Physical Practices Translating to the Games

The improved toughness the Gators have shown in recent weeks doesn't happen on the court for no reason. It comes from simulating difficult situations in practices and an increased number of frontcourt players on the team this year, allowing the team to practice with more contact.

It's the same formula that head coach Billy Donovan has built successful teams in the past. When he has depth of players on the frontcourt who play physical, Donovan wants the players to experience contact in practice.

He singled out two teams that have practiced the same way. The 2000 team had Donnell Harvey, Brent Wright, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller. Then there were his national championship teams of Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Chris Richard and Adrian Moss. Donovan says this year's teams have the same level of physicality in practice as each of those groups. It hasn't come as quick as he wanted, but the practice intensity is finally getting to where it needs to be.

"For Chandler's group, the only frontcourt guy we had was Marreese Speights," Donovan said. "We never understood how to deal with it. With the addition of Vernon (Macklin), Cody Larson, Will (Yeguete) and (Erik) Murphy and (Alex) Tyus, you have depth in the frontcourt to create physicality in practice to simulate the games. We don't have anyone on our team to simulate (Vanderbilt center) Festus Ezeli, but I don't think it was a surprise to them of how physical it was."

VANDERBILT REVIEW: The overtime win over Vanderbilt on Tuesday has allowed the Gators to build some momentum into Saturday's game against Kentucky. As Florida moves on from the home win, Donovan wants the team to take with them how tough the league really is.

"I think more than anything it's how hard our league is to win home or on the road," Donovan said. "They're a good team. They came in and played well and played hard. It wasn't a thing of beauty on the offensive end for either team, but it was a hard fought game and a hard played game."

The game found each team desperately searching for ways to score. The more the Gators face a tough defense, the more beneficial it will be for them down the stretch of the season. Points will come easier after they face some of the tougher defenses in the league.

"I think our guys learning different situations," Donovan said. "There were times where our offense was stagnant or our defense slowed down. We had a couple times in the game where we got up with eight, and then we gave up three-point shots. There are things we can learn and grow from."

GAMEDAY TO GAINESVILLE: ESPN is bringing College Gameday to Gainesville on Saturday to cover the game against Kentucky. The show starts at 10 a.m. and fans are encouraged to attend.

It also adds hype to the matchup. It builds excitement on campus and throughout Gainesville for a game that is sold out.

It's also a sign to Donovan that the Florida program and college basketball coverage have come a long way since he took the job as head coach.

"It's a great thing," Donovan said. "I think when I first came here 15 years ago, there was so much of a demand to get your program on TV and get that national exposure. I think now with the TV package in the SEC with ESPN, there is so much exposure. There are games on all over the place.

"I think that kind of environment where ESPN picks a game to highlight for the weekend is a good thing. It's different than it was eight or ten years ago. I don't mind it. It creates enthusiasm and excitement on campus. That's always a positive."

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