Gator Turnovers Kept FSU in the Game

Billy Donovan has been nervous about it all season. His team is still struggling to handle success. After taking big halftime leads early in the season, they allowed less talented teams to creep back into the game. It happened again near the midway point of the second half Sunday night in Tallahassee, but his team managed to hold the Seminoles off.

The Gators pushed their lead to 13 points with 14:30 remaining in the second half. The crowd played a role early in keeping the Seminoles in the game, but when No. 18 Florida's lead went to double digits, the Tucker Center went silent.

It would be 5:13 before the Gators scored again, as Kenny Boytnon hit a 3-pointer. Florida State guard Michael Snaer hit three 3-pointers in that span, bringing the Seminoles back into the game.

The offense struggled, but Florida turned the ball over four times in three minutes. The ball movement was great early in the second half, allowing the ball to be worked inside for easy shots. When Florida State made their run, the Gators started to settle for perimeter jump shots.

"In any situation where you have a lead, you want to tell the team that you need stops," Patric Young said. "We had a tough time stopping them because they kept getting baskets off our turnovers. We kept talking about staying together. That was adversity, and we had to stay in and fight."

Donovan warned the team during an early second half timeout that Florida State wasn't done. He knew they would make a late run to get back into the game, and it was crucial for his team to stay in the game.

When their focus slipped, the Seminoles were back in the game.

"Coach was stressing to us that it was going to be a 40-minute game, and that they would make a run," Kenny Boynton said. "When they did, we just had to hold our ground. They came back a little bit, but we fought back and kept the lead."

Point guard Erving Walker had four turnovers on the night, with only one coming during the part of the game where the Seminoles made a run. However, his turnovers have become an issue this season. He has 19 turnovers this season, averaging 3.17 per game.

Walker was the first to admit after the game that turnovers allowed Florida State to get back into the game.

"We knew they were going to make a run at some point, so we just had to stay strong defensively," Walker said. "They're a good team, and they're going to make shots."

No player wants the opposition to get back into the game, but it does have benefits. The team has played in multiple close games this season. They experienced their first tough test outside of the O'Connell Center on Sunday night.

The struggles and difficult spots early in the season will only benefit them as the end of the season gets closer. A 55-51 victory didn't look possible when Florida marched out to a 13-point lead, but the Gators fought together late in the game to pull out the victory.

"Our biggest thing is coach wants us to finish the game, and I think we did a great job finishing this game," Boynton said.

BREAKING A STREAK: The win served as the first time Florida basketball won in Tallahassee since 2002. The location of the game rotates each season, but the Seminoles had won three straight over the Gators in Tallahassee. That includes a Florida State win in December of 2006 over a Florida team that would win their second straight national championship that March.

The Tucker Center has been a tough place for the Gators to win, and Sunday's victory could go a long way in boosting their confidence on the road in the future.

"They had a great home crowd," Boynton said. "That's what made it tough down the stretch. The crowd got into it. It made it tougher for us on offense."

On the heels of a 31-7 victory for the Florida State football team over the Gators the day before, the atmosphere was even more intense. The student section filled early, hoping to see the first season since 1996 where the Seminoles would defeat the Gators in football and basketball.

Florida stuck together down the stretch to keep that from happening.

"Anywhere on the road we appreciate (a win), but I know this is a rivalry game," Walker said. "It's good to come out with a victory."
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