An experienced lineup was supposed to lead Florida back to prominence this season, but those veterans are taking a lot of heat from coach Billy Donovan for the way they are playing.
After a shocking loss in their last game, the 18th-ranked Gators will try to make a case for staying in next week’s AP poll when they take on American University at the Verizon Center on Sunday.
Florida (5-2) returned all five starters from last season’s 21-13 team that lost in double-overtime to BYU in the first round of the NCAA tournament. That led to lofty expectations for the 2010-11 Gators, who were ranked ninth to open the season.
However, they suffered a 93-75 loss at home to then-No. 4 Ohio State on Nov. 16 and had their four-game winning streak snapped by a 57-54 defeat to Central Florida in Orlando on Wednesday.
“Our issues are bigger than this loss,” Donovan said. “We have a bunch of guys on the floor that make nobody better.”
Vernon Macklin had a season-high 20 points and eight rebounds, shooting 10 of 11. The rest of the team, however, shot 28.2 percent as it was held below 60 points for a second straight game.
The Gators are averaging only 10.3 assists in their last three games and they had more turnovers (14) than assists (12) against the Knights.
“All of our older guys are way too wrapped up in their offense,” Donovan said. “We’re not a cohesive team right now. … They are not utilizing each other’s individual talents and the disappointing thing is these guys all played together last year.”
Donovan said he was considering shaking up the lineup, although Florida’s bench was outscored 18-6.
Starting forward Chandler Parsons may be having the biggest problems. After averaging 14.5 points in the first four games, he’s totaled 15 in the last three while shooting 26.1 percent.
“You’ve got to respond now,” said leading scorer Kenny Boynton, who finished with 10 points Wednesday - almost five fewer than his season average. “Can’t put our head down now. We’re in the beginning of the season. We’ve got good teams coming up, so we’ve got to build up, get stronger.”
A win over American (5-2) might not be enough to keep Florida in the Top 25, but the Gators played well against the Eagles last season, winning 76-60 at home Dec. 28. Alex Tyus had 20 points and nine rebounds, Boynton had 19 points and Macklin had 18 in that game.
After opening with five wins for the program’s best start since 1985-86, American has lost its last two, including a 71-50 defeat at West Virginia on Wednesday. It shot 36.7 percent overall, scoring only 20 points in the first half, and was outrebounded 34-28.
Vlad Moldoveanu was the only Eagles player to score in double figures, finishing with 19 points. Second-leading scorer Stephen Lumpkins, who averages 13.3 points per game, was held to a season-low six.
Moldoveanu will try to lead the Eagles to the upset Sunday. He’s averaging a team-high 21.3 points in his second season with American after two years at George Mason. He had 14 points in 20 minutes against the Gators last season.
This is the third meeting overall between the two programs and first in Washington, D.C.