Michael Frazier isn’t really worried about the funkiness of Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym where the team benches are on opposite ends of the floor instead of the sidelines. It is the most unique setting for a basketball game in the Southeastern Conference, but Frazier is only concerned about the things that are the same in every arena in college basketball.
“The goal’s still 10 feet; the 3-point line is still the same difference, so I don’t think it will be all that much different,” Frazier said Monday before #1 ranked Florida practiced before flying to Nashville to face Vanderbilt (15-11, 7-7 SEC) in a Tuesday game (7 p.m., ESPN) that could clinch at least a share of the Southeastern Conference championship for the Gators. Any combination of Florida wins and Kentucky (21-6, 11-3 SEC) losses that equals two in the last four games will give the Gators the SEC title outright.
For the Gators to win at Memorial Gym, they might need a performance from Frazier reminiscent of the one he had Saturday in Oxford, when he knocked down five 3-pointers as part of a 17-point effort. When Frazier is knocking down 3-pointers, the painted area typically opens up for Patric Young and Will Yeguete and driving lanes open for Casey Prather. Frazier is averaging 12.3 points per game and he’s hitting 42.3% of his 3-point shots (77-182).
Frazier is always capable of going on a 3-point tear when the basket looks as big as the ocean, but sometimes he has to be encouraged to keep on shooting if he misses his two or three shots to start a game. There was a time when a bad shooting game or a bad start could carry over and actually last two or three games, but Florida coach Billy Donovan says Frazier is starting to develop a short term memory.
“He’s actually gotten better,” Donovan said. “What happened with Michael over there is it would linger for two or three games and now, he’s done a better job of understanding and I think our team has encouraged him and given him confidence that if he does miss a shot, ‘Hey, you keep on shooting. We need you shooting. We need you doing that.’ They have tried to lift him up and give him confidence.”
One thing that has helped Frazier from getting into a shooting funk has been his willingness to play so hard at the defensive end. When he is focused in on his defense it makes it difficult to hold on to those thoughts about a missed shot.
Frazier says it’s all about “continuing to play the game, not let shots affect me, understanding I can affect the game more than just shooting the ball, so I think that’s really helped me focus on other parts of my game, mostly on the defensive end and being locked in on that end and taking good shots, taking open shots and shooting with confidence.”
If he can shoot with confidence at Vanderbilt Tuesday night, it will be a big lift for the Gators, who don’t know what they will be able to get out of leading scorer Casey Prather and might be without the services of backup point guard Kasey Hill for a second straight game. Prather, who has been playing on a gimpy ankle, has some tendonitis issues in his knees that have affected his play recently. He didn’t practice Sunday and wasn’t expected to practice Monday. Hill, who has a strained groin, will be a game time decision. Even if the trainers say Hill can go, Donovan might elect to sit him one more game to have him fully rested and healed before the final three SEC games of the season.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
FLORIDA (25-2, 14-0 SEC): Will Yeguete (6-8, 230, SR); Casey Prather (6-6, 212, SR); Patric Young (6-9, 240, SR); Scottie Wilbekin (6-2, 176, SR); Michael Frazier (6-4, 199, SO)
VANDERBILT (15-11, 7-7 SEC): Rod Odom (6-9, 212, SR); James Siakam (6-7, 215, RJR); Damian Jones (6-10, 235, FR); Kyle Fuller (6-1, 188, SR); Dai-Jon Parker (6-3, 190, JR)