Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Gator Bait

We lost at home to the least talented Florida team in the last decade. Billy Donovan is a good coach, and he absolutely owns Coach Gottfried.

There were some positives in this game. In the first half, we did a fantastic job of breaking the press. We had only 3 turnovers, and I think we had about 11 assists, which is an excellent ratio. One area that we improved on since the Clemson game, is that when we did break the press, we attacked the basket and took advantage of our numbers. Defensively, we did not play very well. Riley and Gee consistently lost their man. Florida's guards and wing men killed us driving the lane. We did not have any answer for their pick and roll. On several occasions, the player guarding the screener would switch to defend the ball, and the on ball defender would go through the screen, leaving the screener wide open. At other times, it was just the opposite. As a result, their guards were able to get plenty of space to penetrate our defense. Hendrix continues to not play aggressive enough on defense. He did a good job of defending Florida's bigs, but he would not step up and help out when Rico, Gee, or Riley got beat off the dribble. Despite this, we executed so well on offense we were able to build a 10 point lead in the first half.

Give a young, well coached Florida team credit for not losing their composure on the road. We missed a free throw at the end of the 1st half, then Florida made a 3 at the buzzer for a 4 point swing to cut the lead to 7. The Gators scored on the first possession of the second half, then immediately forced a turnover. Suddenly the comfortable lead had evaporated.

As good as we were against the press in the first half, we were equally inept in the second. Combine this with continued poor defensive play, and the disaster was inevitable. I can't understand why we go from making good, quick passes and attacking the pressure in one half to making lazy lob passes and not moving to get open in the second. For some reason, the concept of faking a lob pass and going with a bounce pass is a foreign concept to this team.

Due to the aforementioned problems with Florida's screens, we switched to a zone defense. This did not prove any better, as Riley and Gee played undisciplined defense and were constantly out of position allowing Florida's shooters to rain 3's.

The offense seemed to bog down with Torrance running the point in the second half. He waited too late in the shot clock to call the play, and we often ended up having to force a shot. At one point in the second half, we got a little too 3 point happy. We missed about 6 in a row but kept shooting. Hendrix had a very good game in the paint, but Florida resorted to fouling him every time he got the ball and he couldn't make a free throw.

In my opinion one of the keys to the game came in the second half when Alonzo Gee made a 3 pointer to tie the game at 71. The officials called a timeout to review the play to see if Gee's foot was on the line. During this break in the action, Donovan had his team huddled on the sideline. Presumably setting up the press and scripting the next 2 or 3 offensive possession. Meanwhile, all 5 of our players stood on the opposite end of the court from our bench, while Gottfried stood there looking pretty in his red jacket. Finally, with about 20 seconds left in the timeout, he called the team over, probably because he realized it looked bad that coach Donovan was actually coaching his team while Gottfried was not. After this official's timeout, Florida promptly went on an 11-0 run.

The effort was much better tonight. I was afraid the team would quit like they did when they fell down by 10 to Clemson, but to their credit they turned it up a notch and got back into the game. Thanks to some good shooting and some defensive stops, we were able to cut the lead to 3. With about a minute to go, Florida spread the floor and their small forward flashed toward the wing. The point guard faked the pass, Gee bit on the fake, and the forward cut backdoor for a wide open layup, after Hendrix was late on his attempt to steal the pass. Another crushing blow came when Florida finally missed a free throw, but it took a bad bounce and they were able to get the offensive rebound and make 2 more free throws for a 3 point play.

I cannot understand why we did not press more in this game with Florida's youth. We did not even press when down 10 with 3 minutes to play. We were badly outcoached tonight, but most teams will be outcoached when playing against a Donovan team. Still, with our talent, we should have been able to win this game at home.

Up next, we travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks Sunday. After suffering through the 40 point debacle up there last year, I have decided to stay at home and watch this one on television. Hopefully we can get back on track.

6 comments:

transforming said...

Hey DJC,

Gator fan here. I'd agree with your assessment in large part with one major exception: you wrote that Florida is fielding one of its least talented teams in a decade tonight, and that's just not true.

They're raw, and very young. We ran a lineup a few times tonight that featured four freshmen (including at the low post) and a single sophomore (Dan Werner) and they still pretty much held their own.

They also made a lot of mistakes, but they are NOT devoid of talent. When our frosh are on the floor you're looking at the #1 (or #2, depending on the service) ranked recruiting class of 2007.

I also noticed the difference in the two teams during that timeout (very astute observation on your part by the way) and who knows? Maybe that had something to do with it. Given that Gottfried has been coaching at Bama for some time now, it's doubtful that his inherent weaknesses or strengths as a head coach can be altered by hastily huddling his team at the last second, but... yeah. There you go.

I think the difference in tonight's game, if you want to look past stats like turnovers and free throw shooting (which is sometimes less indicative of how the game was really won or lost than one might think) is that Florida, despite its youth and inexperience, could respond to their coach's adjustments and instructions, and play team ball both defensively and offensively. When one of the best minds in the sport can effectively run his strategy and operate his team as if by remote control, that team has a big advantage.

