On Monday, Billy Donovan knew he had a chance to see how his team would handle it.
Florida went into halftime with a 46-20 lead, shooting 67.7 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from behind the 3-point line. The Gators dominated the game in every category and could have put it in cruise control and coasted to a blowout win over Yale, who beat defending national champion Connecticut on Friday.
Before closing out an 85-47 win, Donovan wouldn’t let them become complacent. Instead, the Gators were back on the floor eight minutes before the second half began, way earlier than most teams get back the action. Florida assistants were all watching intently as the Gators went full speed through ball handling and passing drills.
The goal was to get the blood flowing and the players ready for action much earlier than usual, hoping that would cure some of the second half woes.
“He just tried to get us running, get out blood flowing,” said Dorian Finney-Smith, who had 14 points and five rebounds. “They want us out there early to work on drive and kicks.”
The halftime routine produced exactly what the Gators wanted. They started it on an 11-2 run, squashing any hope of a miracle comeback for Yale. Florida pushed the pace and continued to create problems with the press.
“It worked,” Jacob Kurtz said about the halftime workouts. “We’ll probably end up doing that again. Anything that works, we’ll keep doing it.”
Finney-Smith added with a smile, “I would say you’ll see us doing that every time.”
Handling the second half hasn’t been easy for Florida lately. It was obvious on Friday at No. 11 Kansas when the Gators took a 15-point lead to halftime and were outscored by 21 points in the second half.
In the past, the ball went stagnant on offense. Florida stopped moving the ball like Donovan wants, and the shots haven’t been as open. On Monday, that didn’t happen.
“We put together a complete game of intensity,” Donovan said. “Were there mistakes and things we could’ve done better? Absolutely, but we played to our identity. When we don’t do that, we struggle to score. The ball was moving very well and we made our shots.”
It’s only one game. Players laughed when asked if this shows that the team is figuring things out, saying that a win over Yale was just the first step.
That doesn’t change the positive signs. Donovan is seeing his team finally beginning to understand how hard they need to work to get where the team where it needs to be.
“Call it like it is, I’m not sure we came with a high level of humility into this season,” Donovan said. “It’s always easy to have an inflated opinion of yourself before you actually compete. Because our schedule has been challenging here, we’ve gotten a dose of the truth. We’ve been forced to have to deal with and confront the truth.
“Can we play consistency again? Can we do the right things? That’s going to be the challenge.”
The Gators have their chance when they get back to action on Friday at 7 p.m. against Texas Southern.