Defense driving Florida Gators to early season wins
Through seven games, things seem to be coming easy for Billy Donovan’s squad.
The Florida Gators are outscoring their opponents by 25.3 points per game — third best in the nation thus far — including a 25-point shellacking of rival Florida State in their most recent game on Dec. 5.
However, the impressive start isn’t all peaches and cream.
The Gators don’t just happen to be winning, they argue. It is a result of tireless effort and sticking to the game plans drawn up by Donovan and his coaching staff.
“I wouldn’t say things have come easy,” senior forward Erik Murphy said. “Things may look easy, but I think that’s just a product of what we’ve been doing at the start of the season. Practice, weight room, all the work we put in.”
No. 5 Florida (7-0) is yet to truly be challenged this season. Though the Gators have faced some respected opponents, they have passed each test with flying colors.
Florida’s next test comes Saturday when the Gators travel to face No. 8 Arizona at 10 p.m.
The Gators will be looking to continue building on early season success. The reason for the team’s success, Murphy said, is the team’s meat and potatoes: its defense.
Opponents are scoring just 48.3 points per game against the Gators this season, which is good for second-best in the nation. Donovan’s team also finds itself in the top-10 in opponent’s field goal percentage, as teams are shooting just .349 against Florida.
“Coach [Donovan] just tells us every game that we can’t slack off, and we can’t have any slippage in practice,” junior guard Scottie Wilbekin said. “We try to go hard, and he’s constantly pushing us to go even harder.”
Last season, the Gators were inconsistent on the defensive end of the court, something that clearly irritated Donovan. This year, however, the team has bought into the concepts he has looked to implement.
Despite not having the entire roster available at times because of injury and suspension, Donovan has been able to mix and match utilizing big lineups and smaller sets to create problems for opposing offenses. With the team now fully healthy, Donovan has even more to work with.
“We’re still kind of moving forward here as a team,” Donovan said. “I still think we can get a lot better at both ends of the floor.”
An improvement for Florida on the defensive end is a scary thought for future opponents.
The 47 points Florida State scored against Florida were the fewest the Seminoles had ever scored in the Tucker Center. But the Seminoles have not been the only ones to struggle this season.
In 14 halves of basketball this season, the Gators have limited opponents to 26 points or fewer in 11 of those halves. Only Wisconsin and UCF were able to muster more than 50 points in an entire game.
“I think we’re really good, but how good is unknown,” Murphy said. “We’ve just got to keep sustaining [the strong play].”
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2014 Football Commits
|Davidson (NC) Day|
|Columbia (SC) Spring Valley|
|Fort Myers (Fla.) Dunbar|
|Cross City (Fla.) Dixie County|
|Jacksonville (Fla). Raines|
|Deland (Fla.) High|
|New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine|
|Miami (Fla.) Central|
|Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas|
2013 Basketball Commits
|Clermont (Fla.) Montverde Academy|
|Bonifay (Fla) Holmes County|
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