The game did give Florida a chance to play in a tough environment. The loss moved the Gators to 5-2 on the season, but both of the losses have come on the road at top-five teams Ohio State and Syracuse.
Florida has learned lessons early in this season about how to practice and compete against the top teams in the country. Those lessons will pay off won March roles around.
"The commitment and understanding of the game, but also in practice, of what you have to do to put yourself in a situation to win a game like that," Donovan said about what his team learned. "We gave ourselves a chance, but some timely shots and offensive rebounds by them was the difference in the game."
The defensive side of the court produced success for Florida at Syracuse. The Gators held the Orange to 40.6% from the field and forced 14 turnovers of their own. The Syracuse offense is predicated on creating turnovers and getting out on the fast break. When that wasn't happening, Donovan was happy with how his team played half-court defense.
"A lot of the things they do offensively is predicated on taking advantage of mismatch and isolation," Donovan said. "We did a pretty good job defending. We rebounded the ball at times very well and at times very poorly. I thought defensively that we were pretty locked in to what we needed to do."
MURPHY UPDATE: Junior forward Erik Murphy worked out on his own Sunday and was set to participate in practice on Monday at "half contact," Donovan said.The Gators expect to have Murphy on Wednesday when they host Arizona. It's unsure if he will be in the starting lineup or not.
"He's going to play," Donovan said. "He has been cleared. I would anticipate the expectation is that he's going to play, but if there's a setback here or tomorrow, then we won't play him. As of today, we're going to play him."
BEAL SHOOTING SLUMP: Freshman Brad Beal came to Florida with a reputation as a shooter. He is second on the team in scoring, averaging 15.6 points per game, but that has come with his shooting just 30.8% from behind the three-point line."He's a freshman," Donovan said. "It's no different than what Kenny Boynton went through as a freshman, Chandler Parsons or Lee Humphrey, and Lee Humphrey proved out to be one of the best three-point shooters to ever play here. When the speed of the game is totally different than it was in high school, there is always a learning curve you have to go through."
His playing time hasn't decreased, mostly because of the other parts Beal is producing on the court. He is second on the team in rebounds, averaging seven a game.
"Part of the reason he has been able to stay on the floor as much as he has is because he is defending and is rebounding," Donovan said. "He rebounds the ball. That was one of my concerns when we lost Chandler was the rebounding we'd get from the small forward spot, and he has been great there."