A home loss to South Carolina a couple weeks back sent the Florida Gators spiraling into a three-game SEC losing streak. The Gators finally ended it with a win over LSU on Wednesday, but the Gamecocks are next up on the schedule, and it’s at their place.
Many teams would see it as a chance for revenge, but Florida doesn’t want that to be a thought.
Revenge leads to emotion, and emotion leads to mistakes, especially against a team like South Carolina.
“I’m not sure that’s in our best interest to talk about payback or revenge,” said head coach Mike White. “For a hard-nosed, tough, physical team, that might not be the best motivational tool to use with our guys. We’ve got to focus on execution … Our guys have to maintain the edge they played with last night. We were good last night, but it was one game.”
The Gators have a new outlook on the season with the final games coming up, and one meeting might deserve the credit.
Last season, after losing back-to-back games to South Carolina and Vanderbilt, the team had a long meeting where players and coaches alike were able to air out their feelings about the direction things were headed.
Florida was playing selfishly and had lost its identity, but after that meeting, it went on to win the next nine in a row.
So, in place of a practice leading up to the LSU game, the Gators held a similar meeting. Whether the meeting had anything to do with it or not, Florida played with a renewed energy against the Tigers.
“People said what they thought,” said graduate transfer guard Egor Koulechov. “It was really honest. Definitely helped us in the last game and I think going forward it’s going to be helpful for us as well.”
The difference between last year’s team and this year’s team is that team had an identity, it just had to rediscover it. This team has yet to discover its identity three months into the season.
Koulechov said he wants the Gators to be more gritty, less pretty. And that’s what they’re going to have to be on Saturday.
“All of our guys need to be ready for a war,” White said. “If it’s not a war, we don’t have a chance. We need to match their intensity, their physicality. We can’t rely on Chris [Chiozza] to come off 100 ball screens by himself and get everybody open shots. That’s not what’s going to happen. We’ve all got to create. We’ve all got to make the extra pass, we’ve got to get some interior production, we’ve got to get some offensive rebounds, and then defensively, we’ve got to do it together.”
For what it’s worth, Florida wasn’t the only one that went spiraling after the last time these two teams met. South Carolina has lost its last four games since that matchup, with the last two coming in ugly fashion to Texas A&M and Arkansas.
The Gamecocks are desperate for a win, but White doesn’t expect them to come out playing that way.
“I think whether they won four in a row or lost four in a row, you’re gonna get the same,” he said. “I think we’re gonna see the same effort.”
While the Gators aren’t seeking revenge, a win at South Carolina could be huge in shaping out the rest of Florida’s season.