Gators now need to prove they can win on road
Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 11:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 11:07 p.m.
The Florida basketball team did exactly what it had to on Tuesday night.
The Gators had to win because it was a home game.
They had to win because they were playing a team that wasn't very good.
They had to play great defense because they played it so poorly Saturday in Knoxville.
They had to answer Georgia's lone run of the game.
Basically, they had to take care of business.
And they did, thumping the Bulldogs 70-48.
No surprise there. Winning at home has been no problem for these Gators.
Now let's see them take it on the road.
“If we play with the energy we played with tonight,” said guard Kenny Boynton, “take this to South Carolina, we'll come out with a win.”
But that's the key, isn't it?
It's easy to play defense at home. The crowd is whooping and hollering, and the students are harassing the guy with the ball and you get the benefit of the doubt when there's contact.
It's another story on the road.
We saw that at Tennessee. That performance led to Billy Donovan doing everything but bringing shoulder pads to four grueling practices leading up to this game.
“Intense, physical,” said Boynton. “Defense and rebounding, no offense. I knew we were going to come out strong.”
Florida blocked six shots and held Georgia to 36.4 percent shooting.
“We could have played better defense,” said center Patric Young. “I felt like we should have held them under 30.”
That's the proper mentality. Can you bottle it and slip it into your carry-on bags?
“It takes a level of maturity,” Young said. “Every team you play on the road doesn't want to get beat on its home court.”
Maybe they're getting it. Maybe we'll find out Saturday.
You can win at home with your B-game.
On the road it takes so much more.
Florida is 0-4 in true road games. The first two, at Ohio State and Syracuse, were easily dismissed because not too many teams, if any, will win at those two venues. The Rutgers game was a stunner, but it was early. Tennessee was a frying pan to the face. You don't show up on the road ready to play your best, guess who will?
The home team.
“There needs to be an accountability that I hold them to,” Donovan said. “We can't have these lapses right now. It's time to move forward.”
There were lapses Tuesday night, especially during the 16-4 Georgia run that turned a blowout into a Donovan timeout.
“Coach did a good job of getting on us,” Boynton said. “He yelled at us pretty good.”
Florida responded by outscoring Georgia 14-5 to finish the game. That's easier to do at home than on the road where the noise is ringing in your ears and the background isn't familiar.
Donovan talked Tuesday night about how he might have expected too much from a team that is actually pretty young. Bradley Beal, who has struggled mightily on the road, is a freshman. Patric Young and Erik Murphy are first-year starters. Will Yeguete is in a new role on this team.
“I have to do a better job of helping them get ready to play games,” Donovan said. “Maybe I, as a coach, have taken some things for granted and thought the transition in our frontcourt would be a little smoother than it has been.
“There has to be a level of understanding. We need to take a step forward maturity-wise. Can we flip the switch mentally and take it on the road?”
That's the question.
Florida did what it needed to do Tuesday night, and I wouldn't try to take anything away from a 22-point win over any conference team.
But what we really need to see is this team fight through adversity and pressure and tough calls and free throw-line distractions.
You find out how mentally tough you are on the road.
The next test awaits.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.