Superb passing, thundering dunks and teamwork once again highlighted the game along with a remarkably even scoring distribution. Overall, six Gators scored in double figures and two others scored nine points.
"I was anxious to see how our guys would respond coming off the game against Rutgers on Saturday," head coach Billy Donovan said. "We had one day to prepare coming into the game. I thought our guys played very unselfish in the first half. We only had nine assists in the half, but I didn't think that was a true indicator or reflection of how unselfish we were because we got to the free-throw line 26 times. I don't know if I've ever coached a game and gotten to the free-throw line 26 times in one half."
In total, the Gators were 27-of-37 from the charity stripe and shot an impressive 53.4 percent from the field. Many expected the team to have a potent group of shooters but even Donovan has been surprised by their efficiency so far. Even Dan Werner, who struggled to find the bottom of the basket early on, is becoming more and more of an offensive threat.
"I was ready to shoot and catch," Werner said. "I wasn't really too worried about my shot because I've been trying to do the other things, but we had a different basketball tonight, so maybe that changed it around."
The sophomore posted 10 points to go along with six assists and four rebounds. After a frustrating start to the season, Werner has become a bit of a fan favorite showing a lot of effort and doing all the little things to help the team. With his offense coming around, he's truly becoming one of the team's biggest contributors.
"It's good to see him carve that niche," Donovan said. "Because I think what's happened now after the first five games, I don't think he's so focused on his shooting and you know what happened tonight? He made some shots because it's probably the last thing on his mind."
Donovan was once again complimentary of Marreese Speights' play, specifically his energy and willingness to pull down tough rebounds. The offense has come easily to Speights but all the other things that Donovan wants in basketball players are just now starting to come around.
Speights led the team with 20 points and 12 rebounds in just 16 minutes of play. His improvement has been a good sign as the team continues to build experience and momentum towards the conference schedule.
The Gators made their first in the both the AP and Coaches' poll at No. 25 and No. 24, respectively. It will be important for the team to maintain their composure as national attention and expectations begin to rise.
"Their attitude's been very good," Donovan said. "I don't think that they've been, at least to this point in time, a team thinks ‘Hey, we're a lot better, we're 5-0, we're really good' and the things that maybe can distract a team. I haven't noticed that with our guys and they've done a good job of keeping things in perspective."
The Gators next game will be on Friday evening against rival Florida State. Even last year's star-studded Gator team struggled with the Seminoles and Donovan expects it to be the young team's most challenging game yet.
Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Blake Bonsack
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