Florida Shows Progress on the Road

Florida head coach Billy Donovan spoke all week about the Gators needing to mature and learn the process of winning on the road before they would be able to experience it. Saturday night was a step in the right direction. The Gators used a strong second half to secure their first road win of the season in a 79-65 win at South Carolina.

"I thought we took a positive step forward in terms of maturing and understanding how we've got to play and the mentality we've got to have," Donovan said on his post game radio show Saturday night.

The teams played a close game in the first half, as South Carolina went into the break with a one-point lead. Florida came strong out of the half, going on a 12-3 run to open the half. The Gators wouldn't look back.

Part of the maturity Donovan wanted to see came with the Gators playing well when they had a lead. The Gators carried a double-digit lead through most of the second half.

"It was important," Donovan said. "We kept our focus at the line. We did a pretty good job rebounding. We did good enough things to have a comfortable lead."

The big Florida lead in the second half came from solid defense. The Gamecocks shot 62.5% from the field in the first half, but they opened the second half going 1-for-12 from the field. Even with South Carolina's hot shooting in the first half, Donovan thought the defense was fine and credited the Gamecocks for making "difficult and timely shots."

Florida's solid play on both ends of the court to open the second half was what cemented the win.

"The first four minutes were critical," Donovan said. "If you start that first four minutes and you're down eight, then you're fighting back on the road. Our whole team stepped it. It was a team win."

The Gamecocks slowed the Florida offense at times, and Donovan was impressed with the tenacity South Carolina played with on the defensive end. The Gators had six players, including every starter, in double figures.

"We did a great job," Donovan said. "They're a tough team to play against because it's a matchup zone that's man-to-man. They jump out in passing lanes. We ball faked very well and were careful with the ball. We didn't have a lot of careless turnovers and we moved the ball. Offensively, a lot of things were in place."

Patric Young didn't start because of an ankle injury, but Will Yeguete was forced into the lineup and played well. The sophomore recorded a career-high 14 points and chipped in with eight rebounds.

"He did a great job," Donovan said. "He offensive rebounded and made some nice moves around the basket. He had some tip-ins and follow-up dunks. He really made himself available and made good decisions. We were thin in the frontcourt, but in the first half, we pretty much played with three frontcourt players. Will really anchored our team in a lot of respects."

Young's ankle allowed him to come off the bench, but Donovan thought that he "wasn't himself." He got two early fouls in the first half that kept him on the bench until the second half.

"Really, the game was played without Patric," Donovan said. "I give Patric a lot of credit because he was cheering on the bench, in huddles, active and trying to help his teammates."

The Gators now get a week to watch film and practice to correct errors and rest injuries. Florida's next game will come on January 21 when it hosts LSU. Donovan thinks this is a beneficial time for his team to experience a week off.

"For Patric, it's going to be great for him to get healed and healthy," Donovan said. "We'll put this behind us and make corrections to fine tune things. We'll use practice to get better and improve, and in the late parts of the week, we'll focus on LSU. In the beginning of the week, we can really focus on ourselves without focusing on preparation. This could be a good point for us to get better and improve because after this break, it's straight through. It becomes a real grind."


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