Gators on guard against overconfidence
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.
Florida has overcome injuries and a grueling road stretch across time zones to get off to an undefeated start in Southeastern Conference play.
Who: No. 8 Florida Gators (14-2, 4-0 SEC) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (7-10, 1-3 SEC)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Ga.
Gainesville-area TV: CW (Ch. 10, Cox Cable, Gainesville), WJXT (Ch. 19, Cox)
Gainesville-area radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM
Now, the No. 8 Gators will face another test — overconfidence. Florida plays at Georgia on Wednesday night, two weeks after beating the Bulldogs at home by 33 points.
Overall, Florida has won six in a row and its first four SEC games by an average margin of 26.8 points. Florida's 4-0 start in SEC play is its best since winning its first 11 league games during the second of its back-to-back national title seasons in 2007.
So it would be easy for Florida players to assume an easy ride in the downtrodden SEC. But facing the first of two road games this week, Florida coach Billy Donovan is preaching focus and consistency.
“It all comes down to our ability and our mentality to get better,” Donovan said. “Looking at the Missouri game and Texas A&M and last time we played Georgia, there's still areas we can get better in. There's still areas we can improve.”
Donovan also doesn't have to remind his returning players that last season's Elite Eight squad lost 76-62 at Stegeman Coliseum after beating Georgia by 22 points at home.
“That's a big thing: remembering what happened last year,” Florida senior forward Erik Murphy said. “I think that will help us keep our focus at practice the next couple days. Similar situation to last year. We beat them at home, and they got us there. We're trying to prepare and not let it happen again.”
Murphy went 0-for-5 from 3-point range in last year's loss at Georgia, and as a team, Florida went 5-for-23. But this season's Gator team is more equipped to handle a bad shooting night because of their ability to play defense. Florida hasn't allowed an SEC team to score more than 52 points so far this season.
“The one main aspect of this journey right now, is not get too big-headed and accept what is going on,” Florida senior guard Mike Rosario said. “I tell my teammates every day we aren't satisfied. We haven't scratched the surface yet. I always want to tell them that. You want to improve and get after it every day.”
Donovan said he feels the Gators have done a good job moving from one challenge to the next this season without embracing success.
“The human nature in all of us is to want to relax,” Donovan said. “We don't want to be stressed or uncomfortable or put under duress. We want everything to be nice and easy, that's just normal human nature.
“I think my job as a coach is to try to take these guys out of their comfort zone physically and mentally to get them to strive and achieve the things that every college basketball player and team wants to achieve — and that's the opportunity to compete for a championship. But in order to do that, you've got to be able to mentally and physically be able to take yourself out of your comfort zone. If you want to be comfortable, you're never ever going to reach your true potential.”
In Wednesday night's matchup, Donovan is concerned about the return of starting Georgia forward Donte' Williams and reserve guard Kenny Gaines. Both sat out Florida's 77-44 win over Georgia two weeks ago due to violation of team rules. Georgia is coming into the game with some confidence after a 67-58 home win over LSU on Saturday.
And don't discount the Florida-Georgia rivalry, which is heated in all sports from football to basketball to Tiddlywinks.
“The first time we played them, they had two players out,” Donovan said. “The starting center, Donte' Williams, did not play. I definitely think going on the road will be challenging, just as it was against LSU or Texas A&M.”
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Sr. 13.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg
G Mike Rosario 6-3 Sr. 12.5 ppg, 2.3 apg
G Scottie Wilbekin 6-2 Jr. 8.3 ppg, 4.9 apg
F Erik Murphy 6-10 Sr. 12.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg
C Patric Young 6-9 Jr. 11.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg
GEORGIA PROBABLE STARTERS
G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 6-5 So. 17.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg
G Charles Mann 5-11 Fr. 5.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg
F Brandon Morris 6-7 Fr. 4.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg
F Donte' Williams 6-9 Jr. 2.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg
C John Florveus 6-9 Sr. 10.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg
Notes: Florida is playing its second game against Georgia in two weeks. The Gators beat the Bulldogs 77-44 in their SEC opener Jan. 9 at the O'Connell Center. … While Florida has won 11 straight at home against Georgia, the Gators have lost three of their last four games at Stegeman Coliseum. Florida's lone win during that stretch was a 104-91 double-overtime outcome in 2011. … Florida ranks third in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to 51.7 points per game. The Gators have held eight opponents under 50 points and 12 opponents under 60 points. … Florida is playing its seventh game away from the O'Connell Center in its last 10 games. … Junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin will get another tough defensive assignment in facing Georgia sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is fourth in the SEC in scoring at 17.1 ppg. Wilbekin held Texas A&M guard Elston Turner, the seventh leading scorer in the SEC at 16.1 ppg, to just four points on 1-of-10 shooting. He followed that up by holding Missouri point guard Phil Pressey to just four points and six assists. Pressey, the SEC's assist leader at 7.3 per game, also had 10 turnovers against the Gators. Caldwell-Pope had 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting in his first meeting against the Gators. … Georgia senior point guard Vincent Williams is averaging 5.3 points and 2.4 assists off the bench. … Junior forward Casey Prather remains out for the Gators for at least another week with a high ankle sprain.