Gators Aim to End Three-Game Slide

The last two weeks in the record book haven't been pretty for Florida. The 0-3 record isn't the way any team wants to head into its conference tournament, but while Billy Donovan has spent the week of practice trying to fix the kinks, he doesn't believe his team's play justified that record. Florida's play improved during each of the three games.

"I think you are always looking at the end result, but from coming out of the Auburn and the Georgia game and going into Vanderbilt and then playing Kentucky, our team did not play poorly (Sunday)," Billy Donovan said. "We didn't play a bad game. We gave good effort but like any game there is mistakes that go on that we have to learn from."

"I think I've seen with Will (Yeguete) going out and having to do some different things offensively and moving players around and different things, I've seen some growth and I have seen us get better in certain areas."?

The issue continues to be maturity. Donovan has spoken about it all season, to the point where he laughs about how much it has been mentioned in press conferences, but it continues to come up. The reason it continues to get brought up, by Donovan and those at his press conferences, is that immaturity continues to show itself on the team.

The immaturities have been written about a lot. Kenny Boynton was late for a meeting before the Gators hosted Kentucky last weekend. The team is consistently searching for leadership while on the court.

Their maturity will be challenged by Alabama on Friday at 3:30 p.m. EST.

"Can we play with that heightened level of awareness every single day?" Donovan asked rhetorically, referring to how they played against Kentucky. "That's the maturity stuff that I'm talking about. We've got some incredible experiences we've gone through this season.

"What have we learned? And where, now, is our focus level? Where is our passion? Where is our drive and our commitment to really, really get better?' Because it's not like all of the sudden we've played low-level Division I teams and we don't even know what it's like to play against a great basketball team. I'm anxious to see what we do here these next four days as we get prepared to go to New Orleans."

The Crimson Tide recorded a 63-57 win over South Carolina on Thursday to earn the game against Florida on Friday. The scouting report on Alabama isn't tough to figure out. They struggle to score points but play tough defense.

Florida won a 61-52 matchup in Tuscaloosa on February 14, but the setup was different. Alabama was without four important pieces—JaMychal Green, Trevor Releford, Andrew Steele and Tony Mitchell. Releford and Steele returned shortly after and Green has since returned as well.

Green chipped in with 12 points and seven rebounds in Thursday's win over the Gamecocks. Florida center Patric Young scored 19 points on 9-12 shooting from the field, but Green's reinsertion to the Alabama lineup could change that.

"If we get them into foul trouble, I think it will hurt them," Green said. "So we're just going to attack like we did today and just take the good shots as open."

"With (Erik) Murphy, he can step out and extend the defense because he can shoot. And with Patric Young, he just has legs and strong. He can finish around the rim."

Alabama head coach Anthony Grant wasn't so sure. He credited the balance of the Florida offense between the interior presence Young looked like against Kentucky (21 points) and the guards shooting from the perimeter.

"You look and their perimeter guys all the shoot the three, all are outstanding free throws shooters, have the ability to drive the basketball and make plays," Grant said. "Then Patric Young inside, the combination of the talent they have and the skill they have, I think probably outweighs any one individual.

"As a defense, we have got to be aware and alert to understand that it's a variety of things that we have got to prepare for, along with the way they defend."

The challenge for Florida is to stay motivated. The three-game losing streak should provide plenty of motivation in itself, but there aren't many doubts about tournament status. The Gators know they're in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens in New Orleans. The only doubt comes in what seed they will be given, but Boynton says they're more that will fuel the team in the SEC Tournament.

"We're playing for pride, respect," Boynton said. "I think we let a few get away from us. As a team you should come out every game and be ready to play, no matter who you're playing so we definitely need to use this tournament as a focus and a practice for the NCAA Tournament because I know we're going to be in some tough games."


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