Gators look to move past collapse

If the common opponents are any sign, Wednesday's game between No. 8 Florida and Southeastern Louisiana shouldn't be close, but the most interesting storyline won't be the final score. It'll be how the Gators play on the court after their gut wrenching loss at Arizona over the weekend. Florida blew a six-point lead with less than a minute to go and now has to figure out how to regroup.

The Gators went through their first test in a close game. It was only a matter of time before it happened after winning decisively in the team's first seven games. When they were thrown into the fire with a lead at Arizona, it didn't turn out well. The Gators turned the ball over, missed free throws and had defensive breakdowns during the final minute to allow Arizona to steal a 65-64 win.

"I told our guys if in some way we really, really learn from this – it'll be very, very beneficial going forward," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said.

That won't happen without learning from the film. It wasn't easy for the team to go back and watch it, but there was an opportunity to learn.

Despite the turnovers on inbounds plays, Donovan pointed out one common issue. The Gators could have played better defense and won the game with just one stop. Even when Kenny Boynton missed his first free throw line 21 seconds left, the Florida defense could've locked in and forced a stop. Instead, Arizona point guard Mark Lyons hit a runner to give the Wildcats the lead and the win.

"I think in all those situations, the one thing that gets lost, and I told our guys, you still have a chance to play defense," Donovan said. "On two of the plays, our defense could have been set to get a stop, and we didn't get a stop."

After Lyons hit the runner, the Florida offense was frantic. Erik Murphy and Scottie Wilbekin got confused on the inbounds play before throwing it to Boynton. Rosario lost control of the ball on the other end of the floor, forcing a prayer from Wilbekin as time expired that wasn't close to going in.

Donovan pointed to the lack of patience in the moment, and said it should have been similar to when the Gators beat South Carolina at home in 2010 on a Chandler Parsons three-pointer as time expired. The team was patient and collected, earning a good shot in the final seconds.

The positive for the Gators is that the issues came in the eighth game of the year, but there is still plenty to take from the game.

Donovan regretted playing Boynton so many minutes at the point guard position. Wilbekin broke his finger two days before the game but played with a splint on it, but Donovan was scared to play him extended minutes at the point guard position with questions about his ability to handle the ball with the splint on. They will try to scale back Boynton's minutes at point guard in the future.

"I think moving (Wilbekin) back there to help Kenny sometimes I think is good," Donovan said. "We had an opportunity a couple times to throw him the ball there late in the game, and we missed him when he was open. But I do think those guys need to share time at the point. I don't think there's any question when he's off the floor, Kenny, putting Scottie in there is going to be good."

The Gators will be back in action against Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Lions are 1-7 this season, beating Louisiana College in their season opener. They will play their seventh road games in nine games this season.

Florida and Southeastern Louisiana have each played two of the season teams this season — Marquette and Wisconsin. The Gators beat Marquette by 33 while the Lions lost to Marquette by 11. Florida beat Wisconsin by 18 while Southeastern Louisiana lost to Wisconsin by 40.

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