Florida Gators work hard to avoid 'soft' label

GAINESVILLE — The basketball loss to Tennessee was extremely disappointing, but that's something the Gators can live with and learn from.

The label of being soft? That's another story.

So following Saturday's 67-56 loss to the Vols, coach Billy Donovan rounded his team up for two two-hour practice sessions on Sunday. With Georgia visiting tonight, the Gators put on their hard hats and went to work trying to recapture the physical team that once knew how to bring the intensity when needed. Those workouts included putting rims on the baskets so nobody's shot would go in, but everybody would be forced to rebound.

"Everybody's worn out, beaten up, because it was a very physical and intense practice," freshman G Bradley Beal said. "It can only help us. We know that Georgia's going to come out — and everybody has this lingo about us being soft or a not physical basketball team. We're going to use this as motivation and prepare ourselves for Georgia."

Early in the season, several opposing coaches talked about how physical the Gators played. But of late, they've been outrebounded and outhustled.

"… When we came back (from Christmas break), coach was having us in practice focus a little more on offense and playing together and running some new stuff, so we started focusing on that and we lost that mentality a little bit," junior F Erik Murphy said. "I think we're going to do our best to work at it."

The Gators fell six spots in the AP poll Monday to No. 19, their lowest ranking of the season.

FUTURE UNCERTAIN: Longtime track and field coach Mike Holloway said Monday he's uncertain whether NCAA champion sprinter Jeff Demps will compete with the Gators this spring.

"I can't tell you right now what Jeff's going to do, but if Jeff does decide to run obviously we're going to be very pleased about that and welcome him with open arms," Holloway said. "But I think it's important that people understand that this program is bigger than Jeff Demps.

" I get a lot of questions about, 'What is Jeff going to do?' I'm very happy to have Jeff out for the team, he's done a wonderful job for us. But there's a lot more components, a lot more parts to this team that kind of gets lost because Jeff is a football player. … Hopefully he'll be out there and we'll welcome him."

The defending national champion Gators open the indoor track season at the Alabama Invite in Birmingham on Saturday.

CLOSE is NOT ENOUGH: Coach Amanda Butler is frustrated by the women's basketball team's 24-20 record over the past two years in games that were decided by 10 points or fewer, six this year — including 1-2 in SEC games.

"It is very disappointing, there's no question," Butler said. "Because we're not playing these great teams to just get close and feel good with a moral victory. We're competing to win ballgames that we feel like we should have won. … No comfort at all in losing closely, other than having that resilient spirit and looking forward, you do have the confidence that if we make these changes, if we become a more confident team in these two or three areas, these are going to become five- or six-point victories as opposed to three- or four-point losses."

Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.

Florida Gators work hard to avoid 'soft' label 01/09/12 [Last modified: Monday, January 9, 2012 8:59pm]

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