Florida Gators trying to build off loss

Florida’s tough schedule this year has it hoping to reap the benefits for the rest of the year.

The Gators have three losses this season, all coming to teams inside the top 15 in the Associated Press Poll. Mike White hasn’t been eased into the schedule during his first year at Florida. Last week, the Gators played at No. 15 Miami on Tuesday and at No. 1 Michigan State on Saturday. Their back-to-back, non-conference road games happened in White’s first nine games at Florida despite it never happening under Billy Donovan.

The Gators challenged the Spartans in East Lansing before eventually falling 58-52. White was quick to say after the game that trying to find positives from a loss was a mistake, but the film showed that the Gators played the hardest they had this season. Now that they’ve seen the effort necessary, White is hoping to get that every game.

“We showed this team has a lot of pride,” White said. “We showed how much these guys care about each other and how they laid it on the line. We played as hard as I’ve seen these guys play. We played really, really hard and matched every bit of their intensity -- and again, they had an incredible crowd on their side. So I was really proud of the intestinal fortitude of our guys; getting a ton of loose balls; diving on the floor; no regard for their bodies. From our point guards to our 5s to our subs, everyone who got in the game gave us something physically.

“It was a tremendous physical effort by our guys. When you go back and watch the film, it was even more impressive than what I saw live. But in terms of our effort, we couldn’t ask for much more at all.”

The film showed another strong defensive effort for Florida, but as has been consistent throughout the season, the offense was stagnant. White didn’t like the ball movement in the first half but said it improved some in the second half. A lot of it was a credit to Michigan State, a veteran team known for its defensive prowess in recent years.

The offense spent this week in practice working on feeding the post. White wanted more post touches than his team got against Michigan State. Part of that struggled because John Egbunu was in foul trouble for most of the game and played just over seven minutes.

The players saw what White wanted them to on film. The energy and passion while diving for loose balls and trying to do anything possible to climb into the game was exactly what White wants to see, whether it’s the top team in the country or a smaller opponent on the other end of the floor.

“We learned a lot from that game, playing the No. 1 team in the country,” Florida forward Devin Robinson said. “We find out that we can do it. We can play together and play ball every single time. We just need to prove that we can do it every single game. Not just the big games, but the other games that are not so big. We just proved that we can play together. We know we can do it, so we’ve just got to do it every game.”

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