Lack of focus almost hurts Florida

For all the things No. 2 Florida has done well lately, getting off to good starts hasn't been one of them. Wednesday was the fifth straight game the Gators have trailed or been tied at halftime, fighting back in the second half to win all five. But that won't be as easy to pull off in the postseason. Florida coach Billy Donovan hopes his team learned its lesson on Wednesday against Auburn.

Part of Wednesday was unavoidable and expected. Florida completed last week with wins at Kentucky and at Tennessee in the same season for just the third time in program history. The emotional wins propelled the Gators to No. 2 in both major college basketball polls.

No matter how hard the senior-laden Florida team tried to ignore it, they realized early into Wednesday's 71-66 win over Auburn that their focus wasn't where it needed to be.

"We were not focused at all," sophomore guard Michael Frazier said. "The coaches called us out on it (at halftime). We did a great job of responding to it in the second half and came away with a win. We have to do a better job of coming out with energy and not getting in a hole like that because it's so hard to work your way out of it."

The halftime message, at least the part that players could repeat, was focused on the three-point defense. Auburn went to halftime 6-9 from behind the three-point line while shooting 56.5 percent from the field. The Tigers were hitting shots whether guarded or open, but it was the open ones that frustrated the Florida coaching staff.

Donovan saw zero warning signs for the lack of focus the Gators opened the game with on Wednesday. In past years, he has seen it after big wins, where the Gators come to practice and think they have it all figured out. But that's not what happened on Monday and Tuesday. The seniors hit the practice floor and prepared in the same way they did for Tennessee and Kentucky. It just didn't translate to the O'Connell Center on Wednesday.

For whatever reason that it happened, Donovan knows what his team will see from its opponents the rest of the season, but the Gators need to have a better response.

"No question you're going to get everybody's best shot, but I like to look at it the other way. Are we going to give them our best shot?" Donovan rhetorically asked.

Wednesday was a clear view of it. The Gators got Auburn's best shot but came out by not playing up to their own standards. The seniors believe it was an important lesson to learn.

"It is really hard, but if a team is really committed to staying locked in and striving to be great, they can," Patric Young said. "I don't think we had that mindset coming into this game. Everyone across the line, except Scottie, was a little sluggish to start the game off. We realized that we wanted to be great and be special."

Focusing last week was easy. The Gators were trying to win at Tennessee for the first time since 2011 and at Kentucky for the first time since 2007. When the coaches dangled those numbers in front of the players, focus and attention to detail was easy.

The challenge now comes in playing and starting the game with that same focus when it comes against an opponent that isn't nationally ranked and doesn't have a winning streak against Florida.

"We were not there like I thought we needed to be," Donovan said. "All the things you can imagine coming out of last week, I hit these guys with it. I talked to our guys about being internally motivated instead of externally motivated. We didn't have a great motivation or passion while the game was going on.

"Hopefully our guys can come out of this realizing how fragile all of this is. It's very, very fragile."


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