Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tennessee 79, Florida 63

I love Billy Donovan, as all Gators are legally required to do. But at this point, one thing seems undeniably: Bruce Pearl flat owns him.

Pearl's Volunteers took apart the Gators, and Pearl moved to 6-1 against Donovan, in the process righting the ship and ending an ugly skid that had left Tennessee in a dire situation vis a vis the NCAA tournament. The Gators once again leave Knoxville with a bloody nose and lingering questions about their talent and toughness.

Let me preface the rest of this post with a confession: I'm really not much of a basketball strategist. I follow the games the best I can, and I think I'm reasonably smart about it, but I couldn't diagram a play if you spotted me nine players and all the squiggly lines. So it's eminently possible that I have no clue what I'm talking about.

But I believe the idea of a zone defense is to neutralize the other team's advantage in size and post play. You force them into taking long range shots which are, by their nature, low percentage. This is especially effective when the other guys can't shoot three pointers. So I understand the rationale behind using the zone defense against Tennessee: the Vols have significantly better post players than the Gators, and UT came into tonight's game with a statistical record that said they were bad from behind the arc.

See, just this shows you how stupid Tennessee students are: they're so ignorant they don't even know they can't shoot three-pointers.

UT hit 12 of 28 from beyond the arc and nailed several early shots from beyond the arc. Again, I'm not much of a strategist, but I think they shot so well because the Gators never bothered to actually defend the various Tennessee shooters. My understanding is that while the zone is supposed to entice your opponent to shoot three-pointers, you're still supposed to contest those shots.

The Gators sort of forgot about that last part, especially in the first half when Tennessee out-scored Florida 39-22. The Vols pretty much ran the Gators off the court in that first half, and it would be easy to blame Nick Calathes' foul issues for that. He was whistled for his second foul less than three minutes into the game on an iffy charging call. It's never easy losing your best player for 10 minutes, as the Gators did.

But Florida actually played with admirable tenacity with its point guard out. The Gators were within seven when Calathes entered the game, but instead of making a run, they withered under a barrage of three pointers.

There's something to be said for Florida's tenacity in the second half, I suppose. The Gators out-scored Tennessee in the second half, and they made a legitimate run after falling behind by by 22 at a couple points. But I don't want to make to much of that; Florida never pulled within single digits, and every time they looked like they were making a run the Gators let Scotty Hopson (20 points, four of six from three) or Tyler Smith stick a dagger in their hearts.

In the "rose growing in crap" category, Chandler Parsons continued his good work, scoring 15 points on six of 10 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds. Dude still can't make his free throws.

Still, hardly a disastrous loss in the bigger picture. Florida's 5-2 in the conference and still in prime position for a tournament berth. The schedule gets plenty tough from this point, however. The surprisingly stiff 'Cocks of South Carolina come to Gainesvile Tuesday. The Gators still have road games at Kentucky, LSU and Mississippi State and home games against UK and UT.

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