Location: Tad Smith Coliseum – Oxford, Mississippi [Capacity: 9,061]
Time: 6:00 p.m. EST
SiriusXM: 92/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
|FLORIDA GATORS||OLE MISS REBELS|
|Head Coach: Billy Donovan||Head Coach: Andy Kennedy|
|Record: 10-8 (3-2 SEC)||Record: 11-7 (2-3 SEC)|
|Conference: Southeastern||Conference: Southeastern|
Odds: Florida +3
ANOTHER TOUGH WEEK
Two poor performances. Two embarrassing losses. Two winning streaks ended. That’s what the last seven days have been like for Florida, which fell 73-61 on the road against Georgia last Saturday (ending a six-game series winning streak) before being stomped 79-61 at home by LSU (ending a 20-game SEC home winning streak) on Tuesday.
The Gators have proven to be an incredibly flawed and inconsistent team, one void of leadership and – more importantly – overall top-to-bottom talent. That is why Florida, if current trends continue, will not just miss the NCAA Tournament but also the NIT while posting the worst record of a Donovan-coached team since his second season at UF.
“I’m just trying to get these guys to understand that individually, on their own, we’re no good. We’re not talented enough, we’re not good enough,” Donovan said Friday. “Collectively as a group, the sum’s got to be greater than the parts. [I] got to get them to understand what ‘team’ actually is.
“The thing I love about team sports is you’re chasing something and trying to accomplish something that you cannot accomplish on your own. The quicker that they realize that they need each other to accomplish those things, the more special, rewarding and gratifying it is.”
The truth is that the Gators have not accomplished much this season. Florida is one game above .500, does not have a signature victory and lost a number of games it should have won in non-conference play. Even after showing flashes of improvement early in SEC play, the Gators have dropped consecutive contests for the third time this campaign. (UF has not lost three in a row since the end of the 2011-12 regular season.)
“Things have come full-circle for them right now. A lot of times you don’t want to believe it, you’re in denial, but the further they get to a place of acceptance about what the truth is – as individuals and collectively as players and as a team – the quicker they can move towards getting better,” Donovan said.
Donovan believes Florida’s leadership has the ability to evolve and develop as the season goes on, though he is not confident that any current Gators are capable of “taking over that roll and really being able to do a good job” both serving as a leader and consistent player on the court.
What he is most concerned about instead is his players learning and growing from their recent defeats, as well as all the struggles they have gone through this season.
“To me, it’s more of a competitiveness [factor]. I think actually there’s times, for whatever reason, we practice harder in practice than we do playing in the games. They give very good effort [in practice]. In the games sometimes, if it’s not going well for them or whatever it is, we lose our energy, we lose our intensity, we lose our enthusiasm in the middle of the struggle. We got to be able to deal with that as a team,” he said.
“If we don’t evolve and grow, we won’t put ourselves in a position to even have a shot.”
HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS
» Florida leads Ole Miss 62-43 in the all-time series between the programs; the Gators are 15-7 against the Rebels under Donovan. UF is also 22-28 playing in Oxford but boasts a 6-3 record under Donovan including three-straight victories.
» Five of the last six games played between Florida and Ole Miss were decided by six points or fewer.
» Saturday marks the last time the Gators will play in Tad Smith Coliseum, which is being demolished at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season.
» The Gators were 86-10 over the last three seasons when holding opponents under 71 points in a game; UF is 9-5 this season when doing so.
» Florida has put forward 10 different starting lineups in 18 regular-season games. Overall, 10 players have started at least one game for UF this season.
» The Gators learned to win close games last season, going 15-2 in contests decided by single digits; Florida is 3-5 in such affairs this season.
» UF is on pace for 17.2 wins in the regular season while looking for its 17th consecutive season with 20+ victories. Florida’s 16-straight campaigns with that many wins is the longest streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally. Only eight coaches have ever won 20+ games in 14+ consecutive seasons.
» The Gators ended a number of program-record winning streaks this season and saw their last remaining one come to a halt on Tuesday as UF dropped an SEC home game after winning 20-straight dating back to Jan. 9, 2013.
INJURIES AND ABSENCES
» Out (2): Sophomore center John Egbunu (transfer – season), freshman G Brandone Francis (academics – season)