Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Season Beats Down on Calathes; Production Has Plummeted for the UF Swingman, Who Has Sputtered in the Stretch

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Season Beats Down on Calathes; Production Has Plummeted for the UF Swingman, Who Has Sputtered in the Stretch

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL DIROCCO

GAINESVILLE - It isn't hard to figure out why Florida's Nick Calathes has played so poorly in the past seven games.

He had to deal with the flu. He's fatigued from playing 30-plus minutes per game. Opponents are defending him by being more physical, and he's pressing.

What to do about those issues is a problem Calathes and the rest of the Gators need to solve, or their second consecutive National Invitation Tournament appearance will end a long time before it's time to play in New York.

"His initial reaction is what his reaction has been his whole life: I'm going to fight, compete harder, go harder," UF coach Billy Donovan said. "Sometimes, that's not always the solution. Hopefully, that's an area that he can try to get better at."

Florida (23-10) takes on Jacksonville (18-13) tonight in the Dolphins' first postseason game since 1987.

Calathes' drop-off from the first three-and-a-half months of the season, when he was being mentioned as a player of the year candidate, is dramatic. He averaged 18.8 points, 6.5 assists and 3.3 turnovers per game and shot 51 percent from the field (159 of 312) and 42.3 percent from 3-point range (58 of 137) in UF's first 26 games.

In the past seven games, he averaged 11.4 points, 5.9 assists and 3.6 turnovers per game and shot 36.7 percent from the field (29 of 79) and 28.1 percent from 3-point range (9 of 32).

He is UF's leader in free-throw attempts (178), but he has gone to the line just twice in the past three games and missed both times.

Donovan has been critical of Calathes' play during this stretch, saying that the 6-foot-6 sophomore was rushing the offense, taking poor shots and not getting his teammates involved. For those reasons, Donovan benched Calathes for the final 2:40 of the Gators' loss to Mississippi State on March 4.

"I think Nick puts so much pressure on himself to want to play well because he knows it's going to help our team," Donovan said. "When it's not going great for him, [Calathes should not] lose focus [and begin] pressing even harder or trying to force the issue ... That's part of his growth as a player. …

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