If Florida was hoping to rebound from a recent road loss in Missouri, it didn’t — literally or metaphorically.
Playing without Will Yeguete and Michael Frazier II, the Gators were not only short on the bench but also on the boards. Florida’s depleted team conceded a 10-rebound deficit to Tennessee in a 64-58 loss. It was a figure to which Billy Donovan partially attributed the defeat.
“The difference to me in the game was the rebounding—the offensive rebounding, and then our inability to make a shot,” Donovan said during his post-game press conference.
Though neither team set the nets on fire and each ended with an identical 42.1 field goal percentage, the Volunteers benefitted from second opportunities by gathering 13 offensive rebounds.
The Gators had five fewer second chances, but it may not have mattered. Florida again struggled to put the ball in the net, especially from beyond the arc, where it made only 4 of its 17 attempts.
“I thought Murphy had good looks,” Donovan said. “I thought Kenny Boynton had good looks. And I thought, at times, Rosario had good looks. We did not make shots — at all.”
Though he finished with a team high 16 points, Donovan seemed irked by those times Rosario didn’t have “good looks” but still shot.
“I thought there were some ill-advised shots by Rosario,” Donovan lamented.
Repeating a refrain that has become a recent mantra, Donovan stressed the need for his team to drive the basketball — something he felt it failed to do.
“You know, I don’t know how many times I have to tell these guys, ‘You have got to drive the ball.’ And they insist on taking these shots,” Donovan said.
But it was one of those nights, and the times Florida did drive the ball — it was usually left on the rim.
“I thought we had some plays by our guards around the basket where we had a chance to maybe make some layups, and we missed some layups and missed some open shots,” Donovan said. “And I think on the road you have got to eventually make some of those shots.”
Florida did make some interior baskets, often courtesy of Patric Young.
Though he finished with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, Young managed only two baskets in the second half. He did, meanwhile, hold Jarnell Stokes to eight points in what Donovan considered a very physical battle that limited both teams ability to score from the post.
“I think the size and strength of both Patric and Stokes probably negated each other when they got the ball in there,” Donovan said. “Because I thought Stokes had a very, very difficult time scoring and I thought Patric, in the second half, had a very difficult time scoring.”
In addition to a stalemate on the interior and poor shooting from the perimeter, Florida also endured another shortened lineup. Though he conceded an impact, Donovan refused to attribute the loss to his team’s missing pieces.
“We don’t have any excuses. When we line up, we lineup and play,” Donovan said. “Was there fatigue we were battling? Sure. Were we small sometimes and got hurt with a small lineup? Yes. But you know what? I always believe ‘There is a will, there is a way.’ There are things that you have to be able to potentially overcome, so to speak.”
So for how much longer will the Gators have to overcome this seemingly endless parade of injuries?
“I don’t know. I get asked that all the time. I really don’t know. Those are doctors’ decisions,” Donovan said. “I know those guys, or at least Will Yeguete, is on course to be back hopefully soon. I think Frazier is on course to be back soon. But it’s more doctors’ clearance. These guys have started working out. They have started running. But Yeguete has not had any contact. Frazier has not had any contact. And I don’t know about Prather for this weekend.”
Florida endured yet another potential loss when Casey Prather collided with teammate Mike Rosario during a scramble for the ball. His head was cut, but the hope is that he did not sustain another concussion.
“He may have a concussion. I don’t know. I don’t know. He will have to be examined,” Donovan said.
And the beat goes on. . .