Gators Struggle to Meet Early Expectations

Billy Donovan spoke throughout the preseason about the worries of his team listening to the hype. Now seven games into the season, he fears that's exactly what the Gators did.

"It's the old thing where you come into a season with expectations of how it's going to go for you, and a lot of times that's based on offense," Billy Donovan said. "We have to play better together on the floor."

The downfall about returning all five starters is created when they don't improve from the previous season. Donovan isn't ready to say none of his starters have gotten better, but the lack of ball movement and spacing on offense forces bad shots on offense.

The Gators started the season ranked No. 9 in preseason polls and looked to have a perfect mix of youth and experience. Three seniors in the starting lineup were supposed to provide leadership for a young team, but instead, the upperclassmen have regressed this season.

"My concern is going into an understanding of last year's team getting to this point," Donovan said. "Right now, collectively, we're not taking that next step. We're not. We've got to find a way to do it."

An issue since the beginning of the season has been starting the second half with energy. In the exhibition games and season opener against UNC Wilmington, the Gators took comfortable leads into halftime. When they came back on the floor to start the second half, their energy level dipped.

Before the team knew what hit them, the opposition would make a run and get right back into the game. It's an issue that has hurt the Gators, even in their games with tough opponents like Ohio State and Florida State. An early second half run by UCF extended their lead and made it tough for Florida to come back.

"My dilemma as a coach is the way we're starting second halves," Donovan said. "I don't get that wrapped up in the starting part of it, but I know kids do. The reality is after the first three or four minutes, there are going to be subs in the game."

There is a solution to the second half struggles that the coaching staff is considering. Donovan could start the second half with the team's most energetic players to create a sense of urgency right out of halftime.

Starting the first half of the game isn't important to Donovan.

"What's more important is, who starts that second half?" Donovan said. "We've had some slow starting seconds halves out there. I'm not sure what the reason is, but that's something we'll say we need to start our most energized players to set a tone in the first three or four minutes."

It's not all negative, though. Donovan has found areas where the team has improved this year, with most of them coming on the defensive side of the ball. The Gators have held their last two opponents in the 50s, but it isn't as effective since they are also struggling to score points.

"I think we're rebounding the ball a lot better than a year ago and defending man-to-man a lot better than a year ago because we really got caught playing a lot of zone," Donovan said. "Our press is getting a lot better, too."
Follow Cody Jones on

Fightin Gators Top Stories