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November 11, 2013

Notebook: Gators look for improvement from opener



If you weren't around for Florida's season-opening victory against North Florida Friday afternoon, you'd probably think the Gators are looking to bounce back from a loss when they travel to Wisconsin Tuesday night for a showdown with the No. 20 Badgers (1-0).

Players dropped their heads when talking about the 77-69 win, coach Billy Donovan cringed a bit. What happened against the Ospreys cannot happen again to the No. 11 Gators (1-0), not if they want to win.

"If we play that way like we did on Friday, we have no shot to win the game," Donovan said. "We're going to have to perform a lot better than we did, and I think it starts really with our three older guys: Patric Young, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete. Those guys have got to be the anchor and the foundation."

The biggest issue Donovan continues to point to is defense. Florida allowed North Florida to shoot 40.6 percent from the field, and that included a first half in which the Ospreys were cold for more than 15 minutes.

Players say the same intensity and anger Donovan showed media after the game is what he gave the team in the locker room. That intensity has continued in practice since Friday's game.

"Definitely. He expects the best from us and we should expect the best from ourselves," sophomore guard Michael Frazier II said. "I didn't expect anything less of what he's been in practice the last few days, just his intensity level, his level of focus, his level of emphasis on the 3-point line in this game."

Florida has particularly struggled in three outings - one regular season game, one exhibition and a closed scrimmage - at defending the 3-point line. Donovan said it's a problem that has been just as prevalent in practice. North Florida shot 37.5 percent from beyond the arc Friday.

Part of the Gators' problem is an ongoing lack of depth with three players suspended and three players limited in some regard because of injury or illness. At one point, the Ospreys went on an 11-0 run during which the Gators had two walk-ons, two sophomores and Prather on the floor. At one point, walk-on Jacob Kurtz - at 6-foot-6 - was playing center.

"We kind of had a really makeshift lineup out there," Donovan said. "But those guys got to understand if that happens tomorrow night, those guys have got to perform and hold down a little better than they did while they were in there."

Tuesday's game airs live at 9 p.m. on ESPN2.

Suspensions update: As expected, point guard Scottie Wilbekin, forward Dorian Finney-Smith and center Damontre Harris remain suspended and will not play against Wisconsin.

Donovan again refrained from announcing any further timetable on their ongoing suspensions. but said he will know more after Tuesday night.

"They've still got stuff that they have to do and we'll address those guys as each game comes forward," Donovan said. "I don't want to come out here and project the future or say something that I've got to sit there and take back and say, 'Well, I said they're playing or weren't playing and now they are playing,' so what's going on? What I've always tried to do is just be honest with what's the next thing in front of us. All I can tell you right now is going into this game, those three guys are not playing and when they'll be back is still up in the air."

In the meantime, all three players have been relegated to the scout team in practice.

"If we can play against them, then we can play against anyone in the country," Prather said. "Maybe the best scout team in the country."


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