Donovan challenges team to find its identity
Florida came into the first full week of February ranked in the top 10 of both major college basketball polls.
But after the Gators dropped their second straight with a 75-70 home loss to Tennessee, Florida coach Billy Donovan was left wondering about the physical and mental toughness of his team.
"I don't know if it's a crossroads as much as it is 'Who are we and what do we want to be?'" Donovan said.
The Gators (19-6, 7-3 SEC) will take a season-long, two-game losing streak into their matchup Tuesday at Alabama. The following Saturday, the Gators play at Arkansas. Florida is 2-5 on the road this season.
"We need to find out if we are men or boys," Florida freshman guard Bradley Beal said.
The lost week started with a 20-point loss at No. 1 Kentucky. The hangover stretched into the home game against the Vols. Tennessee led by as many as 17 points in the first half. Florida couldn't cut Tennessee's lead below nine points in the second half until the closing minutes. The Vols snapped Florida's 19-game home winning streak.
"We didn't compete at all, really," Beal said. "Our defensive principles were bad again. We weren't really focused and we weren't getting on offense at all, just jacking up shots."
--Florida has struggled from the 3-point line in Southeastern Conference play. The Gators were shooting 36.3 percent from 3-point range in SEC play, entering the week, while teams against them were shooting 41 percent. "We've got to do a better job defending the 3," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I don't think we've done a good enough job."
--Florida's 78-58 loss to No. 1 Kentucky was its worst by scoring margin since falling to Tennessee 104-82 on Feb. 5, 2008.
--With nine points against Tennessee, Florida senior PG Erving Walker moved past Dwayne Schintzius (1,624) for fifth on Florida's all-time scoring list. Walker now has 1,629 points in his Gators career.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"I thought we were going to come in focused better than we did all year. Hopefully we learn from this one." -- Florida junior G Kenny Boynton, on UF's 75-70 loss to Tennessee following its 20-point loss at Kentucky.
THIS WEEK'S GAMES
--at Alabama, Feb. 14
The Gators will need a strong effort inside. Starting C Patric Young will have his hands full with another physical big man, C JaMychal Green, presuming that Green is not still suspended for a violation of team rules. If not, Young will match up with freshman C Nick Jacobs. At the point, Florida senior Erving Walker will need to play better against Alabama sophomore PG Trevor Relaford.
--at Arkansas, Feb. 18
The game pits two of the top freshman shooting guards in the league, Florida's Bradley Beal vs. Arkansas' B.J. Young. Inside, Florida PF Erik Murphy will need to deal with the athletic ability of Arkansas freshman Hunter Mickelson.
It appears that Florida coach Billy Donovan has little confidence in freshman F Walter Pitchford. Even with Will Yeguete out early in the Tennessee game with a concussion, Cody Larson out with the flu, and Erik Murphy and Patric Young in foul trouble, Pitchford saw little action against Tennessee. The 6-foot-10 Pitchford played just 30 seconds in the game late in the first half to keep Young from picking up his third foul.
--Sophomore F Will Yeguete sustained a concussion in the first half against Tennessee and was doubtful for UF's next game Tuesday night against Alabama. Yeguete also required 8 to 10 stitches over his eye after crashing into the padded basketball stanchion early in the first half of UF's 75-70 loss to Tennessee.
--Junior G Mike Rosario sat out the Tennessee game with a hip pointer.
--Redshirt freshman F Cody Larson sat out the Tennessee game with the stomach flu.