VETTEL: UF Slide Now A Major Concern

Florida's back-and-forth play the past five weeks really didn't shock me. Given the Gators' relative lack of experience and extremely limited bench in the perimeter positions some struggles in conference play were to be expected. However, Sunday's loss at Alabama marked the first time I saw a team that didn't really seem like a threat to win the game.

While the final score was a five-point loss this was a game that seemed like it was over almost the whole time. The Gators were out of their game from the get-go, launching an incredible 15 three pointers in the first 20 minutes.

One admirable trait about this group of kids is they won't go away no matter the situation. Despite a double-digit deficit for most of the second half Billy Donovan's guys kept at it right up to the final horn. Joakim Noah, just four days removed from having his lip bloodied and tooth knocked out mixed it up as if nothing had happened.

Familiar Problems Won't Go Away

Aside from the aforementioned over-reliance on long distance shooting, other common maladies affected the Gator in Tuscaloosa. Number one on the hit parade is defensive rebounding. Alabama pounded the offensive glass for 17 boards including three in a row during a decisive stretch in the final minutes. Freshman man-child Richard Hendrix had nine of them and seemed to always be there whenever Florida got a key stop.

The Gator bench, which had been so productive earlier in the season, gave Florida precious little on Sunday. Adrian Moss and Chris Richard did help out with eight rebounds between them but the four Gators off the bench (including David Huertas and Walter Hodge) combined for only seven points on 1-10 shooting from the field.

Alabama played just two guys off the bench, but the tandem of Jean Felix and Alonzo Gee outscored the Florida reserves 25-7.

Georgia Game is Huge

With a three-game losing streak Florida returns to the O'Connell Center Wednesday night for what has to be viewed as a "must" game against the Georgia Bulldogs. The Gators dominated Georgia early in the season, but that seems like years ago now. Georgia needs a win to all but secure a spot in the NIT so they'll come into Gainesville with plenty of motivation.

Georgia is a team that's struggling down the stretch, having lost four of five including a butt-ugly 83-68 decision to Mississippi State. The Dogs have been overpowered in the paint of many of their games, but they will scratch and claw for 40 minutes. It's a game Florida ought to win comfortably, but with the recent difficulties can not be taken for granted.

After Georgia, Florida will wrap up the regular season in Lexington with a showdown against Kentucky. That game could very well be for a first round bye in the SEC Tournament.

Gator Women Get Mega-Win

While the guys in Orange and Blue are disappointed about being 22-6, the Gator women are ecstatic about finishing the regular season 20-7. Carolyn Peck's team got to that mark with a stunning overtime win at fifth-ranked Tennessee, the first in school history. It comes just ten days after what had been the biggest regular season win in years over then #2 LSU. It also is just a week after a disheartening loss to Auburn.

Florida needed 52 second half points to force overtime and then outscored the Vols 11-6 in the final three minutes for their second win in 36 tries against the gals from Rocky Top. The Gators got 29 points from senior Brittany Davis and 25 from rookie Sha Brooks in Knoxville. Brooks, in fact earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for her performance.

This Florida team has been hard to figure but there's no doubt they have punched their NCAA ticket. It'll be Florida's eleventh trip to the women's event, and second in the last three years. But first, Florida can try to improve its seeding with a good performance at the SEC tournament. The Gators will face Mississippi State Thursday evening and a win over the last place Bulldogs would send Florida against Kentucky in the quarterfinals. Florida split with the Wildcats during the regular season, each losing at home.

Keep those emails coming!

Don't forget to email me your questions and comments, but please do not include attachments! My email address is: vettel@gatorcountry.com .

Have a great week.


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