Gators Look to Match 2007

The Gator basketball team will host the Georgia Bulldogs Wednesday night looking to do something rather unusual. A win over the Bulldogs would give the Gators an 18-3 record and 5-1 conference slate, which would exactly match their overall and SEC records of a year ago. Of course last year's team proceeded to lose eight of their final 11 games but we'll deal with that later in the week.

Georgia comes to the O'Dome with a five game losing streak and 9-10 overall mark. The ‘Dawgs may have a bit of confidence after rallying from down 19 to make a game of it against Mississippi State. Still Georgia coach Dennis Felton is sitting on the hottest seat in the SEC after the forced resignation of Alabama's Mark Gottfried. Felton was thought to be on his way late last season but Georgia's remarkable run to the SEC Tournament title bought him another year. This is Felton's sixth season in Athens, and his team has never finished higher than fifth in the SEC East and has never won 20 games in a season.

Florida coach Billy Donovan gave his assessment of this Georgia team and the challenge of getting ready for them in rather quick fashion.

"It's a quick turnaround having a Sunday game playing on the road and then having just (two days) to get prepared to play at home against Georgia," Donovan said. "They are a very big, physical team up front. They've got a freshman in the front court in (Trey) Tompkins (12.8/6.3) that statistically has played very well. How we come off respond coming off Sunday will be very important going into the game."

Georgia's best player is senior forward Terrance Woodbury (13.1/3.9) who can be a streaky shooter. I asked Donovan is Woodbury was a particularly difficult guy for the Gators to match up with.

"He's really a hard guy, Larry because they play him at two different spots," he said. "They play him at the small forward spot and sometimes they go small and move him to the power forward spot. When's he's at the power forward he's really a quick slasher who's shooting threes. They put him in some really good stuff and the force you to rotate to a big and leave him some space where he can shoot it or put it on the floor. He's an effective guy at the four spot."

The Gators just went through the kind of week that can really teach a team about the highs and lows of competition. They gave away the South Carolina game in the final seconds and then dominated Vanderbilt on the road. Donovan talked about what he wants his guys to take from the experience.

"I would hope that what happened on Wednesday and then on Sunday is a great case to really show humility. If you don't realize that every day is a new day and you don't come in with the right perspective and mindset you can lose out on an opportunity to learn. As much as I said after the South Carolina game that we had the greatest opportunity for growth and development in our team I think the same thing is the case coming out of this game on Sunday."

No Gator exemplifies those experiences better than sophomore forward Chandler Parsons. He was having his best game as a Gator against Carolina with 14 points and nine rebounds before his missed free throw led to the Gamecocks' game winning basket. He responded with an even better performance at Vanderbilt with 27 points, eight boards and four assists. I asked him what he thinks coach Donovan means about not embracing that success.

"You gotta move forward," Parsons said. "(Sunday) night's over with for our team. We played well against a really good team and got the job done, but now we've just got to move on and concentrate on Georgia and not live in the past."

Parsons also talked about how Donovan is emphasizing the need for him to really understand his shot and why the result is what it is.

"He was telling me at the free throw line if I would shoot and I would miss why I missed," he said. "I should know my shot that to well to know why I'm missing and why I'm making and what's wrong. So I've been really spending a lot more time in the gym and coming to each shoot around, each practice really focused and realizing that it could come down to a free throw to win the game."

Wednesday's game tips at 8:00 in the O'Dome. After the Georgia game Florida faces perhaps its toughest SEC contest with a road trip to Tennessee.

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