Billy Donovan’s basketball squad will play its final non-conference game of the regular season Tuesday night when the Gators host Liberty in an unusual 6:00 contest. The game will be the 15th of the season for the Gators and will enable to the team to post the second-most (13) non-conference wins in school history. The Gators should have little difficulty getting it done.
Liberty comes in with a 6-and-7 record, but that includes a six game losing streak. The Flames actually started out the season 6-and-1 but have not been able to win since December ninth. They are coming off three losses in as many days at a tournament in Provo, Utah this past weekend. So they’ll also be a more physically tired team than the Gators.
I spoke with Billy Donovan about the game and the need for the Gators to avoid the slow starts that have plagued them at times this season. The Gators fell behind early to Kansas, FSU, Stetson and UAB.
Donovan on Liberty
I think the first thing that stands out about Liberty is their back court. You talk about (Larry) Blair and (Dwight) Brewington – a transfer from Providence—you have two guys back there that really have the ability to put up big numbers. Blair’s getting about twenty a game (19.3) right now and Brewington is scoring about fifteen (14.8). I think they are still working on their chemistry since Brewington just became eligible six games ago but those two guys are extremely talented.
Like a lot of mid-major teams they have front court guys, who are maybe a little undersized, but they’re quick and they’re athletic and they cause you a different type of problem. I’d say they are probably going to come in here and try to use clock, spread the floor out and then try to use their one-on-one talent.
Donovan on Eliminating Slow Starts
I really feel, Larry that we need to come out and really be ready to go. I talk to our guys all the time about there’s a lot more in their heads there’s a lot more going on in their minds than there was a year ago. So what happens is you try to get that focus to be honed in on what you have to get done as a group. It doesn’t have to do with anything bad; I think it has to do with their individual expectations and how badly they want to do things to help the team. Against UAB I didn’t think we didn’t play hard or play with energy; I thought UAB seemed to be more into the moment of what was going on than we were. I thought at the beginning of the game they were quicker to the ball and quicker reacting. Our guys, as the game went on began to figure a little more what they needed to do defensively and offensively and we started taking advantage of some things.
Everyone keeps saying we are getting every team’s best shot, but to me what we’re getting is a team, every game that is playing their best “team” ball. They’re playing together as a team; they’re playing unselfishly; they’re moving the ball; they’re playing hard. They are doing everything as a group to mirror what we did last year as a team. I think that’s why we have to be on guard and be focused on making sure we do those things. We’ve dug ourselves some holes this season and fortunately two of the four games we’ve been able to come back and win, but certainly it’s not a good starting point for us.
Schedule Strength Not Bad
While the Gators certainly have played their fair share of bad teams in the pre-conference schedule, there are some major plusses that will affect Florida’s seeding come tournament time. Florida’s two losses don’t hurt at all, considering both Kansas and FSU are 12-and-2 at this writing. Florida’s strongest wins look like Ohio State (11-and-2), Providence (9-and-3) and UAB (8-and-6). The Gators may also get some bonus for a couple of other teams that are off to fast starts in their conferences. Samford is 3-and-0 in the Ohio Valley, while Western Kentucky has won three of four in Sun Belt Conference play. If the Gators hope to be a number one seed for the first time however, they must improve significantly on last year’s 10-and-6 record in SEC play.