Donovan Focused on Pride at Halftime

With the Gators down by three points at home at halftime to an out-manned Auburn team, Florida head coach Billy Donovan turned to their sense of pride to reel them in and get them focused on the rest of the game. Whatever he said seemed to work as the Gators built a 20+ point lead in the second half route to a 63-47 victory as th3y cruised in the second period.

His team just came off of a 30 point win at Arkansas, their most convincing victory of the season. Billy Donovan thought practices were fine even between that game and the one Tuesday night against Auburn. But, when the first tip was tipped, something wasn't right with his guys.

"I was disappointed because I thought in the first half it had nothing to do with what they were doing or running. It had to do with we turned the ball over 12 times, were 5-10 from the free throw line, and we gave up eight offensive rebounds," Donovan said about his team's poor start. "I think they took 14-15 more shots than us in the first half. It all got camouflaged because we started the game off six for six and it looked like we were going good.

"In the first half there was nobody home mentally and we were slow reacting They beat us to a lot of loose basketballs. We were down by three (at half) and I think those guys realized we had to get going a little bit."

Donovan said his team practiced pretty well despite coming off such a huge win against Arkansas three days earlier.

"I didn't sense they were giddy in practice Sunday or all happy," he said. "We were just careless, one way or another (to start the game). Donovan looked as if he were searching a bit still to figure out some way to get the team better focused on what is directly in front of them in each game, and was still searching for the right thing to say following the game.

"There just has to be a respect level in how fragile all of this is," he said. "We can go 72 hours ago and beat a team by 30 points on the road and then we come back here and say ‘geez'. As a coach we have to get them to understand there is that gap in the days that they look like they are great and the days that they look really bad and get them to make a decision of who they want to be. If they want to be really good, they have to realize the approach they need to have. I think that is something they are leaning.

"I think it is the emotional drain from game to game. I think when they get emotionally drained they have to find a way to recharge themselves mentally to get themselves refocused. They have to develop an emotional stamina."

At halftime, Donovan lit into the players and each one that talked after the game brought up the fiery talk.

"I just spoke from my heart about the way we played and what we needed to do," he said. "Those guys did it in the second half, they played very well and were able to get things turned around.

"We are all privileged in that locker room, coaches, players, strength caches, trainers… to have an opportunity to be at this school representing this school, wearing that jersey. There is something that goes along with wearing that jersey.

"My thing to them was, if Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Matt Bonner, Kenyan Weaks, Bret Nelson, Al Horford, Joakim Noah were watching, what is their feeling right now? Those guys gave their heart and soul and this is the way you are representing their program with your effort and focus? Beyond that… what do your families think right now?"

Donovan reemphasized the pride he expects the players he recruits to have in wearing the jersey of the great players that have come before them and the institution that jersey symbolizes.

"What gets lost is that they have to understand that it means something when Florida is across that jersey," he said. "There is a lot of energy that went into this. We may not always play great, make every shot, and play mistake free. That is part of the game. But, we can play with a passion and an energy that the people here watching us deserve to see, that they deserve to show one another, and that people that played here in the past deserve to see."

For Donovan, the speech was nothing more than a true statement of what he believes his guys were showing on the court and more than that what he and the guys that came before them expected of them moving forward.

"My thing is what it was just unacceptable," he said. "I don't think for me as a coach, that it is that outrageous to ask."

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