Without improvement, Donovan sees “no shot” against Wisconsin

Having reviewed the tape of the Gators’ season opening win over North Florida, Billy Donovan knows it’s either improve or else when eighth-ranked Florida (1-0) travels to Madison to face 20th-ranked Wisconsin (1-0) at the Kohl Center Tuesday night (9 p.m., ESPN2).

“If we play like we did on Friday, we have no shot to win this game,” Donovan replied bluntly to a question Monday afternoon. “We gave up way too many three-point shots. We gave up 45 or 47% from the field. We dealt with an enormous amount of foul trouble in the first half. We’re going to have to perform a lot better than we did.”

The Gators were cruising along with a 35-18 first half lead against UNF when foul trouble hit and forced Donovan to go to the bench and play the final five minutes with an inexperienced lineup, allowing UNF to go on an 11-0 run. The Gators held a 19-point lead in the second half, but they seemed to lose focus in the final seven or eight minutes, allowing UNF to close to within eight.

Against Wisconsin, Donovan expects more leadership and effort from his three seniors to ensure the Gators play with poise and do a better job on the defensive end.

“It starts with our three older guys: Patric (Young), Casey (Prather) and Will (Yeguete),” Donovan said. “Those guys have got to be the anchor and foundation. For a guy like Kasey Hill (freshman point guard), this will be his first road game. I don’t know how he’ll respond in this kind of situation. We’ll find out a little bit more. (Michael) Frazier coming off mono now has one game under his belt but he’s certainly in a different role than he was a year ago. So we’ll see how he responds. So as it relates to our team and the anchor of our team it’s got to be our three seniors.”


The 20th-ranked Badgers (1-0) are one of the most consistent teams in the Big Ten. They’ve finished no worse than fourth in the league for 12 consecutive seasons under Bo Ryan (292-113 at Wisconsin; 675-216 overall). Wisconsin is a physical team defensively that will spread the floor at the other end to create driving lanes and to create space for its three-point shooters.

Donovan says the Gators have to make defending the three-point line a priority.

They are a really good hard driving team and they shoot threes,” Donovan said. “You have to certainly have a great level of awareness and you have to be in the right position and you’ve got to know what they’re doing with their movement. They’re very efficient and they’re very effective and any time you have that kind of shooting spaced out on the floor it provides good spacing for your offense with an open lane so you can post, feed or drive.”

The key matchups for the Gators will be Casey Prather against Sam Dekker (16 points in game one) and Michael Frazier against Ben Brust. Dekker, because he’s got the size and strength go inside and outside, will be enough of a challenge that Donovan says the Gators will be using more than one defender.

We’ve never ever really looked at a situation where it’s going to be him (Prather) vs. Dekker,” Donovan said. “There will be different people on Dekker.”


Asked about suspended players Scottie Wilbekin, Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris, Donovan said the three would not be playing Tuesday night but wouldn’t elaborate when any or all of them will be back.

They’ve still got stuff that they’ve got to do and we’ll address those guys as each game goes forward,” Donovan said. “I think after this game I could probably see where those guys are at. There are things that those guys need to be getting done … All I can tell you is going into this game that those three guys are not playing and when they’ll be back is still up in the air.”


With Wilbekin, Finney-Smith and Harris out and Frazier, Yeguete, Carter and Dillon Graham not at 100%, the Gators have some depth issues. Foul problems could be a problem, but Donovan says you can’t go into a game trying to protect your players from fouls.

Obviously depth is going to be a challenge going into the game but we’ll have to be smart and try to protect guys. You can go into any game trying to stay out of foul trouble and if you do that what happens is you become very weak defensively and become weak at the basket. Inevitiably you give up too high a percentage.”

Donovan hopes that the younger players coming off the bench will handle the situation better than they did the final five minutes of the first half against UNF.

Those guys have got to understand that if that happens tomorrow night, those guys have to perform and hold down a bit better than they did while they were in there,” Donovan said. “Jake Kurtz is not a center. We got caught having to play him there. I think for the most part Jake does a pretty good job but I think that if we’re caught for a majority of the game with Jake at the center spot we’re probably in for some difficulty.”


Both Yeguete and Eli Carter continue to get back into basketball playing shape. Donovan says both have healed from injuries that required surgery (Yeguete microfracture surgery on his knee; Carter broken leg) so it’s a matter of getting back their strength.

Yeguete (eight rebounds in the season opener against North Florida) is further ahead in his recovery than Carter. Although he’s had microfracture surgery, which eliminated much of the vertical leaping ability of players such as Delvon Roe or Greg Oden, Donovan says that Yeguete’s situation is different and that he should regain his elevation.

It’s a different bone; it’s a non-weight bearing bone [than Roe or Oden],” Donovan said. “I think it’s different from those guys a little bit. His strength will come back. He’s going to get that back. He’s going to have to play through it a little bit. It’s probably going to take him a little bit of time to get it back. We’re monitoring him in practice. On Sunday he went a full-blown practice. He’s getting better. We can see he’s making progress.”

Carter, who averaged 14.9 points at Rutgers last year, seems to have hit a plateau in his recovery.

Eli is the one guy that we have probably gotten to a standstill with him physically, where he’s made some pretty good growth and then he’s kind of leveled off right now,” Donovan said. “The hardest part for him, which I’m noticing is a major problem and puts us in harm’s way from a defensive standpoint is he has a very difficult time starting and stopping. When he’s stopped and then he’s got to explode, it takes him a while to get going. We’re hopeful that he can somehow continue to work through this and make some positive strides and get better.”


WISCONSIN (1-0): Sam Dekker (6-7, 220, SO); Frank Kaminsky (7-0, 234, JR); Ben Brust (6-1, 196, SR); Traveon Jackson (6-2, 208, JR); Josh Gasser (6-3, 190, JR)

FLORIDA (1-0): Casey Prather (6-6, 212, SR); DeVon Walker (6-6, 195, SO); Patric Young (6-9, 240, SR); Kasey Hill (6-1, 181, FR); Michael Frazier (6-4, 199)




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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.