UF's Donovan Feels Celebration Was Due

FAYETTEVILLE — Florida coach Billy Donovan had no problem with his players celebrating Wednesday night when they clinched the Southeastern Conference's regular-season championship with a win over South Carolina.

In fact, Donovan thought it was the right thing to do, even if the celebration was questioned a day later by some national commentators — including those on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption.

"Why not celebrate that? The reason why you wouldn't celebrate it is because you're worried about tomorrow," Donovan said Thursday during the SEC's coaches teleconference. "Well, tomorrow will get here soon enough.

"I thought the right thing to do was to take advantage of the moment and opportunity, which was in front of us and that was to do what we did last night and now be able to put it behind us."

After beating South Carolina 63-49 to clinch their second outright SEC regular-season title, the third-ranked Gators celebrated by cutting down the nets in the O'Connell Center.

Donovan said he wanted his players to enjoy the moment and not assume anything, even if their goal before the season was to repeat as national champions.

"I think with our season, everybody back in October, November wanted to fast-forward to March," Donovan said. "... I really tried to talk to our team about the step-by-step process and having to enjoy that.

"The only thing you can take advantage of is what's in front of you right now — today. You can't worry about yesterday, and you can't worry about tomorrow."

Back To The NIT

For some college basketball teams, the focus at this time of year is to advance to the NCAA Tournament and then make a run at a national championship.

For South Carolina, however, the goal is simply to get back to the NIT.

The Gamecocks have won the last two NIT championships, but they'll likely need a strong finish over the next few weeks just to get invited back to the tournament so they can defend their titles.

With Wednesday's loss at Florida, South Carolina's record fell to a league-worst 13-13 overall. The Gamecocks are tied with LSU for the worst conference record at 3-10, a mark which certainly won't impress the NIT committee.

Asked Thursday if his team's goal had shifted to simply getting back to the NIT, South Carolina coach Dave Odom tried to keep things even simpler.

"What we're shooting for right now is a winning season," Odom said. "We're 13-13. We cannot have a winning season in the SEC mathematically, but we can overall. What we're trying to do is win one game — just give me one game."

The Iron Bowl — On Hardwood

It might not be the same as when they face each on the football field, but there is no mistaken that there is still pride on the line when Alabama and Auburn meet on the basketball court.

After all, the two teams are bitter in-state rivals. That point hasn't been overlooked by Alabama coach Mark Gottfried, whose Crimson Tide (19-8, 6-7 SEC) will host Auburn (15-13, 5-8) on Saturday.

"Anytime Alabama and Auburn play, it's always big. They've already beaten us once this year," Gottfried said. "... I think anytime these two teams play, everyone obviously will be ready to play."

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