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November 17, 2011Only three games into the season, Florida unveiled a new look against North Florida on Thursday night.
With reserve forward Will Yeguete ruled out before the game due to concussion-like symptoms, UF head coach Billy Donovan was forced into playing smaller lineups against UNF, including a four-guard look.
The different style of play went off without a hitch and the No. 7 Gators (2-1) rolled to a 91-55 victory over the Ospreys (1-2) in Gainesville, bouncing back from Tuesday night's 81-74 loss to No. 3 Ohio State on the road.
"We wanted to come out and not have any excuses," said guard Kenny Boynton, who led UF with 20 points. "The crowd, no one cares about what happened the night before. So we just wanted to come out and play good."
Showing no signs of a hangover, the Gators jumped out to an 11-point lead eight minutes into the game and never looked back.
Donovan played eight different lineups using either 6-foot-6 Casey Prather or 6-foot-3 Brad Beal at the power forward position.
Those lineups weren't as effective as when Donovan had some combination of starters Erik Murphy and Patric Young, and reserves Cody Larson and Walter Pitchford in the frontcourt together, but UF still outscored UNF 39-31 with either Prather or Beal playing down low.
"I've got to try to find a way to help them a little bit in what we're doing to give them some concepts and things to play out of," Donovan said of the small-lineup offense.
Yeguete will undergo concussion tests Friday and may be able to be back in time for Monday's game against Wright State, as he did re-enter Tuesday's game after taking an elbow to the face from OSU center Jared Sullinger in the first half.
Even with Yeguete at Donovan's disposal, using Prather at the power forward spot will be a viable option in the future.
"I want to do that more," Donovan said. "But I've got to try to put him in some situations where we can take advantage of him at that spot. There's gotta be just some more concepts we're playing out of."
In 17 minutes, Prather scored five points, grabbed three rebounds -- all on the offensive end -- and dished out three assists.
All of the guards had big nights and scored in double figures with Boynton, who also had five assists and four rebounds, leading the pack. Erving Walker scored 17, Mike Rosario added 15, and Beal added 12 while pulling down 10 rebounds, good for his first career double-double.
The Gators outrebounded the Ospreys 45-37 in the game, with 23 of those boards coming from the guards, a good sign without one of their best rebounders available.
"Coach Donovan said there would be a point in time when we were going to play four guards, and we haven't been doing it, and we all have to chip in and try to rebound," Beal said.
The small lineups also spaced the floor to create long-range chances with Rosario being the beneficiary of four 3-point makes, all coming from the corners.
"Having the other three guards plus Scottie [Wilbekin], and having a lot of penetration and me spotting up, I try to find my spots and the corner has been one of my favorite spots," Rosario said.
Though UF scored 91 points, Donovan and the players considered it an off night offensively. One of the reasons for that was poor shooting from the free-throw line, where the Gators shot 16-for-29 (55.2%) as a team.
"It's bad right now, especially myself," said Walker, who went 4-of-6 from the line and is now 9-for-18 from the stripe for the season.
Donovan said the players aren't using their legs enough on their free throws but he expects the problems to be corrected moving forward with this good shooting team.
If Florida can clean up the free throws and add some offensive concepts for the small lineup, the Gators have a chance to be even better offensively moving forward.
"Just four guys that can all put it on the floor and shoot it and pass it, I don't think nobody can match with that," Walker said. "It wasn't great today because we haven't really done it, but when we get some more work on it offensively, I don't think any team in the country will be able to stop that. I don't think it's possible. You got a power forward on a guard, I don't think it's possible."