Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UF Incited by Losses; the Gators Want to Prove Doubters Wrong -- Just like Last Season

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UF Incited by Losses; the Gators Want to Prove Doubters Wrong -- Just like Last Season

Article excerpt


GAINESVILLE -- The Florida men's basketball team fed off its underdog role last season, using the low expectations and NIT predictions as a season-long motivation that culminated with the NCAA championship.

Three losses in the last four games have some fans and media doubting the fifth-ranked Gators again, and the players are eating it up.

"Everybody's thinking we're a bad team all of a sudden," senior big man Chris Richard said as Florida continued preparations for today's regular-season finale against Kentucky. "We've only lost five games. All of a sudden, we're a bad team, and nobody believes in us any more. It's just the way it is. When you're going, everybody likes you. When you're not, everybody's down on you. It's starting to feel like the beginning of last year when nobody had any belief in us at all from the beginning.

"It was great last year because we fed off of that. Nobody thought we were going to be an OK team at best. We saw that, looked into it, and came out and proved everybody wrong."

Florida's only victory in the past four games came at home against South Carolina, which is tied with LSU for the Southeastern Conference's worst record (4-11). The Gators (25-5, 12-3) lost at Vanderbilt, LSU and Tennessee, and trailed the latter by 27 points less than four minutes into the second half.

That seems to be some legitimate reasons to doubt the Gators, even though they won 17 games in a row earlier this season, have won a school- record 25 regular-season games and claimed just the second outright SEC regular-season title in school history.

"We don't care if people doubt us," junior point guard Taurean Green said. "Now that we've lost three of the last four games, there's people out there talking, 'Oh, Florida's not that good. They're stumbling. They're going down.'

"Yeah, we feed off that. We don't really care what people say, but at the same time people who doubted us, we're like, 'All right, we're going to go out and prove those people wrong.' "

To begin to do that, Florida must fix its defense. Vanderbilt, LSU and Tennessee shot a combined 55.6 percent (84 of 151) from the field, including 42 percent (21 of 50) on 3-pointers. …

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