Best defense of year for UF vs. Fresno

    The defensive game plan for Florida’s 66-49 win over Fresno State at the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise Saturday started with defending the 3-point line. Dissatisfied with the way the Gators handled the 3-point shooters from both Kansas and Memphis, Billy Donovan wanted to see the Gators force Fresno State completely out of its comfort zone.

    In particular, Donovan wanted to prevent guards Marvelle Harris and Cezar Guerrero from heating up on the perimeter which would open up the inside game for Paul Watson and Alex Davis. Harris, Fresno’s leading scorer, scored only 10 and was 0-4 from the 3-point line. Although Guerrero scored 17 points, he was forced into taking seven shots that ranged from bad to questionable.

    And, by dominating the boards, 47-26, the Gators took away the transition game, which made Fresno run a lot of clock, something they weren’t comfortable doing.

    “They weren’t able to score quickly against us,” Donovan said. “We made them go deep into the clock and I thought the rebounding on the offensive glass was very good. We were very, very active.”

    This was the first game this season the Gators have held an opponent to fewer than 50 points in a game. The only reason Fresno got it close to 50 was Watson hit a half-court shot as the game clock expired.

    Donovan called it Florida’s best defensive effort of the season.

    “I thought this was probably our best game defensively from start to finish against a team that offensively that puts a lot of numbers up and shoots the ball very well from behind the 3-point line,” Donovan said. “Obviously they threw one in from half court but they were really 3-16 in the game. I thought our guys were really locked in there. I was proud the fact that even though we weren’t very good offensively in the first half we still stuck with our defense.”


    This was the best game of the season for Will Yeguete, who has been quietly getting back his strength after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee back in the summer. Always a defensive stalwart and blessed with the ability to score garbage points and come up with loose balls, Yeguete had a complete game, scoring nine points, grabbing a game high 10 rebounds and blocking a shot in 28 minutes.

    It was an effort that drew Donovan’s praise.

    I thought the most underrated guy tonight was Will Yeguete,” Donovan said. “He was awesome. He had nine points, 10 rebounds, loose balls … he was very active defensively. He’s one of those guys who I think a lot of time that people who are covering our team don’t have a great appreciate for what he does. He’s a great help defender. He’s a great on-ball defender. He rebounds. He’s in the right spots. He’s really reliable. I thought he played exceptional today.” 


    Kasey Hill sat the final 9:29 of the game after tweaking his left ankle. Earlier in the year, Hill sat four full games after suffering a high ankle sprain in his right ankle against Southern University.

    The injury wasn’t serious and Hill was seen running off the court with teammates after the game. Donovan still didn’t see any reason to take chances. At the time of the Saturday injury, the Gators were leading, 46-30, so Hill took a spot on the bench the rest of the way.

    He stepped on the back of a guy’s foot and kind of tweaked his ankle a little bit,” Donovan said. “… We were up by 15 points and the way the game was going it just didn’t make any sense to put him back on the floor.”

    With no game until next Sunday’s contest at the O-Dome with Savannah State, Hill will get plenty of rest and treatment the next few days.


    While Donovan is certainly hoping he can get Erik Murphy results out of younger brother and Duke transfer Alex Murphy, he understands that he’s dealing with two distinct players and personalities.

    I think he’s totally different as a player, totally different as a person,” Donovan said. Erik was always a little bit of a shy and introverted person when he first came here. Alex is very outgoing, very personable. I think once Erik became a junior he was a lot more verbal, a lot more outgoing.”

    Whereas Erik was a 6-11 who learned to be effective on the inside, his calling card was his 3-point shot. His ability to stretch a defense is why he’s earned a roster spot as a rookie with the Chicago Bulls, who drafted him in the second round after he finished his Florida eligibility.

    Alex is 6-9, 230, and while probably not in Erik’s league as a knockdown shooter, he can do things that Erik cannot.

    Erik is a power forward/center and has that unique characteristic of really being able to stretch a defense the way he shoots the ball,” Donovan said. Alex is more of a guy who can put the ball on the floor and create off the dribble. He’s probably a little bit more fluid offensively. I don’t know if he shoots the ball right now at the same level that Erik shoots at.”

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    Franz Beard
    Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.


    1. Always great to have the Gators down here in Cane country for a hoops game around the holidays. 4th year running my Dad and I have enjoyed lower level seats behind Gator bench. The defensive intensity was incredible. Billy continues to impress even after all these years as his words about Harris, although disappointing for “what could have been”, ring true…You under-perform at lose your job. Clearly evident this guy didn’t want to play by rules. Can only imagine what Patric and Will think of all of this.