As the game began, it appeared the Gators (6-1) hadn't quite recovered from the loss as the Hatters jumped out to a 12-3 lead. But coming out of a timeout, they quickly turned things around with a 14-point run and a lead that wouldn't be relinquished.
While they held a comfortable lead for the remainder of the game, there were still plenty of things that frustrated Coach Billy Donovan about their performance. He was most critical of their offensive movement and turnovers. More and more, Donovan has come to the realization of just how far away his team is from being where they were in the past two years.
"They have no clue," Donovan said. "In their mind, they think I'm just going to sprinkle stardust all over them and we just win. It doesn't work like that. They've got to learn what goes into this process."
Nevertheless, he's been satisfied with the team's effort and coach-ability. It was clear to Donovan that they were trying to improve on some of the things that they didn't do well in the previous game. They're still making a great deal of errors but their attitude is good and Donovan is hopeful that it will eventually translate into production on the court.
"I was very pleased with the commitment they were trying to make defensively," Donovan said. "I know coming into this game, Stetson was not a team that was shooting a great percentage. But we did a pretty good job defending."
Perhaps the most positive note of the game was the long-awaited emergence of Jonathan Mitchell. The sophomore forward had played very limited minutes and looked tentative when he played in previous games but showed a lot more willingness and confidence against the Hatters. He finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds and two blocks.
"I was aggressive tonight," Mitchell said. "And that's one of the things I spoke to my parents back at home and mentors and the older guys that left here. They just told me to be aggressive and play the game the way I know how to play it. I spoke to Joakim [Noah] today. He just told to me be aggressive and do my thing up there and have fun."
Donovan said that the change for Mitchell began over the weekend as he showed more effort in practice and a positive demeanor despite his struggles.
"Jonathan really responded well in practice on Saturday," Donovan said. "I've always liked to watch guys' body language, in particular when they don't get a chance to play a lot of minutes. He didn't play a lot against Florida State. I thought he deserved at least an opportunity to get in there early and take a look to see how he played."
The Gators will play their first game away from the O-Dome this Friday in Tampa against the Vermont Catamounts. Though it won't be a true road game environment, it should provide valuable experience and a change of scenery for a team that will have many tough away games this season.
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