Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

For UF, Defense Is Fundamental; Two Strong Defensive Showings, Two Wins So Far in the NIT

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

For UF, Defense Is Fundamental; Two Strong Defensive Showings, Two Wins So Far in the NIT

Article excerpt


GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Billy Donovan praised his team's defense and energy in its 82-54 victory over Creighton in a second-round NIT game last Friday.

He ended his comments the same way he did after UF's opening-round victory over San Diego State: Do it again.

Once is great. Twice is even better. Three times in a row is a pattern, and the one thing the Gators have lacked this season on defense is consistency.

"How many times do we see in life when something really good happens, the next day you have a letdown because you lose sight [that] the next day is a new day?" Donovan asked as the Gators (23-11) prepare to play at Arizona State today for a berth in the NIT semifinals. "The way we played [against Creighton] has nothing to do with going in and playing Arizona State and everything to do with how we handle this."

The buzz about UF's victory over Creighton was mainly about freshman swingman Nick Calathes' triple double, just the second in school history, but that overshadowed one of the Gators' better defensive performances. Florida held Creighton to 40 percent from the field, the second-best performance in the past 24 games and the best since Vanderbilt shot 37.9 percent on Feb. 16.

The Bluejays made only 4-of-20 3-pointers. In two NIT games, UF has held their opponents to 25 percent (8 of 32) from 3-point range.

It's almost as if the Gators have flipped a switch since the embarrassing first-round SEC Tournament loss to Alabama on March 13.

"You talk about people making mistakes over and over and over again, a lot of times you don't have the right understanding of how to correct it," Donovan said. "These guys know you've got to play defense. I don't think it was necessarily they didn't want to play defense [earlier in the season], but they were learning how to play it together.

"They've put in a lot of hard work. It's great when you can see your hard work as a result in the game."

Donovan has beefed up the intensity in practices -- Calathes called the three before the San Diego State game the toughest he's ever experienced -- and concentrated on defense. The players believe that is the reason why they have won back-to-back games after losing four in a row and eight of 11 prior to the NIT. …

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