All part of the process

The clichés can be annoying when teams get on winning streaks like the one No. 4 Florida is on seven games into Southeastern Conference play. There's talk about staying with the process, focusing only on one game and taking it one day at a time. It's not just a cliché the Gators throw out during interviews this season. It's the reason they're pummeling SEC teams so far this year.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan has his team bought into the process. It's easier to do with a veteran team, like the one the Gators have that features juniors or seniors as the six players earning the most minutes this year. The talk about a process would be more likely to go in one ear and out the other for a younger player on a team having this much success, but not these upperclassmen.

They've been around Donovan. They've been around the SEC.

It's why they haven't experienced a letdown game in conference play yet. Coming into Wednesday's game against South Carolina with a 26.5 average winning margin in six conference games, it would be easy for the Gators to buy into how good they are and start memorizing projected brackets for the NCAA Tournament.

But they haven't. They've continued to prepare like a team with much to prove against teams that have looked helpless at times. Senior guard Kenny Boynton said it's the team's desire to take the opponent's heart. Whatever it is, the Gators aren't taking anything for granted.

"(Donovan) stresses about the process," said freshman guard Michael Frazier II, who scored 12 points on four three-pointers. "The process is to get better every day, no matter who the opponent is. It's all about our mentality. When we have a team down, we have to put our foot on their throat and not let them come back."

Donovan has his team playing while ignoring the opponent. The Gators have blinders on. They don't look at the scoreboard, they don't know the opponent's conference record or overall record. It's all about what happens in areas that the orange and blue can control.

It starts on the floor at practice and in the film room. The Florida veterans have bought in to preparing for opponents like it's a national championship game. South Carolina came to Gainesville on Wednesday with losses to Elon and Mississippi State earlier this season. It wasn't a dominant team.

But Florida's preparation didn't handle the Gamecocks like an outmatched opponent.

"The minute you start to cut corners, think you've got things figured out or think you don't need to do those things anymore, that's where the slippage starts," Donovan said.

Patric Young is one of the many veterans buying in

The excitement for the Florida coaches comes in seeing how the team is playing. With every blowout win comes the expectation that there's still more to come. There's more to improve. That might seem crazy after beating a team by 39 and giving them their worst loss ever in SEC play, but it's what Donovan has convinced his team.

He'll point to the 12 Florida turnovers. He'll point to the 7-for-16 free throw percentage. He'll point to the 45.8% that South Carolina shot from the field in the second half. The score might have caused some of the issues. The Gators were up by so many points early in the game that it was clear the Gamecocks didn't have enough offense to get back in the game, but Donovan always wants more

There's always room for improvement in his process.

"When you're up by a large margin, that does not give you the right not to do your job," Donovan said. "I tell our guys all the time that the scoreboard has nothing to do with your responsibility on the court.

"When you just play the scoreboard or play a score, you're forming habits. They're forming improper habits. When you have the opportunity to do the right thing at the right time, they cannot have the excuse that, ‘well, we're up big, it's not that important.' We really have tried to get that across. For the most part, they've done a really good job."

With the blowout wins come more expectations from the Florida coaches. The Gators have shown what they're capable of. In recent games, what they're capable of continues to grow and get even better. The pressure will now be put on the players to continue that trend.

Donovan wants progress. He wants his veteran team to continue to show what they're capable of and build on it as the second half of the conference schedule looms.

"The more you win like this, the more you show what you're capable of, I believe the more responsibility you have," Donovan said. "You're playing at a certain level. You've shown a certain level. What you want to do as a basketball team is continue to grow, get better and improve. Understand that's the No. 1 priority — getting better. All this other stuff doesn't mean anything."

In the meantime, the Gators will get to preparation for Ole Miss on Saturday night in a clash between the two best conferences records in the SEC. It's the best chance for Florida to get a test in the first eight games of the conference schedule.

"We'll get challenges when a team challenges us," Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin said.

A simple statement, but it's taking longer than anyone expected.

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