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3 posts from November 21, 2013

November 21, 2013

HOOPS: Balancing Act -- UF cruises past MTSU

GAINESVILLE -- No. 14 Florida dismantled Middle Tennessee State -- an 11th seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament -- 79-59 thanks to a 15-4 run early in the second half Thursday night in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Six players scored in double figures -- Dorian Finney-Smith (14), Will Yeguete (10), Michael Frazier (13), DeVon Walker (10), Casey Prather (11), Patric Young (16) -- as a shorthanded Florida team discovered some offensive cohesiveness following a horrid first half playing without freshman point guard Kasey Hill (high-ankle sprain).

Although the balancing act took awhile, it was an impressive win after an ugly start.

“I thought our offense was really good without a point guard in the second half,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. 

Prather, plagued by first half foul trouble, scored all 11 of his points after halftime, while Young finished the night with six rebounds, three assists and 16 points -- six via the foul line.

“I thought Patric did a great job tonight,” Donovan said. “I thought he set the tone defensively. He made a diving play in the first half, which was phenomenal. He was active. He rebounded, made his free throws. I was proud of him tonight.”

UF -- propelled by a dominating defensive effort -- jumpstarted its second half offense with transition buckets, four 3-point plays and several wide-open treys.

The Gators also held MSU’s top two scorers -- Shawn Jones and Kerry Hammonds, both who average 16 points per game -- to a combined nine points.

“We were really committed to that end of the floor,” Donovan said. “We were engaged. We were disruptive.”

But the first half barely resembled basketball.

Two quality teams combined for 26 fouls, 32 free throws and just 17 baskets in a brutal opening 20 minutes -- one that Donovan called “painful to watch.”

It was another game marred by fouls (43), but Florida at least made them count, shooting 83 percent (25-30) from the free throw line.

“It’s going to take some time for everyone -- officials, coaches, players -- to adjust,” Donovan said of so many whistles. “It maybe a painful year from the spectators standpoint for awhile, but hopefully we move into a positive direction once [the new rules] becomes second nature.”

VIDEOS: Young talks Florida's simplified offense without a true point guard and the team's second-half explosion, while Finney-Smith dishes on his role as a point-forward, the slow start and his loud momma. 



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Lack of turnovers plaguing Gators

GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s defense still ranks No. 7 nationally (288.6 yards per game), but the unit’s lofty rankings have camouflaged its struggles during the team’s five-game losing streak -- especially in a statistical category it dominated a season ago.

The Gators are no longer forcing turnovers.

In 2012, Florida was a ball-hawking, playmaking defense that recorded 30 takeaways, and as a team finished with a plus-15 turnover margin -- good for No. 7 in the country.

This season, the offense has struggled to protect the football, while its defense -- supposedly the rock of the team -- has done little to counter the problem.

“We have missed some opportunities,” coach Will Muschamp said. “We've had some opportunities at interceptions that were dropped, and we've had some balls on the ground that we haven't gotten. We haven't had as many strip opportunities as we would like. That's one thing we have looked at as a staff. … We've got to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Florida has forced 15 turnovers this season, but 10 came in a three-game stretch against lowly conference competition with a combined league record of 1-17.

During its five-game losing streak, Florida has just four takeaways, while turning the ball over eight times.

“We’ve had opportunities to make them and haven’t really made them at times. Usually, when someone makes one of those plays, a tough play and gets one, then you kind off get a couple more. It spirals that way,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “We’ve had those chances in games, and just most recently haven’t made them. It’s something we emphasize, work on and talk about in meetings. We know how critical it is to our success. We’ve got to protect the ball and get the ball out on defense. Obviously, we’re not winning in that area right now, and it’s affecting the outcome of the games.”

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Notebook: Focusing on the task at hand, injury updates, NFL talk

GAINESVILLE -- Florida assistant coach D.J. Durkin said he has head coaching aspirations, but UF’s defensive coordinator refused to discuss any offseason hypotheticals and said he’s solely focused on Florida’s next opponent: Georgia Southern. 

Durkin -- in his fourth year with the Gators -- has been rumored as a possible candidate for several potential Mid-American Conference jobs, a league that includes his alma mater and the school he kick-started his coaching career (Bowling Green).  

Durkin(D.J. Durkin & Will Muschamp | media.miamiherald.com)

“I haven't been approached by anyone or anything,” he said. “Yeah one day I do want to be a head coach. It would have to be the right situation, the right place, a lot of factors go into it. It wouldn't just be any job.”


Quarterback Tyler Murphy participated in Tuesday’s practice and is now questionable for Saturday’s game.

According to coach Will Muschamp, redshirt freshman quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg is still in line for another start, but Murphy’s injured shoulder is improving.

“It’s all about his discomfort level right now,” Muschamp said of Murphy’s AC sprain in the quarterback’s throwing shoulder. “It’s gotten better every day. If you look from Sunday to today, it’s much, much, much improved. We’ll just to continue to work through that. It’s all about his comfort level. Right now, the shoulder is stable.”

Muschamp also said left tackle D.J. Humphries (MCL sprain) and cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) would not play this weekend.


Junior cornerbacks Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy are two players many expect to leave Florida for the NFL following the 2013 season.

According to defensive tackle Leon Orr, playing at the next level is readily discussed in the locker room amongst Florida players.

“When you in the locker room you hear the word ‘NFL’ because there’s a lot of guys who play college ball and see themselves at the next level. So it’s definitely conversation about certain players going to the NFL and certain player not going to the NFL,” Orr explained. “It’s just one of those things, you never know what anybody thinking. You can never hold much weight into conversation, just more listen to them.”

Orr, a redshirt junior who’s started seven games this season and recorded 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, admitted he’s also contemplating his future.  

“I mean I definitely feel like I want to be a Gator next year. I want to do a lot of things for this school that I haven’t had the opportunity to do but I feel like this who NFL thing and this whole going to the next level thing is so new to me, and I don’t know much about it, that I want to be able to be well informed before I make any type of decision on that,” Orr said.


“I'm a drop-back quarterback. I think ESPN had me at deceptively athletic, so I'll throw in a spin move every now and then. But you know I drop back and try to throw it as hard as I can in an accurate spot. That's how I play."

-- Christian Provancha, Florida’s unlikeliest No. 2 quarterback against Georgia Southern with injuries to Jeff Driskel and Tyler Murphy. Provancha, nicknamed Provolone, is a walk-on senior from Cocoa Beach.

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