Commentary

Backcourt stumbles against Ohio State

Gators guards struggle with turnovers, shooting percentage in opening loss

Updated: November 16, 2011, 10:10 PM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It wasn't the play of Florida's smaller frontcourt that hurt the Gators against Ohio State. It was the loaded backcourt that stumbled.

Florida's offensive numbers looked pretty good in the 81-74 loss to the Buckeyes -- 45 percent from the field, 11 for 22 from 3-point range -- but the Gators guards turned the ball over too much, didn't shoot it well and struggled to find a consistent offensive flow.

[+] EnlargeAaron Craft
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesGators point guard Erving Walker made just 1 of 6 shots and had three turnovers in 25 minutes against Ohio State.
"We've got to have a better offensive recognition of what's going on in the game," coach Billy Donovan said Wednesday. "I didn't think we really had that at all."

Erving Walker, Mike Rosario, Bradley Beal and Kenny Boynton combined to go 14-for-36 shooting (including 7 for 18 from 3-point range) and had eight assists and 13 turnovers. Those number include Boynton's 5-for-10 performance (3 for 6 from 3-point range), which shows how ineffectively the other three played.

It was a particularly bad night for Walker. The senior point guard went 1 for 6 from the floor to go along with four assists, three turnovers and four points. He also revived a part of his game that he had nearly eliminated last season: driving into the lane without a plan and waiting until he was in the air before deciding where to throw the ball.

Donovan was particularly disappointed the guards didn't do a good job of getting the ball inside to Patric Young (14 points, 12 rebounds) more in the first half and to Erik Murphy (4 for 4 from 3-point range) when he was open on the wing.

"Pat plays the whole entire first half and took one shot," Donovan said. "In the second half we did a better job of getting it to him in around the basket and he was 5 for 9 from the field in the second half. There was times Murphy was wide open where they just didn't see him, and they've got to recognize [that he's open].

"A lot of times it's not so much that a guy is wide open, but he's open enough where the ball needs to move. And when the ball moved well for us, a lot of good things happened for us offensively."

The Gators (1-1) got off to a hot start offensively, making six of their first nine 3-point attempts before they cooled off and made just one of their five shots from the field in the final 6:37 of the first half. That turned a 26-22 lead into a 35-32 deficit.

"When you do that against good teams you're playing catch-up," Donovan said. "And we allowed them to get back into the game where we really could have had a much bigger lead, at least going into the half."

Florida, which plays host to North Florida (1-1) on Thursday, did not struggle to rebound the ball, which was Donovan's biggest concern heading into the season. Despite the presence of Jared Sullinger, the Gators out-rebounded the Buckeyes 38-29. They scored 15 points off 13 offensive rebounds.

Sullinger, who had 26 points on 13-of-17 shooting and 10 rebounds in last year's meeting in Gainesville, had 16 points and six rebounds on Tuesday. He took just eight shots but did go 8 for 8 from the free-throw line.

"I thought we did a good job on him," Donovan said. "I thought we changed and mixed it up where he wasn't maybe the presence he was a year ago here. That was encouraging."

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.

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