Gators need to gain a mental edge

The flashes of talent show up all the time for this 2014-15 group of Florida basketball players. But the mental lapses that permeate the game consistently are the things that are causing them to lose games that are there for the taking.

Florida was cruising early in the game Saturday before losing to UConn 63-59. The Gators had as much as a 13 -point lead but once again faltered down the stretch for quite a few reasons. In the end, Florida head coach Billy Donovan says his team just has to learn how to handle these things and it is part of process that we will continue to see develop.

“You are going to look down at the stat sheet tonight and see that we went 8-20 from the free throw line, but there is a disposition to me (that we just don’t have),” Donovan said not wanting to lay blame on just the poor free throw shooting they went through Saturday. “We got hurt from the three-point line. Our inability to rebound the ball in certain crucial situations hurt us. The free throw line at the end of the game hurt us. There is a competitive disposition that we don’t have and they have never had it. It is one of those things that these guys are going to have to figure it out.

“Right now we don’t do enough things to put ourselves on a consistent basis to be in a position to win. We do it sometimes, but not enough.”

Donovan has been making moves with lineups trying to get the best match ups out there, but also needing to get some of his guys prepared for what lies ahead.

“You can get that,” Donovan said.

“They are getting calloused and scarred right now and they are getting roughed up right now, which is good. To be honest I don’t like seeing anyone go through this, but if you look at any really good player or team you can trace back that they’ve been hardened through the journey of where they have gotten to.”

Donovan had to fight the preseason madness when his team was ranked in the top ten. He consistently told everyone they shouldn’t be ranked that high, but it took a couple of losses for the reality check to hit home and nationally.

“You win 30 games in a row last year and go 120 days without a loss, it is a little unrealistic,” Donovan said of the feat his team accomplished last season. “Not to say that was our expectation coming into the year, but I think a lot of stuff before the season I saw as a lot of red flags I tried to address.

“Can you believe this team was ranked higher to start the season than last year’s team? Did we really deserve that ranking or was that given to us. Right now they need to start earning.

“We have not earned and have not been deserving of being on the winning side of a lot of these games.”

Donovan is quick to point out that this isn’t an effort issue. His guys work hard and that is why he likes working with them and believes better things are around the corner.

“We have a very physically committed group,” he said. “We don’t have a mentally committed group. That is something they are going to have to get. We have done a lot of things to get them to get there.

The inconsistencies we had here tonight, was a microcosm of practice.”

“It is part of the journey and the process. I can’t sit up here after a lot of the successes we had here the last four years and not take the good with the bad. I feel like my job and responsibility as a coach to these guys is to teach these guys what goes into winning. We have made some strides and gotten better in some areas, we just aren’t good enough.”

The next step for his players is for the games to mean something to them in terms of their relationship with the other guys on the team.

“They are really committed physically,” Donovan said of the entire group. “They go in the weight room, they practice hard, but there is not an emotional and mental investment in commitment to each other and the team and to what it takes. I think they get along real well and like each other.

“I think if you ask our guys internally what is the goal today? ‘I hope I play well. I hope we win’. That is about as shallow as it gets. There is no substance behind that. We have to develop and to get more competitive substance. It is my jo to develop that and help them get that.”

Once they start doing things as a team, the big plays that come up that aren’t scripted will come together and yield the results they are looking for.

“They know what they are doing out there and work hard.” Donovan said. “They try to share the ball, pass it, and they do try to defend. But with what I call those ‘out of scouting’ plays when the ball is loose and in the air and we have to spontaneously lap. We don’t spontaneously react in the moment to make the right play sometimes.”

And they lose games by four points at home that they very well should have won.

Fightin Gators Top Stories