GAINESVILLE — Amanda Butler wasn't trying to hide it, and most likely the tone of her voice and her demeanor Monday morning would have given it away anyhow.
Things are tough for the UF women's basketball team.
The close losses that were irritating early in the conference season are becoming a heavy burden. Sunday's 73-72 double-overtime loss at Arkansas was the seventh of eight SEC games this season the Gators have lost by six or fewer points. Florida was 3-of-6 from the free-throw line in overtime after hitting just 5-of-13 in regulation. And as the Gators prepare to play at LSU on Thursday night, the biggest challenge for Butler is keeping her team from dragging the past into the present.
"It's terribly disappointing for them, but the only thing that matters is we've got LSU on Thursday," Butler said. "That's what we've got to get ready for. We've got to fix some things we didn't do well and turn it around. We don't have time to be feeling sorry for ourselves."
The Gators (13-8, 3-5) are mired in a logjam in the middle of the SEC. Florida defeated LSU (14-7, 4-4) this season, and a second victory would give the Gators a boost in the league standings. Two-and-a-half games separate the league's No. 3 through 10 teams.
"We certainly try to figure out how to get out of the middle and how to get out of the clump," Butler said. "We lost our opportunity to beat Arkansas, they were in that clump as well. … But the only thing that we can do is attack the next one, and try to separate ourselves. I think it's a great opportunity that we're playing someone that we're close with in the standings."
BEAL HONORED AGAIN: G Bradley Beal was named SEC freshman of the week on Monday for the fourth time this season. Beal averaged 14 points, three rebounds and 2.5 assists in victories over Mississippi and then-No. 18 Mississippi State. On Monday, the Gators moved up two spots to No. 12 in the AP poll.
THE BENCH, FOR NOW: After being hampered with tendinitis in his ankle, sophomore C Patric Young has been out of the starting lineup the past four games. And for now, that's most likely how it will stay.
When coach Billy Donovan asked Young about his new role prior to Saturday afternoon's game against Mississippi State, "he said, 'Coach, keep it like it is. I'm fine,' " Donovan said.
It's an issue Donovan will address as the season progresses, but for now Young seems to be a better fit coming off the bench.
"It's helped our team," Donovan said. "I think Patric comes off the bench and adds a different element and a different boost to our team. I think it takes a pretty humble kid, as good as he is as a player, to do that, but I also feel that it's my job and responsibility to make sure that whatever role that he's in, he's a vital and important piece to our team and that we figure out how to best put him in the position where he feels like he can play his best. I don't know if that's coming off the bench or not. I just know that he's been comfortable with it."
SOFTBALL PICKED TO WIN sec: The softball team has been picked to win the SEC in the annual SEC coaches preseason poll released on Monday. Last season the Gators (56-13) were the national runner-up. The No. 2 Gators have won four consecutive Eastern Division titles.
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]