Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UF Up for UK Battle

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UF Up for UK Battle

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, Times-Union sports writer

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Billy Donovan believes every team needs a little adversity in order to become a great team.

He has the adversity in the form of back-to-back losses to Georgia and Arkansas, the first time UF has lost consecutive games in 97 games. Now he is waiting to see how the No. 5 Gators (15-3, 4-2 SEC) handle that adversity, beginning with today's Southeastern Conference showdown against No. 10 Kentucky (13-5, 3-3) at the O'Connell Center.

"In order to be really, really good at the end of the year, you have to face adversity somewhere at some point in time," Donovan said. ". . . When you run up 14 games in a row, you're not really facing a lot of adversity. I really think it's these times that shape and mold you as a basketball team."

So what, exactly, is the adversity the Gators have faced in the last 10 days?

Against Georgia, it was defense. The Bulldogs shot 55 percent from the field, the best percentage of any Florida opponent this season, and won 84-79 at the O'Connell Center. Against Arkansas, it was free throws and perimeter defense. The Gators made 23 of 41 (56 percent) after entering the game shooting 72.7 percent from the free-throw line. Arkansas' Jannerro Pargo made 7-of-8 3-pointers, and the Razorbacks won 94-92 in overtime in Fayetteville.

"That [defense] has been the mainstay for us the whole year," Donovan said. "Our offense has been good. It's improved as the year went on, but you're going to have hot and cold shooting nights and the one thing you try to make sure you have every single game is your defense. We've got to get a little more consistent from start to finish."

That has been the emphasis in practice the past few days, although the Gators are working short-handed because point guard Justin Hamilton is battling a severe case of the flu, and center Udonis Haslem has been slightly ill. Donovan isn't making too much of the free-throw breakdown, partly because he believes it was an aberration and because he believes harping on it could cause it to become a bigger problem. …

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