Zags, Gators look for improvement in AdvoCare semis
No. 11 Gonzaga and Florida enter Friday's semifinal of the AdvoCare Invitational with 5-0 records, but coaches of both teams believe their squads are imperfect despite their perfect records.
Part of their criticism is neither team has played the kind of opponent it will face Friday in the holiday tournament at HP Field House in Orlando, Fla.
“We have to take better care of the ball and improve on our shooting overall against a team like Florida,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, whose team committed 15 turnovers and made only 27.3 percent of its 3-point attempts in an 82-62 win against Quinnipiac on Thursday.
“Florida is super athletic, playing hard, and they get after you. They have a look of a team that can play in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.”
The Gators defeated Seton Hall 81-76 to set up the semifinal meeting.
Florida guard KeVaughn Allen scored 21 points and wing Canyon Berry, son of former NBA great Rick Berry, added 20 points in the victory. Berry averages a team-high 14.6 points, Allen is at 14, and forward Devin Robinson averages 11.2.
The Gators' defense was the difference down the stretch against the Pirates, holding Seton Hall to 33 percent shooting in the second half.
“I saw Gonzaga play this year about five minutes, and that was live here in the second half,” second-year Florida coach Mike White said. “At first glance, I know the big fella (center Przemek Karnowski) is extremely skilled, really impressed with his passing ability. I like the size of their guards, and they seem like really good passers as well.
“They will be our toughest opponent to date, and our guys are excited about that kind of challenge.”
The Gators are in the midst of playing nine neutral-site games and two road games to start the season while the O'Connell Center in Gainesville goes through a $64.5 million renovation project that will be completed in time for a game on Dec. 21 against Little Rock.
“You know, we don't even talk about that,” White said about playing away from Gainesville. “What we've talked about is improving each game. This kind of experience playing on the road will only make us better in the long run.”
Gonzaga's victory over Quinnipiac has the Bulldogs searching for answers to attack a zone defense. Florida might try a zone similar to the 1-3-1 utilized by Quinnipiac that unsettled Gonzaga from the perimeter.
The Bulldogs also experienced defensive lapses, allowing Bobcats true freshman guard Peter Kiss to score 18 points, many off penetration.
“Like I told the guys, we're not going to be up 30 every game at half or by the end of the first media timeout,” said Few, praising Quinnipiac's effort. “It's Division I basketball. It's scratch and claw and find your way through it, and I thought we did a nice job of doing that.”
Gonzaga improved to 7-0 in holiday tournament games played in Orlando.
The Florida-Gonzaga winner will face No. 21 Iowa State on Miami (Fla.) in the title game Sunday.