Gators work double time in hopes of improving defense Print
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Tuesday, 05 February 2008 06:32
NCAAB Headline News


 GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - After an ugly loss over the weekend, Florida coach Billy Donovan held two practices - one of them focusing solely on defense.
There's no doubt the two-time defending national champions could use the extra work.
The Gators (18-4, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) played their worst game of the season Saturday at Arkansas, allowing a season-high 54 percent shooting in a 80-61 rout that wasn't even as close as the final score.
Florida trailed by 30 points midway through the second half and couldn't get it under 20 until Walter Hodge's 3-pointer with 14 seconds to play.
As a result, Donovan had his guys work double time Sunday.
``It was all defense,'' freshman forward Adam Allen said Monday. ``Usually we do a lot of offensive stuff, run over our sets. But this was all sitting down and guarding. ... It was really intense, too.''
Donovan has tried to get his team, which dropped out of the latest Associated Press college basketball poll, to play more consistent defense all season.
He wants it to become the thing the Gators can rely on in tight games, especially when they have an off shooting night.
But Donovan hasn't had much luck getting his defensive philosophy to stick. The Gators have lost nearly every game in which they struggled from 3-point range.
Florida started 0-for-13 from behind the arc against the Razorbacks and finished 4-of-25.
``The shooting led into a lot of the other problems,'' Donovan said. ``I definitely think that affected our mind-set on the defensive end of the floor, and we, maturity-wise, have got to get through and get past some of that stuff when we don't shoot the basketball well.''
In their four losses, the Gators shot 38 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range.
In fact, they have just one victory when shooting below 43 percent this season: a 52-49 struggle against Georgia Southern in mid-December. The Gators shot 26 percent in that one but eked out a win thanks to solid defense and a few clutch free throws in the closing seconds.
``That's why we've been working on defense because offense is not going to be there every game,'' Allen said. ``We've got to be able to win games with our defense.''
Florida will get another shot to play better defense Tuesday night at No. 7 Tennessee (19-2, 6-1).
``We've got to be all on the same page defensively, trying to at least slow teams down or at least limit the shooting percentages,'' Donovan said.
Each of Florida's last 12 opponents has shot at least 40 percent from the field. By comparison, last year's title team held 21 of 40 opponents to 40 percent shooting or less.
No wonder Donovan expects more.
``He was mad at the beginning,'' Hodge said. ``He was trying to make a point to the young guys. It's not about punishment. It's about trying to get better. When we shoot poorly, we have to play defense. We have to become a better defensive team. We're going to become a better defensive team.''
 

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