Gators turn it around at the stripe

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Early in the season, after a particularly troubling stretch of performances at the free-throw line, Florida coach Billy Donovan told his team to invest some practice time at the line.

The problem disappeared to the point that last Thursday night's free-throw performance (23-0f-32 or 71.9 percent) in a 74-66 win against South Carolina was considered a regression.

"Forty-eight hours ago against South Carolina we were 5-for-11 or 5-for-12, and then we end up in the second half making 17 straight shots," he recalled. "I think even earlier in the year we were shooting like 53, 54 percent from the free-throw line, and I know we're better [than that]."

It's doubtful Donovan could have envisioned a game like Saturday's 73-65 home win over Vanderbilt, in which the Gators shot 94.1 percent. The clutch shooting in the second half continued, as Florida went 14-of-14 against the Commodores.

"It was a matter of focusing because last game I really wasn't focusing on free throws," freshman Bradley Beal said Saturday. "I don’t know what was going on. I focused in tonight because it was a big game and we really needed free throws down the stretch."

Donovan believes he has diagnosed the issue.

"It's all a focus," Donovan said. "I do think some of this stuff with these guys is when they're playing and they get fouled they're living in stuff that's either happenign in the past or their mind wanders. You can't help but be focused coming down the stretch like that, but I think we're capable and we've got to do it all the time."

Now, where Florida may have lost a winnable game because of free throw, the Gators understand how free throws can help close out tight games like Saturday's contest against a talented Vanderbilt squad.

"I think we did a great job at free throws tonight, definitely down the stretch," said Kenny Boynton, Florida's leading scorer and leading free-throw shooter (5-of-5). "Without our free throws they could have came back and won."