For the Rebs, it's still as much about finding themselves and getting more comfortable with who they are given their circumstances. For Andy Kennedy and staff, every day presents challenges.
"With a young team, you typically like to establish a foundation," said Kennedy, his squad 9-5 in non-conference play and down to nine scholarship players. "Unfortunately for us because of what's transpired, we've had to reinvent ourselves a couple of times. We're certainly still a work in progress."
Things have changed, and obviously not for the better. With key players, two of them starters, like Chris Warren, Eniel Polynice, and Trevor Gaskins gone for the year, the Rebels aren't themselves and won't be. Certainly not who they were going to be.
And it's changed some things as far as the approach and style of play.
"We'll still take some (fast-break) opportunities when they arise, but Chris was a one-man fast-break at times," Kennedy said. "That's what we're going to miss with him out. It's forced us to put a great deal of attention on offensive efficiency in the half-court."
Junior guard David Huertas, heading back to Gainesville to play in a game for the first time since he played with the Gators as a freshman on their national championship team, said the Rebels will make things work in SEC play as best they can.
"Everybody is trying to play harder," said Huertas, averaging 20.1 points per game which is third best currently in the SEC. "We've got to be more efficient on defense, because it's going to be less possessions. We've got confident players who believe in themselves."
Freshman guard Will Bogan has been the early replacement for Warren as the starting point guard. Freshman guard Terrico White is also being groomed to play the point during these trying times.
"Terrico will continue to evolve into that role as he gets more and more comfortable," Kennedy said. "He's got the physical ability to do it. He's got to be smart and not expose the ball. When you have the basketball more at that point position, your attention to detail has to be greater, and that's going to be a growth process."
Kennedy feels Bogan has progressed nicely in his new role as a starter.
"I think he's done great," the third-year UM head coach said. "For a kid who was in a very limited role and in a learning capacity, now to be thrust into what we've had to thrust him into, I've been really pleased with his response. He's been solid in all aspects. He missed some shots in the last game, but he's putting pressure on himself because he knows how important they are with us trying to manufacture ways to make up for the production we lost. We just need him to run our team, and we're trying to keep the pressure off of him."
Florida is 13-2 and appears to be another strong Billy Donovan squad. The Gators are on a seven-game win streak. They are paced by sophomore point guard Nick Calathes, who averages 17.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game.
The Gators have only lost to Syracuse and Florida State. They are 9-0 at home this year and have 11 straight home wins dating back to last season.
Floirida has dominated opponents in non-conference play, scoring 79.6 points and allowing just 63.9 per game. Their 49.9 field-goal percentage ranks second among SEC teams, while they lead the league draining 7.6 three's per contest. Alex Tyus adds 12.9 points and a team-high 6.3 rebounds per game, while Dan Werner scores 10.2 points per outing.
Ole Miss won 89-87 against Florida in last year's meeting in Oxford.
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