on Casey Prather on a three point shot gave Solomon Hill three foul shots- who made all three to send the game into OT.
After a weak effort for 40 minutes, Erving Walker finally turned himself on. With Patric Young playing the game of his life, and Walker scoring 7 points in the overtime, the Gators prevailed, 78-72.
But Donovan wasn’t happy. He wanted more looks inside and blamed guards Kenny Boynton and Walker for not getting Young some touches.
He’s got a point. This was one of those nights where the threes just weren’t falling, but even worse, the foul shooting was abysmal. After a 2 for 14 start, the Gators wound up 15 for 32 at the line- unacceptable. However, I can live with bad free throw shooting (usually if you can’t shoot free throws after age 15 you’ll never be able to) if the rebounding is fantastic. Luckily, last night it was. But this won’t always be the case. Syracuse killed us under the boards, and Ohio State just made us look lost all night.
Those things aren’t in Donovan’s control aside from recruiting, which for this year is too late. Either you can shoot free throws or you can’t. Either you can rebound like a monster or you can’t. Either your threes are falling or they’re not. There’s nothing the coach (or even the players) can do.
What the coach and the players can control is the way the offense is run. I’m not totally a fan of launching threes all night as the primary offense but if you’ve got guys like Walker, Bradley Beal and Boynton then you have to have isolation plays outside the arc somewhere in your playbook. But even the Indiana Pacers weren’t just a three shooting team. Reggie Miller may have been the best shooter the game has ever seen, but he got his teammates involved. I’m not saying the Florida guards are ballhogs, but there has to be a way to get the big guys involved aside from them eating up missed shots.
There simply needs to be a collection of plays that are designed to let the big guys play their games- whether it’s a slam dunk or a one on one opportunity or whatever, there need to be plays where Patric Young is the primary player.
Young had 25 points and 10 rebounds. He could have had as many 50 points had he been fed the ball all night, and maybe 35 if he had been fed a little bit more.
The point is, there needs to be a plan in place when the threes aren’t falling. Sure, it’s great if the Gators could shoot 85% from three point land, but that’s just way too unrealistic of a gameplan to base your strategy off of. Patric Young needs to be ready to go by the time the SEC schedule begins, and these games are nothing but practice. He needs to be ready for a much bigger load when the guards discover they’re stuck in a night where they can’t find the basket with a road map. Last night was the perfect opportunity to work on that, and they didn’t.
But the Gators got a huge win for their NCAA resume, assuming Arizona doesn’t completely tank the way some teams do after a tough loss and a near upset. Now, Gator fans are Wildcat fans, as it obviously looks better on our tournament resume to have beaten a good team than a bad one.
The schedule doesn’t really get much easier for Florida. They have a cupcake against Rider tomorrow, followed by a neutral site game against future SEC foe Texas A&M (currently ranked #25 in the nation), and then another cupcake in Mississippi Valley State. Then we get FSU at home, followed by a road game against Rutgers (which I plan on attending), Yale and UAB at home and then we get Tennessee to begin our SEC campaign in Knoxville.
The Gators aren’t that bad for December. There are just a lot of early season issues that Donovan usually gets fixed by tournament time, picking up a few big wins along the way. They could have easily beaten Ohio State and Syracuse, two of the nation’s best teams in their own homes, so we know our talent can match up against anybody in the country.
And I mean anybody.