When the Florida basketball team pulls into Auburn Arena on Saturday, a few Gators may be reminded of the ugly affair which took place between the two teams last they met.
After 40 minutes, the scoreboard read 45-40 in favor of Florida, who had shot just 28% from the field, but somehow managed to escape with the win.
“I think what it shows is when you’re playing in the league, regardless of who you’re playing against, if you don’t come out and you don’t play well, it’s really, really hard to win,” Billy Donovan said on Thursday.
“That was probably a game for us that we were fortunate to win. We made a couple of threes late to win the game … that game is no different than right now, any game you play.”
The last time they Gators were in a road environment, they were run roughshod by an Arkansas team who seemingly couldn’t miss from the field. Florida was never able to regroup against the Razorbacks, and spent the entire game in perpetual catch-up mode.
With the Gators’ struggles defensively, in turn, the team’s offense also became stagnant, as they were no longer able to rely on turnovers for quick transition buckets. Rather, Florida was forced to create its own offense, an idea which never came to fruition in Fayetteville.
Since that game however, the Gators have again returned to their roots on both ends of the floor. Before their meeting with the Hogs, Florida’s offense — its three-point shooting in particular — had been surprising to many who predicted the Gators to struggle after losing two of its best shooters from last year’s team.
Donovan himself stated before the season that any expectations of the Gators matching their three-point output from last season appeared unrealistic at the time. But here in the middle of February, the Gators are again leading the conference in three-point shooting, hitting 38.9% including an average of almost 9 per game.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can shoot the ball,” the SEC’s three-point percentage leader Erik Murphy said. “We brought some of those guys back (from last year). We’ve got Frazier, who is a pretty good shooter. Guys can hit open shots on our team … I’ve got confidence in everybody.”
Donovan echoed the senior’s statement: “I think the biggest thing I always look for is the quality of shots … I think Erik Murphy, and Mike Rosario, Mike Frazier, Kenny Boynton, Scottie Wilbekin — when those guys are open, they’ve got their feet set, they got their legs under them, I feel confident with our team taking those kind of shots.”
Florida will be looking to have a hot start on Saturday in Auburn. Although the Gators are the clear favorites on paper, a noon game in road atmosphere smells like a trap.
According to Donovan, Florida can’t have the same sluggish performance out of the gates as they did in Fayetteville.
“You have to come in and you really have to play well,” Donovan said. “If you don’t play well, it’s hard to win.”