Gators Overcome Poor Shooting

Jacksonville, Fla. -- Since the beginning of the season, head coach Billy Donovan has expressed concern about how his team would react to a game where the shots just didn't fall. And while that hasn't been a problem in most games, it certainly was the case when the Gators (10-1) faced the Georgia Southern Eagles.

It was a tremendous challenge for the young team, but in the end they were able to pull off a 52-49 come-from-behind victory.

The Gators shot an abysmal 25.5 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from three-point range. It was an uncharacteristic outing for a team that has shot so well in nearly every game this season.

Matters were made worse by sophomore center Marreese Speights having a hard time getting established in the post. He played only 19 minutes and managed just five points and six rebounds.

With Speights struggling and the shooting problems, the Gators were in desperate need for someone to step up and provide a scoring and rebounding presence. Sophomore Dan Werner answered the call with a career game, totaling 20 points and 14 rebounds.

Still, the Gators trailed 27-18 at the half and it was clear that they would need to alter their game plan if they were going to pull it out. The Gators have rarely trailed this season to date and it clearly was having an effect on their mental toughness. They were frustrated and didn't show their usual unselfishness, managing only four assists in the game and giving up 13 turnovers.

With the shots not falling, the Gators came out in the second half with a commitment to playing more aggressively by attacking the basket and getting to the charity stripe. The change proved to be a major reason why the Gators were able to prevail as they went 18-20 from the line. Overall, they were 24-30 while limiting the Eagles to five points on 13 attempts.

Another crucial part of the comeback was staunch defensive play down the stretch. The Eagles were held scoreless in the last 3:45 of the game. With only seconds left in the game, and the Gators leading by only a point, freshman guard Jai Lucas was able force a spectacular turnover that would help seal the game.

The Gators return to the O-Dome on Wednesday for their next game against Charleston Southern.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Blake Bonsack


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