Gators Have Become Resilient

The Gators have dealt with hurt this season. Playing under their potential has produced close games that shouldn't have been, and it even caused losses like the one to Jacksonville. The frustration from under-performing is a big reason why the team has stepped up its performance in recent games.

"I don't think you can really win big until your heart really gets broken," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "Then you find out how important winning is to you. When you put a lot of time and energy into something and it doesn't work out for you- there are two kinds of players. There are players that really battle and fight to figure it out. Then there are players that you can see it really not important to."

The heartbreak wasn't only because of the team's play. It also came during different points of each senior's career. Chandler Parsons had a disappointing sophomore season when he was expected to take the reigns of the team. Alex Tyus also struggled early in his career when he was forced to play center after Marreese Speights left a year earlier than Donovan expected.

Donovan even said that Vernon Macklin probably wanted to leave for the NBA after last season, but his performance didn't merit the jump.

The three seniors have dealt with their own problems and struggles on the court, and those have helped the team experience success this season.

"It comes down to an understanding of what goes into winning," Donovan said. "Tyus, Macklin and Parsons have had rocky starts to their careers. Going to two NITs, your back gets put against a wall. There's a better understanding as to what goes into winning and losing at this level."

The team has been able to fight through adversity this season because of all of it the upperclassmen have faced during their careers. Instead of crumbling under pressure like in seasons past, the team has dominated in close situations.

Despite a 7-2 record in conference, Donovan pointed to four games that could have gone either way. If the team didn't play tough in close games, the Gators could be staring at a 3-6 record instead. They played tough on the road and in overtime to steal wins at Tennessee and Georgia, and their wins at home against Vanderbilt and Kentucky last week could've been given away.

"The character of a team is found in adversity," Donovan said. "When Kentucky, down 13, made an incredible run at us, our guys stayed resilient and kept fighting. They kept trying to persevere. Whatever the outcome would've bee, I didn't feel as a coach like we folded. At times, some of these older guys, they would've folded. They've gotten better in that area."

BENCH PROVIDES HELP: The Gators have seen help off the bench to rest the starters, and it has been a while since they experienced that luxury. Scottie Wilbekin has been better than expected during his freshman season, providing a backup for Erving Walker at point guard that wasn't on the roster last year.

Patric Young has provided a viable option at center, and he is the defensive enforcer that the team needed. Casey Prather and Will Yeguete have also played big minutes off the bench.

The freshmen were recruited to play right away, and they have done just that.

"I trust their effort," Donovan said. "I don't trust their experience. But they're going to play hard and be aggressive. That's what you want as a coach. When you have guys playing hard and physical, I'm a lot more comfortable putting guys into the game with that understanding. Those guys have an idea of what their role is going to be."

PARSONS ACKNOWLEGED: Chandler Parsons was named SEC Player of the Week for his performances against Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Parsons led the team with 18 points and 11 rebounds against the Commodores last Tuesday. He ended the week by leading the team again with 17 points and 12 rebounds against Kentucky.

POLLS: The Gators came in No. 17 in the AP Poll and No. 19 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Both were released Monday afternoon.


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