Need I remind you how the Gator Basketball team went into mini-slumps the last two years only to re-focus and go on incredible post-season runs? Well, this basketball team has nowhere near the ability or potential of the last two Gator squads, but Friday night's butt kicking was just what the doctor ordered.
No, not Dr. Zhivago, Dr. Evil, Dr. Ruth or even Dr. Phil. But after five relatively easy wins, this team needed to be challenged physically and they were. They needed to respond to physical play and they did not. Florida was out played, out fought, out hustled and out muscled in front of almost twelve thousand in the O'Dome. FSU came in with a quartet of experienced, talented and physical guards who had a chip on their collective shoulders. Florida came in with three of its four perimeter guys in their sixth college game. Florida State's guards look like they've spent four years in the weight room. Florida's guards look like they don't know where the weight room is.
Failure Inside the Bigger concern
While it was a given that FSU had advantages in size, strength and experience in the back court, that wasn't supposed to be the case in the paint. Marreese Speights is on the Naismith Award watch list, Uche Echefu isn't. Speights is the guy some have projected as a lottery pick in the 2008 NBA draft, not Echefu. Yet it was the 6-9 Echefu outscoring Speights 10-to-4 in the battle of the centers. In the other front court battle, unheralded Ryan Reid scored five points while Florida's Dan Werner managed just two with four turnovers. Florida had to win the inside battle and they didn't come close.
The Gators ended up being out rebounded by 11 in this one, and they are not going to win many, if any games when that happens. Florida's three biggest guys on the inside, Speights, Werner and Tyus played 57 minutes and grabbed eleven rebounds. They have to be more productive, but so, too do the others on the Florida roster. The Gators must rebound by committee, which means everyone has to contribute. Nick Calathes can't get one rebound in 28 minutes. Adam Allen needs to get more than two in 27 minutes on the floor.
There's good news and bad news as it relates to this basketball team looking ahead. First the good news, Florida will not shoot 4-of-23 from three-point range again, and that should help in a number of areas. The Gators are young, eager and will improve.
The bad news is the schedule does not offer much in the way of challenges coming up. Florida should cruise to easy wins against Stetson, Vermont, Jacksonville and FAMU in the next four games. Because of that, it'll be difficult to gauge just how well they learned the lessons of Friday night. One thing is certain, you cannot speed up the maturation process all that much. It takes time for bodies to grow. It takes failure to learn to be humble. It takes experience to learn how to overcome adversity.
Be patient with this bunch. They'll get beat up a few more times along the way. But they're good kids, they're talented players and they have the right guy to help guide them through the process. Eventually, this loss will do the Gators a lot of good, but I doubt any of them feel that way today.
Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel
VETTEL: Hoop Loss Does More Good than Harm
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