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Gators need point guard Erving Walker to run the floor, protect the ball

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Florida point guard Erving Walker scored 15 points but had seven turnovers in the Gators' loss to No. 4 Ohio State on Tuesday. (Photo by Stephen M. Dowell, Orlando Sentinel)

Coming into their matchup with No. 4 Ohio State, the Gators expected the Buckeyes’ size to be their main problem. Jared Sullinger and Dallas Lauderdale were supposed to be the difference makers, or at least the test to see if Florida’s bigs could hang with them.

But Ohio State coach Thad Matta went with a smaller lineup for much of  the game, using David Lighty at the power forward position and sitting Lauderdale most of the evening.

Size-wise, Florida held its own against Ohio State. It was at guard that the No. 9 Gators (1-1, 0-0 SEC) got outplayed.

Point guard Erving Walker had 15 points, but he finished with a game-high seven turnovers in a game where Ohio State was not pressing. For some perspective, Ohio State finished with eight turnovers as a team.

For coach Billy Donovan, running the floor and getting players into position was more important than the turnovers.

“We give up six points on underneath out-of-bounds plays, and as a point guard, you’ve got to get our team matched up,” Donovan said on Wednesday. “I’m at the other end of the floor. You’ve got to take control.”

Starting at the point guard last season, Walker had the growing pains that Donovan expected. But this season, Donovan said Walker has to develop a better awareness of what’s going on in the game.

Against the Buckeyes, Florida trailed by three with 10 minutes remaining before Ohio State outscored the Gators 30-15 in the final 10 minutes. Walker had five turnovers in that span, and Ohio State continually broke the press for easy baskets.

“We’re at the 11-minute mark and it’s a three-point game, and we go from the 11-minute mark to the end of the game with no post touches, and him trying to do too much,” Donovan said. “I applaud his competitiveness and wanting to win and his fire, but he’s not going to be able to do it by himself at 5-6. He needs to get control there and get the ball. “

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