It has been a 180-degree turnaround for the Florida Gators this past week.
After taking a trio of losses that spanned from the Battle 4 Atlantis through Kansas, Florida picked up three consecutive victories to flip the script early on in the season.
Here are the “5 Takeaways” from the Florida games of the weekend:
The Second Half
The Gators entered the past week needing to show they can lead and close out games in the final 20 minutes against their opponent. Up to this point Florida hadn’t shown the ability to close games out, but they found a way this past week. The players have spoken about an increased intensity in practice and based on the performances these past three games you can take their word for it. The Gators have outscored their opponents 239-131 and are averaging 79.6 points in the last three games against Yale, Texas Southern and Jacksonville. More importantly, in the last three games, Florida has outscored their opponent in the second half 120-65 almost doubling their opponent’s offense. If the Gators can continue emphasizing the second half as they have this past week, we could see Florida win for a long stretch before taking another loss. A key to their second half success has been to come out early after halftime and begin to warm back up and get ready to go before their opponent even gets out of the locker room.
Horford’s Take: “It’s good to get everyone warmed up and engaged and ready so when it’s time to play, it’s not like we’re spending the first five minutes of the half warming up. We’re ready to go.”
Hey Injury, Take a Seat!
Dorian Finney-Smith had the best game he’s had in a Florida uniform. The junior scored 25 points — a career high — and backed it up with five 3-pointers. He shot 10-of-15 from the floor and collected six rebounds. He isn’t even 100 percent yet, battling a hang injury. After fracturing his index and middle fingers during the season-opener back on Nov. 14 against William & Mary, Finney-Smith hasn’t been able to produce like he would like to. Imagine having to tolerate pain through practices and games to then wear a brace that won’t allow you to do what you’d normally like to do when playing. Finney-Smith mentioned he was limited to his right hand to rebounding, dribbling and, of course, shooting. His left hand was almost non-existent. But he is now almost fully healed and Billy Donovan believes within this upcoming week he will be at 100 percent. One of Florida’s leading scorers, Finney-Smith will be needed as this team is looking healthier and on the rise.
Horford’s Take: “He’s an excellent, excellent basketball player and he’s been doing a lot of good things for us. Just because he hasn’t been lighting up the scoreboard it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been impacting games in a positive way. Today (Sunday) he just got his game off a little bit, which he could honestly do on any night.”
Consistency Is Key
Going from being a spot up shooter last season to molding into a bigger role, Michael Frazier II is keeping his play steady. Although he isn’t shooting the best percentage from downtown, as we were used to seeing him do, Frazier is doing what he can in order to score. That’s what he is now – a scorer. He needs to score from wherever he’s needed to on certain plays. In all 11 games this season, Frazier has scored in double figures and has now accomplished the feat 43 times in his career. He had a season-best 22 points against Jacksonville and bucketed six treys, which puts him tied for seventh in UF’s all-time three-pointers list. He’s averaging 15.2 points per game this season, which leads the team.
Donovan’s Take: “It was good to see him (Frazier II) make some shots in the second half. He got out in the passing lane, got a steal and a dunk and knocked down a three. He did some really, really good things.”
Although being limited scoring wise against Jacksonville, Devin Robinson and Chris Chiozza have been finding their way. With Chiozza getting the jump-start early in the season with a double figure performance and dishing nifty passes and robbing opponents, spurts of his talent were already showing on the court. For Robinson it was a different story. He was known for chucking up an air ball per game and never really getting clean shots. But after careful examination of his game, the coaching staff adjusted Robinson’s shot and he’s now shooting efficiently. He’s playing within the system and is allowing Donovan to coach him. After his 15-point performance against Texas Southern, a career-high, D-Rob is learning how to split his offensive game between shooting and driving to the basket.
Donovan’s Take: “I think both of those two guys made the biggest jump after the first four or five games when they both admitted it was a lot harder than they thought it ever could be.”
A New Winning Streak
If you were to ask Donovan or any of the players about their recent three-game winning streak, they wouldn’t care too much of it. But these three games revealed a lot of what the Gators truly are as a team. Despite not being the hardest competition on their schedule, Florida was still able to dominate their opponents rather than allow themselves to lose by a small margin or made any of those games interesting down the stretch, such as the Louisiana-Monroe game. What’s important is that the Gators are moving forward. What they would look to do in the future is perform like they have against a quality opponent, but for now they are sitting on a three-game stand of victories.
Finney-Smith’s Take: “We got three big games coming up. It’s a great time for us to get better. Just taking it one day at a time and get better each day.