Gators Lose Despite Better Energy

Walking off the floor after a loss isn't something Billy Donovan will ever enjoy. The Florida head coach left the floor at Memorial Gymnasium after Tuesday's loss at Vanderbilt feeling much better than over the weekend. The loss to Georgia had Donovan questioning his team's love and passion for the game. He was happy with the effort the Gators gave in Tuesday's 77-67 loss at Vanderbilt.

"I was much prouder of our basketball team," Donovan said on his post game radio show. "I walked off the floor against Georgia in Athens and I was really disheartened and bothered with the way we performed, our disposition and our attitude. I walked off the floor tonight disappointed we lost but proud of the way they responded over the last two days and the way they competed."

The start wasn't pretty. Vanderbilt jumped out to a 19-7 lead in the first ten minutes of the game while Florida struggled to score. The Commodores couldn't miss and the Gators couldn't hit anything.

Florida showed the toughness Donovan has desperately been searching for as the first half came to the close. The Gators close the final ten minutes of the first half on a 20-11 run and went into the half down 30-27.

Vanderbilt just shot too well for the Gators to keep up with in the second half. The Commodores shot 57.9% in the second half to score 47 points.

"I was really pleased off two days of prep," Donovan said. "We did a lot of things offensively, and I didn't know how it was going to turn out. We got stagnant in the first half but started to figure it out. We played really well offensively in the second half. We were hard to guard and getting drives and penetration at the basket. They went zone, and I think our guys' eyes lit up, but we closed the game going 2-14."

That was the difference. Casey Prather gave the Gators their first lead at 50-49 with 10:32 left in the game after his fast break dunk. Vanderbilt then closed on a 28-17 run to secure the game.

Donovan called Erving Walker out during the week for his performance and lack of leadership. The senior, who will play his final home game of his career on Sunday at noon against Kentucky, went 6-for-14 from the field and hit one three while scoring 15 points.

Walker was effective when going to the basket with the ball.

"You can see your team when they have the look, and I thought we had that resiliency tonight," Donovan said. "When Erving's locked in and really focused on playing, it charges our team up. It gives our team confidence. He gave us a lot of energy."

The Florida press sparked the offense for the second straight matchup with the Commodores. It was active and forced Vanderbilt to push the ball into traffic.

"It was disruptive," Donovan said. "The one thing that hurt us in the game was the three-point line for them. I'm actually shocked that the game was as close as it was with the way they shot the ball from behind the line. We had some opportunities."

The Commodores' hot shooting late in the game sunk Florida, but Donovan still took positives out of the game. He also emphasized the importance of the stretch to come for the Gators.

"I told them that one of the things we've got to figure out as a team is that we've got four days before we play Kentucky and then another five or six days before the SEC Tournament," Donovan said. "This may be the most important 11 days of our season right now. If we don't really get better as a team at the things we need to get better at—I thought he game was lost on some breakdowns. It's some things that we don't consistently do well and (the coaches) are consistently harping on them about during practice.

"Before you can ever get to that point, you have to play with the effort necessary. We did that. If we can get these guys to just come with the effort and the intensity and focus on getting better, then we'll have a chance to continue to grow up."

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