Gators trying to handle success at Georgia

It's the challenge for elite teams every year. When they're winning and having success, being able to maintain that level of play is what mature teams do. The Gators have an opportunity to prove that this week at Georgia and Mississippi State, who have won two combined conference games. It starts on Wednesday night in Athens. The No. 8 Gators believe they're ready for the challenge.

"Not losing the focus — that's the one main aspect of this journey right now — not get too big headed and accept what is going on," Florida guard Mike Rosario said. "I tell my teammates every day we aren't satisfied. We haven't scratched the surface yet. You want to improve and get after it every day.

"I feel like when you explain that to your teammates that we haven't reached our full potential, they really embrace that and really want to come in every day ready to get better. I think we've embraced that."

The Gators get a chance to prove they're handling success in a positive way on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. against Georgia at Stegeman Coliseum. Florida is coming off a 31-point win over then-ranked No. 17 Missouri on Saturday. With the Southeastern Conference already being down this season, the schedule starts to get easier on Wednesday.

But Florida doesn't want to let up. They want to carry that momentum through their game with rival Georgia. It's a strange set up in the conference schedule, but the two teams will finish their second meeting of the season in their fifth conference game and not see each other against until next season.

The first matchup wasn't close. Florida took an early lead and ran away with a 33-point win in Gainesville on January 9. The Gators had four players score between 13-15 points and smothered Georgia, keeping the Bulldogs to shooting 33.3%. Florida shot 58.6% from the field.

There wasn't a statistical category Florida didn't dominate. However, the change in venue could present a problem as the Gators walk into Stegeman Coliseum with a target on them.

Florida knows all too well about carrying that target in Athens. The Gators went to Athens ranked No. 12 last season before losing by 14 points.

"Yeah, that's a big thing: remembering what happened last year," senior forward Erik Murphy said. "(It's a) similar situation to last year. We beat them at home and they got us there. We're trying to prepare and not let it happen again."

It shouldn't be that hard for the Florida players to buy in about playing on the road. The Gators have lost three of their last four meetings with Georgia that were played in Athens. The games played in Gainesville aren't an issue. But once the matchup moves to Georgia, the Gators struggle.

"Every game in the SEC is challenging," Donovan said. "There's no easy game, especially on the road. It's always tough on the road in conference. Same thing happened last year. We beat them at home pretty good, and they got us at Georgia. You got to be ready every day."

Both of Florida's losses this season have come away from Gainesville. The Gators lost at Arizona and then in a neutral site game that was in Kansas City when they played Kansas State. However, the road hasn't been as much of a challenge as Donovan suggests.

A big reason for that is the Florida defense. Strong defense travels well on the road and can overcome for any shooting issues. The Gators used won conference road games at LSU by 22 and at Texas A&M by 21.

"I think just keeping consistent with what we've been doing, just working in practice, staying focused, focused on the game plan coaches are giving us and just trying to stay focused mentally on everything we need to accomplish," Murphy said about playing on the road.

The Gators will be without forward Casey Prather, who will miss both games this week because of his high ankle sprain. There are smaller injuries like knee tendinitis for Will Yeguete and fractured ribs for Murphy.

"We're banged up a little bit," Murphy said. "We have Casey out right now. Some other guys have some little bumps and bruises. But we'll be able to deal with it physically. We just have to keep the mental focus."

Fightin Gators Top Stories