March 15, 2012

Notebook: Dealing with Pack Line D

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OMAHA, NE - If Florida fans aren't familiar with the name of Virginia's defense, they soon will be. The "Pack Line D," created by Tony Bennett's father, Dick, has gotten plenty of publicity as Bennett's Virginia Cavaliers have ridden their defense to the school's first NCAA Tournament bid in five years.

The basic principle is pressure out front by one player with the other four defenders packed in an arc from 12 to 16 feet from the basket, preventing easy shots in the lane.

"I think like any defense, there's no solution defensively for every single thing on offense. Obviously one of the things that always helps n any offense is when teams can make shots," Billy Donovan said. "With Virginia, they are an outstanding defensive team and they've done it against everybody all year long. I think teams that have had success against them have been teams that have been able to make some shots."

The Cavs have held opponents to just 53.7 points per game, second only to Wisconsin in the country. Florida, meanwhile, ranks 26th in America scoring 76.3 points per game and averages a nation's best 9.9 three-pointers per game.

"The type of offense we have, the type of players we have, I think we can adapt to any type of defense," Kenny Boynton said.

Perhaps the Gators' biggest strength is that the Cavs can't focus their attention on any one player. Florida has five guys averaging in double figures and six different Gators have scored at least 19 in a game this season.

"It's great to have balance so a team can't just focus on one person, or like if one person is having an off day, we have other players we can look to to come up and score," Ervin Walker said. "There have been games this year where one or two people have struggled, but we've continued to score a good amount of points."

Against Virginia, it goes without saying that the Gators will have to make shots, particularly since the Cavs are likely to limit the number of possessions in the game.

"When we go back on defense, we know we're going to be playing for 35 seconds," Boynton said.

"I think for us, our spacing, how we move the basketball, what we try to take advantage of, what we see as being open, making decisions, will become very, very important. It's not like this is the first time for them, playing in the ACC and their non-conference style, that they have seen probably a similar style of play," Donovan said. "We've gone against very good defensive teams and I think they've gone against, probably, teams like North Carolina or Duke that want to get up and down the floor.

Donovan singled out Kentucky and Alabama as two of the better defensive teams the Gators have faced this season. Florida swept Alabama, but lost three times to Kentucky. The Gators averaged 63 points in those five games.

Boynton looking for his Shot

Perhaps the most likely man to be able to shoot over the Pack Line defense is Kenny Boynton. Boynton led Florida in scoring with more than 16 points per game and hit a team-high 105 three-pointers while shooting 42.7% from behind the arc.

But as the Gators have lost four of five, Boynton's shot has not been falling. He is just 14-for-48 from the field in those five games. The one thing he will not do is stop shooting.

"Basically my thought is if I'm open, shoot it. That's what coach Donovan tells me," Boynton said. "If it's not my night, I can do other things to get other people the ball."

"When they are open, they need to let it go," Donovan said. "They have a responsibility to themselves and to their teammates to shoot the ball with confidence.I tell them all the time, 'If you're open and you're about to go up and shoot and you're not sure it's going to go in, you're better off not even taking the shot and passing it.' I want them to have confidence when they're shooting the basketball. My job as a coach is to try to get them to understand and see what's a good shot and what's a bad shot. Generally, guys are not going to shoot a high percentage when they take bad shots. I think Kenny, being a junior, has taken pretty good shots."

And, again, it all goes back to the Gators' balance.

"At the SEC tournament, I didn't shoot it well, but overall as a team I think we did a great job of scoring the ball," Boynton said. "We got Brad Beal, Patric Young, Erik Murphy, Ervin Walker, all those guys can score any given night.

Young says he will Return

Sophomore center Patric Young said on Thursday that he would be back in Gainesville for his junior season.

"That's the first I've heard of that. That's always, I think, great news," Donovan said. "I think Patric, I think he's learned a lot this year. I don't think this year was as easy for him as maybe he thought it was going to be."

Young was forecast as a potential NBA lottery pick before the season. He has averaged 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds this year.

"I think a lot of times when you're a player and all of a sudden you go from a role to a primary position, your impression of your thought process of what you think it's going to be like may not match up to it. When your shoes are in that role, it's a little bit different, just consistency, day-in, day-out," Donovan said. "I think Patric probably realized there is some growth there, consistency, that he needs to make. But you know what? Patric's got the attitude that's why I'm in college. That's what college is for to grow and mature. He's much much better today than he was a year ago and I think next year he'll be much, much better than he was this past season.

"He has been a great kid to coach, I just think that there has been ups and downs from him when you consider th constant, every day grind."

Friday will be one of Young's biggest challenges. He will likely draw the primary assignment on Virginia's 6-foot-8 all-ACC performer Mike Scott.

"Certainly, I think one of the most unique players in the country in Scott. Great, great mid-range shooter. Maybe as good of a mid-range shooter as I've seen in a long time," Donovan said. "I think Patric has had a good week and we'll see how he comes out and plays tomorrow."

Young's teammates aren't putting the onus of containing Scott solely on the sophomore.

"Mike Scott's a great player and he's going to score his points, but we just want to make it difficult on him," Walker said. "A player like that, you can't just shut him out, but we just got to make every shot difficult and it's not just Pat's job to stop it."

"Mike Scott, it's going to be a team effort. We need to give Pat help. He's a great player and he ahs a great mid-range game," Boynton added. "I think guarding Mike Scott is going to come down to a team thing."

Game on TV

The Gators and Cavs will tip at 2:10 p.m. Eastern time Friday afternoon. The game will be televised on TNT with Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and Craig Sager on the broadcast.

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