VETTEL: What A Difference 2 Games Makes

The Florida Basketball team took to the floor in Knoxville on the verge of being ranked number-one in the country. They leave Columbia, South Carolina a team on the verge of real trouble. The Gators' performance in Columbia was disturbing on a number of levels. Most significantly, Florida showed zero progress in all of the key areas of concern outline in this column a few days ago.

Once again, Billy Donovan's team was out-rebounded on the offensive glass (12-5) by a smaller team that simply tried harder. Once again the Gators were plagued by more unforced errors than an over-rated baseline tennis player in their first grand slam event. Once again Florida failed to get the point in the paint, although the blame resides with Florida's big guys, not the guards.

It started off just fine. The Gators led 15-6 early, and then got outscored 32-to-10 over the next 15 minutes. In that stretch, Florida managed all of three field goals, two from Walter Hodge. Florida trailed by 13 at that point (38-to-25) and never got closer than five the rest of the way.

Joakim Did His Part

While three of Florida's big guys should have to ride a school bus home after their performances, Florida sophomore Joakim Noah gave it a great effort. He had a double-double early in the second half and finished with a dozen points and 13 boards. But he had precious little help inside as Al Horford continues his so-so play against SEC teams and reserves Adrian Moss and Chris Richard were useless.

Lee Humphrey had another ineffectual game while Taurean Green tried to offset his turnover problem (5) with three 3-pointers late in the game. Walter Hodge gave Florida some pretty good minutes, but Corey Brewer would have been better off re-habbing his sore ankle.

Late Game Strategy Lacking

While Florida knocked down some long-range shot to stay within range in the final four minutes, the Gators repeatedly let the Gamecocks run significant time off the clock before fouling someone. I know you'd like to target the guys you foul, but you can't let 15 seconds run off the clock in the final minute with that as your goal.

Bottom Line Hasn't Changed

A few days ago I wrote that this team has three areas of weakness that must be addressed if this team is to have a great year. So far they are 0-3. Florida was again beaten on the boards by a smaller team. That's four out of five SEC games in which Florida has lost the battle of the boards. The Gators loaded up on turnovers against a team that didn't press. And while Florida's guards did a better job of looking to get the ball inside, Florida's big guys were poor receivers and repeatedly brought the ball down or dribbled for no reason and ended up losing the opportunity.

Half Empty/Half Full

First the half full view: The Florida basketball team is 17-2, which is something every Gator fan would have killed for two months ago. They are on the plus side in SEC play and they still have every meaningful goal ahead of them.

For the half-empty view: A weak pre-conference schedule is biting this team in the rear end. When you kill crappy teams over and over again you can get into bad habits on the little things that make a huge difference against quality opponents.

Saturday's Vanderbilt game now takes on huge ramifications. This team must figure things out and deal with their weaknesses. After the Tennessee loss everyone talked about taking care of the basketball and defensive rebounding…. but only Joakim Noah chose to do anything about it. Everyone who suits up in the O'Dome Saturday better take personal responsibility for fixing those problems or the Gators could be a team in a downward spiral in a hurry.

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