Before Saturday’s game at Mississippi State, I asked senior forward Chandler Parsons if I was reading too much into the fact that Florida had lost its previous two games with 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. tip times.
“I think you are,” Parsons said. “We’re going to come out and play with energy no matter when we play.”
But the Gators dropped to 0-3 in tip times before 2 p.m. following Saturday’s 71-64 loss to the Bulldogs in Starkville, Miss. Florida coach Billy Donovan even tried a 7 a.m. CT (8 a.m. ET) shoot-around for his team Saturday morning, but it didn’t help. The Gators were a woeful 5-of-21 from 3-point range and 9-of-19 from the free-throw line in the game that started at noon CT (1 p.m. ET).
The common thread of the three losses (Jacksonville 1 p.m., South Carolina, 1:30 p.m., Mississippi State) has been poor starts and poor free throw shooting. The Gators fell behind by double-digits in the first half in two of the three losses and trailed at halftime in all three games. Florida shot a combined 58.6 percent (44-75) from the free-throw line in all three losses.
Overall, Florida is 4-3 in afternoon tip times. The Gators are 12-1 at night (if you consider Ohio State’s 6 p.m. tip time a night tip) and 12-0 in tip times 7 p.m. or later.
Florida has a pair of 9 p.m. tip times this week against Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The Gators have played some of their best basketball that late, going 2-0 in 9 p.m. games with wins over Rhode Island (84-59) and at Tennessee (81-75 in overtime). The Gators shot a combined 16-34 (47.1 percent) from 3-point range in the two wins, but still struggled at the free-throw line (25-41, 61.0 percent).
– Senior center Vernon Macklin said he worked hard on his free-throw shooting in individual drills over the summer. But maybe that was part of the problem. “I got caught up in trying to change my shot too much,” Macklin said. “Getting caught in between trying to keep the ball low or bring it high. It’s kind of getting in my head right now, I’m thinking about it too much and I’m missing a lot of free throws. I’m just going back to relaxing and trying to shoot without thinking about it because once you think about it, it gets worse.” Macklin, who shot 58.8 percent from the free-throw line last year, is at 40 percent (22-55) so far this season.
– More on free-throw shooting, Donovan said Florida’s struggles at the line won’t dictate how he runs the offense late in tie games or one-possession games. “I don’t think you want to say guys aren’t shooting the ball well from the free-throw line therefore we can’t go inside, or we are not going to try to attack the basket,” Donovan said. “I think you still got to play, to be aggressive as you would the first four or five minutes.”
– Florida freshman Patric Young offered some insight as to why Florida has suffered letdowns against unranked opponents during the course of the season. Asked if anything about playing for Donovan has surprised him, Young responded: “This year I can say what’s surprised me is the way we’ve come out to play, we’re not always really focused sometimes. Coach doesn’t know what he’s going to get from us sometimes. Sometimes, it seems like we’re not ready to play. I thought just playing for Coach Donovan, the two national championships, that would just psych us up, that coach, he knows what to do to get to that level.” Young later added: “Sometimes we just match up with teams like Jacksonville and UCF and we’ll be like ‘oh they are not playing that hard, maybe we can go down to play at their level’ and sometimes we come out against Rhode Island and play the best game, best defensive game, best offensive game of the year, and we’re just unstoppable.”
– Former Gator and Gainesville High standout Orien Greene has resurfaced, signing a 10-day contract with the New Jersey Nets. Greene, who last played in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings in 2007-08, was averaging 18 points, 5.1 assists, 5.1 assists and 2.0 steals with the NBDL’s Utah Flash. A defense-first point guard, Greene has had a hard time sticking in the league. “I ain’t getting no younger,” Greene told True Hoop. “More guys coming out, more athletic. More a lot of stuff. But I don’t think there’s a lot of guys in the league right now who can bring what I bring. I’m 28. Whatever, A lot of guys in the league that I see right now, don’t really play both sides of the ball. Lord willing, lord willing, somebody’s going to call me and I can get back in.”