By: Jenna Ladd
After Florida suffered yet another frustrating loss on Tuesday, the Florida Gators are ready to get back on the court as they continue trying to get Billy Donovan his milestone 500th career win, this time as the Orange and Blue host Tennessee.
Fortunately for Florida, Dorian Finney-Smith – the Gators’ second leading scorer – has been reinstated after being suspended for the past three games due to a violation of team rules.
“He’s taken care of all his responsibilities and everything we’ve asked him to do,” Donovan said. “I still feel like he needs to understand that when it comes to some of the choices he’s made there are other people affected by it. From my perspective, he’s got to earn back some trust from our team and show a higher level of commitment, especially being an older guy.”
However, his teammate Chris Chiozza said that he has not lost any faith in his teammate and if anyone did, it was not a substantial amount.
“Everybody makes mistakes and we just gonna forgive him and we know he’s gonna come out there and give it his all,” Chiozza said. “We’re always gonna have respect and we’re gonna trust that he’ll do the right thing from here on out.”
Chiozza continued on to say that Finney-Smith’s return will not only help the team with his leadership, but also with his playmaking ability on both ends of the court.
Florida has lost two of the three games that they played as Doe-Doe served out his suspension. Not implying that his absence was the reason they lost, but his presence on the court definitely would have been felt.
Yet, Florida’s basketball team refuses to play the victim and wallow in defeat. In Friday’s press conference, Chiozza chuckled as he said, “Like me, my confidence, I don’t really lose any confidence in my shot. Most of my shots they feel good, and they look good when they come out of my hand. I always think they’re gonna go in, and they just go around the rim and out.”
As for the rest of his team, he thinks they’re doing pretty well and persevering after being deflated in the beginning of the year. Chris said, “Now we just keep shooting even when we’re not shooting good. We know that some of them gotta go in.”
With the return of a key player, Billy D. on the brink of 500 and another losing streak forming, the stakes are high going into the matchup against Tennessee.
The Volunteers are a relentless team, especially on the offensive glass. Not only that, but their unorthodox, hard-press defense that has a knack for trapping the ball will challenge the Gators’ offense. Tennessee is a highly skilled team that is good in their zone and at forcing turnovers, which could be problematic for Florida.
With the similarity of both teams having a lot of close games, the win will most likely go to the team with the most competitive spirit – the team that is unwilling to settle for a loss.
Hopefully, Florida will be the team that is not willing to lose on Saturday as they battle it out with the Tennessee Volunteers at home in the O’Dome at 6 p.m.