Gators Gain Toughness in Comeback Win

The Gators have faced plenty of adversity on the road this season, but for the first time all year, they responded to it on Thursday night at Ole Miss. The Rebels took a 20-4 lead early and carried a double-digit lead most of the first half. Head coach Billy Donovan kept the Gators in the game and reenergized the group on the way to recording a 64-60 win in Oxford.

"I was really proud of our guys," Donovan said on his post game radio show. "Our guys kept their composure and kept battling and fighting. I think they felt that if we could get some stops because (Ole Miss) shot the ball incredibly well in the first half, we would stay the course. I was happy with our resiliency, character and the way they handled things on the road."

Ole Miss started the first half on fire. The Rebels came into the game shooting 27% from behind the three-point line, last in the SEC. However, they went 6-for-6 in the first half for three.

Florida stayed the course and played tougher defense, and the held Ole Miss to 1-for-6 from behind the three-point line in the second half. After it seemed like the Rebels couldn't miss in the first half on their way to scoring 38 points, the Florida defense held them to just 22 points in the second half.

"I was really pleased in the face of adversity," Donovan said. "When you're dealing with young guys, like Patric, Will Yegeute, Erik Murphy and guys that are in different roles than a year ago, it takes some time to learn how to deal with adversity. When the adversity hit us in the game, we stayed the course and stayed together to battle and keep fighting."

The Gators cut the lead to ten points at halftime. Donovan made sure his team didn't try too hard to erase the deficit immediately. Instead, he gave them small increments to focus on, like winning each four-minute period.

"We talked about coming out of the half that it was a ten-point game, and we didn't need to get ten points back in two minutes," Donovan said. "At the 16-minute timeout, we need to know that we won that four minutes, even if it's by a point. Then by the time we got to the eight-minute timeout, we wanted to be right there. Actually, our guys got it done a little bit quicker than that."

Erving Walker ended the game with ten points and a season-high nine assists, falling just one assist shy of his career high set against Georgia in 2009. He slipped and turned the ball over with under a minute left in the game, giving Ole Miss a chance to get back in the game, but that was his only turnover of the game.

Patric Young came off the bench, but he gave the Gators energy and an inside presence that was needed. The sophomore ended the game with 15 points on 7-for-10 from the field, four rebounds and five dunks.

"I was really proud of Patric Young," Donovan said. "I thought he took a step maturity-wise, kept his composure and just kept playing, playing and playing. He was a force at the basket for us.

"We'll eventually get him back in the starting lineup here, but I think it has been good for Patric just to reflect here of how he can help the team. He was focused at shootaround and before the game. I felt like he was going to give us a great effort and he really did do a great job of posting up."

The Gators also had 21 assists on 24 field goals made.

There isn't much of a chance for Florida to catch its breath. The Gators will have one day to practice and prepare for Saturday when they host Mississippi State at 1:30 EST.

"Ohio State and Mississippi State are probably one-two most talented teams we'll have played so far this season," Donovan said. "They're very gifted and talented, and there's a lot to get prepared for.

"(Friday) becomes very important for preparation, rest and getting our guys back physically."

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