Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Sports

Billy Donovan emphasizes Florida Gators' positives

GAINESVILLE — Billy Donovan has no problem with people wanting to discuss his team's perceived lack of ability to win on the road. He understands why some might believe the Gators can't win the close ones — unless it's at the O'Connell Center, where UF was 15-0 this season. All he asks is to keep the conversation in context.

Yes, the Gators are 7-6 on the road and are coming off a 61-57 loss to Kentucky on Saturday in which the Gators led by seven with seven minutes to play. Florida is 5-3 on the road in SEC play and 0-5 in games decided by six points or fewer.

But Florida is 24-6 overall, won 14 SEC games and took the regular-season SEC title. And Donovan believes that illustrates the complexity of the overall season and why it has to be talked about in its entirety.

"At the end of the day, I understand if we're going to talk about Arizona (a 65-64 loss), Missouri (63-60 loss) and Kentucky, those three games," Donovan said. "And that's all we're going to talk about for 30 games and not talk about these guys winning a league championship outright? There's got to be both sides. We're going to focus on three games and not focus on 27?"

Donovan pointed out that the road hasn't been kind to most major college teams this season. Florida's road losses have come to opponents who are a combined 98-8 at home.

But that's not to say that as the Gators prepare for this week's SEC tournament, there aren't some glaring issues that need to be addressed, Donovan said. Among the most critical: rebounding, eliminating turnovers and shot selection.

ANOTHER FALL: Florida will enter the postseason sitting outside of the Top 10. After going 1-1 again this past week, Florida fell two spots to No. 13 in the AP poll and two spots to No. 11 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Four weeks ago, the Gators were ranked No. 5 by the AP. Florida will play either Georgia or LSU on Friday at 1 p.m. in the SEC tournament quarterfinals.

STILL STRUGGLING: The baseball team will host No. 5 Florida State (15-0) at 7 tonight at McKethan Stadium in the first of three regular-season games between the schools. The Gators were on a four-game winning streak before losing two of three to Indiana over the weekend. It was the first time the Gators and Hoosiers played in baseball since 1956. Florida (8-9) has also lost a three-game series to Florida Gulf Coast. The Gators won their series against Miami and took two of three from Duke to open the season. The Gators will open SEC play on Friday vs. Kentucky.

JUST SHORT: The three-time defending SEC men's NCAA indoor track and field champions failed to bring home another title this past weekend. The Gators finished second, 15 points behind Arkansas, which also defeated Florida in the SEC championship. The Gators had 59 points. It was the 13th time in program history that Florida finished in the top three and the seventh time under coach Mike Holloway.

"We wanted to be national champions again," Holloway said. "But being national runner-up and performing the way we did, we left our hearts and souls out here and I couldn't be more proud of these young men."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @TBTimes _Gators.

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