Can UF surmount hurdles?


Published: Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Last week, Florida coach Billy Donovan acknowledged that a team didn't need to lose to face adversity.
Little did Donovan know at the time that more problems were about to surface. Corey Brewer's ankle sprain. Fans storming the court following a loss at Tennessee. A lifeless, unfocused effort at South Carolina.
All of which makes No. 5 Florida's game today against Vanderbilt at the O'Connell Center important. None of the four starting sophomores had endured a two-game losing streak in their college careers before this week.
"Sometimes when you go through this, they have to figure out how to get back on track, how to handle losing," Donovan said. "Why are you losing? What do you have to do change those things? This is definitely, I would say, a new territory for an Al Horford, a Corey Brewer, a Joakim Noah and some of the other guys ... probably three quarters of our team hasn't been through this. I think that's going to be important coaching-wise to help them understand how to go through it."
Florida's current two-game losing streak is its first since the end of the 2003-04 season, when the Gators lost to Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference Tournament finals and to Manhattan in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Starters Brewer, Green, Horford and Taurean Green were high school seniors at the time.
The last time Florida lost three straight was in March of 2003. After closing out the regular season with a losses at Georgia and at home against Kentucky, Florida dropped a game to LSU in the opening round of the 2003 SEC Tournament.
To avoid a three-game skid, Florida must beat a Vanderbilt team that's coming in with some confidence after beating Mississippi State soundly a week ago. The Commodores (12-4, 3-2 SEC) are deeper and more athletic than in previous seasons. Sophomore forward Shan Foster is fifth in the SEC in scoring at 16.3 points per game. Last Saturday, sophomore forward DeMarre Carroll tied a career-high with 18 points off the bench.
"We've got several dilemmas facing them," Donovan said. "We haven't had a full week to prepare as Vanderbilt has. They've had a chance to add some new wrinkles. They've had a chance to improve on themselves. They've had a chance to scout us.
"It's going to take a whole effort of energy and enthusiasm to win. We're going against a basketball team that is very good."
At this point, Florida players are as concerned about their own psyche as Vanderbilt. Most admitted that Florida has strayed from what made it successful in winning 17 in a row to start the season. The defensive intensity has lagged. Passes haven't been an crisp.
In the two-game slide, Florida has allowed a combined 29 offensive rebounds and committed 36 turnovers.
"We've got to look at ourselves," Green said. "Are we playing the way we need to play? Are we doing things for the team?"
Donovan would like to see his bench contribute more, especially with Brewer still not 100 percent with a lateral ankle sprain. Freshman guard Walter Hodge played one of his better games at USC, with 10 points and 2 steals, but Florida got little production from junior Chris Richard (4 points, 2 turnovers) and senior Adrian Moss (zero points, two turnovers, two minutes played).
South Carolina took advantage of some early Florida substitutions, turning an early 13-4 deficit into a 17-16 lead.
"Our bench coming in has to have a little more confidence when they're out there, that there's not going to be a drop off," Donovan said.
Confidence-wise, Florida looked like a shell of itself in the 68-62 loss at South Carolina. Sustaining a quick start could go a long way in getting some swagger back.
"We can," Noah said. "I think we have to do a lot of soul-searching and that will come as a team. We have a long way to go. It just really hurts right now."
You can reach Kevin Brockway by calling 374-5054 or by e-mail at brockwk@gvillesun.com.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top