Penn State Loss Typical of Season

The Gator basketball season ended in a way that was completely appropriate for this campaign. Florida just didn't have enough against Penn State in the final game of the year. Not enough strength, not enough toughness and not enough depth. Florida had to play this one with just seven players after Kenny Kadji suffered a concussion and faded late in each half.

Penn State ended the first 20 minutes on an 8-0 run and finished out the game outscoring the Gators 10-3 over the last two minutes. That's an 18-3 differential right there, and more than the Gators could overcome in a 71-62 setback.

Florida could never figure out how to deal with Penn State's powerful, though, undersized forward Jamelle Cornley. The 6-6, 250-pound bruiser powered his way to 23 points and 12 rebounds after missing the previous game with a shoulder injury. Behind Cornley, the Nittany Lions pounded the Gators on the glass, out-rebounding the Gators 21-9 in the second half to pull away for the win.

A Small Step Forward

We'll never know how much better this team would have been if the freshmen had been healthy all year or if Jai Lucas had not walked out on his teammates after the first exhibition game. Florida lost 11 games this season and five of those losses were by three points or less. A little more depth means a little less fatigue and perhaps a few more good plays down the stretch that could turn losses into wins.

The Gators won one more regular season game, one more SEC Tournament game and one fewer NIT game than last season. That's small progress, but it counts. More significantly this team lost just one game by a double digit margin (79-63 @ Tennessee) after losing seven such contests a year ago. That's meaningful progress. This team played harder, practiced harder and cared more than it did in the 2007-08 campaign, but the results don't reflect a whole lot of progress,

Florida was one of the youngest teams in the NCAA with just one senior (Walter Hodge) and one junior (Dan Werner). The Gators will be an older and more experienced team next season. They should also be stronger, deeper and more athletic. In a coming column we'll examine the keys to taking this team to the next level. One thing that can be said now is that the transition from the back-to-back NCAA Championship seasons is over.

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