It also helped that the Gators had a great shooting night. Had they not managed 50% from beyond the arc (and 50.9% overall) your post would be talking about the close shave Alabama survived when the defending national champs came to visit.

Good luck in your upcoming games. My Gators blog is at www.orangeandbluehue.com.

Mitchell said...

I know the moderators of this blog asked people to keep comments about the coaching staff to a minimum until the end of the season so I'll try and keep this brief and not beat a dead horse.
For ten years I've supported and defended Gottfried as head coach of Alabama. As the criticism has escalated, I've just pointed out the positive things the guy has done while trying to look at the situation objectively. However, in the span of a little over a week I'm beginning to think the writing is on the wall for Gottfried. Twice now the team has had an opportunity, at home, to take charge of their season. We all know how the Clemson game went, and now the game last night. With all due respect to the Gator poster above: your team is talented and Donovan is a great coach but it's apparent they're in transition.
Florida didn't win this game so much as Alabama allowed them to take over the game. Bama leads by ten TWICE in the game, the crowd is going nuts, and they can't put a team away that they're every bit the equal of, in my opinion.
To allow a team that plays 3 to 4 freshmen prominently - I don't care how talented they are - to shoot over 50% and score 90 points on your home floor is inexcusable.
Everybody talks about the PG situation, but I think Pickett has been solid. The problem is not PG; it's defense. When you allow team after team to shoot over 45% a game, when does the light go on and you think: 'maybe if we played better defense we'd be in a better position to win games'. If this team only played a modicum of defense, with their offense, they would have won at least 2-3 more games this year.
It's just frustrating. I grew up caring more about the basketball program than the storied football program. There's nothing better, in my opinion, than college basketball. I keep waiting for Bama to turn a corner and become an annual top-25 caliber team but they continue to disappoint.
I don't know if a change will or needs to be made this year. But I do think the point needs to be implicitly made by the powers-that-be to Gottfried at some point this year that he's running out of time. It just feels that, despite the talent on-hand and the talent returning, that the program has grown a bit stagnant.
I'm going to continue pulling for this team fervently, and I hope they can salvage something from this season, but I can no longer defend what I see as a descent into mediocrity. This team just has too many good parts to not be performing at a higher level.

End of rant.

bobbyjack said...

Mitchell,

Have at it with comments concerning our HC. Unless it's a profanity laced tirade I welcome it. Me... I'm merely "holding off" comment 'til later on in the season. I had to bite my tongue last night with my really short post game post.

Transforming,

I agree with you in that the Gators have talent (green, but talented). That's why this loss is sooo frustrating since we caught you guys early in the season. If we played say.... in mid February I'd expect the Gators to beat us like a red-headed stepchild.

I'll add your blog to the SEC links.

Alias said...

Thanks to both of you guys for your input. I cannot find a thing to criticize in either of your posts.

I met with my Gator buddy last weekend. He explained to me that the strength of their program is their athletic director. He hires good coaches who can win. Billy Donovan is a good coach and a winner. Kudos to him and his boss, as well as to the kids who played the game.

I am the guy who posted the open letter to the fans. It was directed more at the people on public message boards who keep posting things that cannot help our program. I did not bite my tongue last night like BobbyJack did, but I did tone down my post considereably.

transforming said...

You're right, our Gators are definitely in transition and despite the road win it will probably be an up and down season for us.

I think we're pretty much in agreement that the difference was coaching. I concur with your statement that Bama is every bit the team Florida is, and frankly probably a little bit more right now in the talent, athleticism, and experience departments. This was a very close game and if the two teams we saw last night played 10 times I believe it'd be a 5/5 split.

What can I say, I really believe Billy Donovan is one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. We're lucky to have him.

By the way, Clemson has turned out to be pretty good, so I don't think there should be any head-hanging over that loss. But yeah, looking at it objectively (or at least from the eyes of a Tide fan) this is a game Bama needed to win, and probably should have.

DJC said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. Transforming, you are absolutely correct about the Gators talent. I should have said they were the least "experienced" team, as I can't ever remember Billy D bringing such a young, raw team into Tuscaloosa. Within a year or two, you guys will be competing for Championships again. By the end of his career, I really think Donovon will be mentioned among the greats like Coach K, Roy Williams, and Dean Smith. I honestly believe he could take this Alabama team, right now, and win the SEC this year.

Looking back, I remember when Pettway made the buzzer beater to beat the gators and win the SEC. A lot of people were comparing Donovan to Gottfried because they were about the same age. There was a lot of serious speculation as to who would have the better career. Well, I think that's pretty much been resolved.

Anyway, it's always good to hear from the prospective of opposing team fans. Congrats on the win, and good luck on the rest of the season.

Mitchell, I agree with you 100%. Unless I see a drastic change in the way we play defense and the coaching decisions we make over the course of a game, we are headed for a 6-10 type season. This program has lost all momentum.