Gators Notch 20th Win

The Florida Gators notched their 20th win of the basketball season Wednesday holding off Alabama for the 83-74 final. In turn, the Gators sit in a four way tie for first place in the SEC East and still in control of their own destiny in their half of the conference with five games left. Billy Donovan became the first SEC coach ever to notch 20 wins in 11 consecutive seasons at the same school.

It's been a rough couple of weeks with the Gators losing three of their last four games including one to Georgia the cellar dweller in the conference. The Gators came out shooting tough in the beginning hitting 5 percent% of their shots by halftime and scoring 47 points in the first period.

The second half was something else as the Gators shot just 30.3 percent from the field and had to rely on their nemesis free throws to finish the game in the win column. Donovan was happy with the result, but didn't stress over the team's recent failures at the charity stripe.

"This group is going to be a process," Donovan said about his young group and the growing pains they are going through. "I think last year I was disappointed with our effort the way we practiced and competed, this year I have been very happy. They are going to go through ups and downs. It's not about relief as much as their growth as a unit. Outside of Walter there is no one left from a couple of years ago. These guys are going through it right now. The expectation I have is for them to work and evolve into the team I think need them to be. I think they have concentrated hard in trying to work on free throws in practice and work hard in other areas. I feel better about them as a group and that's what it's all about, is them trying to get better."

Notching the 20th win for 11 straight years is an accomplishment that Donovan may be proud of one day, but he does believe his players have lived beyond what he expected them to be able to do at this point.

"These guys have exceeded my expectations this year," Donovan said. "Losing Speights, losing Jai Lucas, having Adam Allen hurt, Eloy Vargas off of ankle surgery…there are a lot of things we have to battle and overcome this year. They are meeting my expectations on the practice court and doing everything I am asking them to do and putting themselves in position to grow and get better. They need to understand what goes into winning…to win. They are meeting my expectations in terms of their work ethic. Are they the most talented and physically gifted team in our league? No, they're not even close, but they are doing the best they can."

Doing the best they can comes with the shortcomings on the roster mentioned above. With the injuries and departures, this young team that Donovan has assembled since all of the national championship team left town has still gone on to win a lot of games.

In their wins, the Gators seem to get key performances from young players. Wednesday, freshman center Kenny Kadji scored eight points and pulled down eight rebounds to earn a little praise from Donovan.

"Kenny did a good job," Donovan said. "He's another guy that is kind of a work in progress. He's playing harder and trying to be a little more consistent. There were stretches where he was really good and some stretches where he didn't rebound the ball and got a couple of shots blocked. That's part of him learning…at least he was a presence at the basket (for us)."

The Gators were led again in scoring by point guard Nick Calathes. Calathes scored 22 points going 4-of-7 from the three-point line. Continuing his all around play, Calathes also tallied three rebounds, six assists and five steals to go with his point total.

Sophomore forward Alex Tyus scored 16 points and pulled down seven rebounds while freshman guard Erving Walker scored 13 as the only other Gators scoring in double figures. Senior guard Walter Hodge and sophomore forward Chandler Parsons were close with nine points each.

The Gators had a hard time on the boards as Alabama, in typical style out-rebounded the Gators 41-37 on the night led by forward JeMychal Green with 15 rebounds including eight on the offensive end. Alabama guard Alonzo Gee, who has been a nightmare for the Gators since he started playing in the SEC, led the Crimson Tide with 17 points and also pulled down seven rebounds.

The Gators play Vanderbilt Saturday at home and look to continue their home streak of 16 consecutive victories within the confines of the O'Connell Center.

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