Coaching against complacency

Donovan wants No. 4 UF to stay humble


Billy Donovan has been down this road before, trying to keep his highly ranked Gator team hungry.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 12:18 a.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan has been down this long, winding road before.

That's why his message following Florida's highest ranking since March of 2007 is simple: Hold on to the wheel.

The Gators enter Wednesday night's matchup at South Carolina ranked No. 4 in both the AP men's Top 25 and ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.

Donovan compared the increased attention that comes with a top-five ranking to driving down a country road and all of the sudden seeing city lights.

“All of a sudden there's a bunch of sights and sounds and things you start looking at,” Donovan said. “You're not paying attention to what's in front of you. You drive the car right off the road into a pole.

“Our guys have got to understand that the chatter and stuff around them is on the peripheral. It's got nothing to do with us preparing to get ready for the next game. I think that any good team or any team that moves up in the rankings, you have to deal with that.”

Florida (16-2, 6-0 SEC) is on an eight-game winning streak, its longest since starting the 2009-10 season 8-0. The Gators have won their first six SEC games by an average margin of 26.5 points.

The Gators had four players score in double figures in its 82-47 win Saturday night at Mississippi State, while making a season-high 14 3-pointers. Florida handed Mississippi State its second-worst home loss in 35 seasons at Humphrey Coliseum.

Defensively, the Gators have held 10 opponents under 50 points this season and rank third in the nation in scoring defense at 51.2 points allowed per game.

"It's nice to be recognized for the hard work we've been putting in,” Florida senior center Patric Young said. “It lets us know that we're doing the right thing so far, that we need to keep improving.

“Hopefully — no championship's been won in January or February, so hopefully we can keep this thing going and have a one seed going into the tournament, but that's down the road and later on. We're going to worry about this game coming Wednesday."

For as well as the Gators played against Mississippi State, Donovan said he was able to still spot a few flaws on film that needed work. Florida committed 14 turnovers against Mississippi State, which led to 16 Mississippi State points.

“We had three pick-and-roll coverages in the game against Mississippi State where (Craig) Sword went right down the lane and through our defense and took a layup,” Donovan said, “We had some possessions on the offensive end of the floor, as I mentioned, midway through the second half, even though we had a large margin of victory, we turned the ball over.”

Young said he doesn't expect Donovan to let up in practice this week.

“Coach Donovan's going to humble us,” Young said. “He's going to find something to make sure we don't get too lifted up on this attention that we're getting now. We want to be great for being recognized as a good team, but we want to make it all the way. We want to win it all. Then we'll finally be satisfied with what we've got."

Florida started No. 10 in the preseason AP poll. The Gators climbed all the way to No. 5 before their first loss of the season at Arizona. After dropping to No. 14 following a loss to Kansas State in Kansas City, the Gators have won eight straight to get back into the top five.

“It's very, very easy when there's distractions around you and things around you to take your eyes off the road,” Donovan said. “We can't do that, and our guys have got to understand that. We've got to drive our car with two hands on the wheel inside the lane and looking at what's in front. And what's in front of us right now is South Carolina. So that's the challenge that they need to understand."

FREE THROWS: Donovan ruled out junior forward Casey Prather (high ankle sprain) for Wednesday's game against South Carolina.. Prather did some running and cutting before the Mississippi State game, but has not been cleared for full contact. Donovan said he would like to see Prather take part in a few full-contact practices before he returns to game action. “Even if he was cleared to play on Wednesday, I'm not so sure it would be helpful to him because he's been out so long and he's been away from contact and playing,” Donovan said. “I think he's going to need to get some of that stuff back before we can start putting him in the game.” … Tickets are available for UF's home games Wednesday vs. USC and Saturday against No. 16 Ole Miss. …. One AP voter, Ron Morris of “The State” in Columbia, S.C., voted Florida No. 1 in the country. Morris said he was “surprised” that more voters didn't rank UF No. 1 and cited UF's scoring margin and defense as reasons for his selection. “Florida just attacks on defense,” Morris said. “They play defense the way Duke used to play defense. They challenge the passing lanes and put you in positions on the floor where it's hard to score.”

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