Florida started Southeastern Conference play with a three-game win streak, but now the Gators own a season-worst three-game losing streak after falling to Ole Miss on the road.
The Rebels defeated Florida (10-9, 3-3 SEC) 72-71 at the C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum on Saturday night.
But coach Billy Donovan isn’t so concerned with the losing streak. He said the next time his team takes to the court in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Tuesday to go up against the Crimson Tide (12-6, 2-3 SEC), it’ll just be another game. But if there is one thing he hopes carries over from the court in Mississippi to the court in Alabama, it’s the Gators’ newfound fight.
"I was proud of the way we battled and competed," Donovan said. "I thought we fought really hard but I thought this was a microcosm of how little room for error there is."
Donovan emphasized an overall improved performance from a team that has shown sparks of greatness but has consistently struggled to maintain that for any length of time on the court. This time the Gators led for 30 of the 40 minutes on Saturday and started the game with an unanswered eight-point run. But there were still some plays that hurt, Donovan said.
Like the last play of the game.
Down by one, Florida got the ball back with three-and-a-half seconds to play. Senior Jacob Kurtz inbounded the ball and Kasey Hill raced down the court.
But it was too little too late.
The buzzer rang and the sophomore guard just barely shot the ball into the air. With little follow-through, Hill knew it was no good and it read on his face as Ole Miss celebrated.
"Kasey has got to recognize three and a half seconds, you got to get a shot up," Donovan said. "You just got to stop and shoot the ball. His speed got him to that point which was good but he obviously probably took it a little too far."
Though he said he was pleased with Florida’s performance from the three-point line (60 percent on 12-of-20 shooting) and the field (47.8 percent on 22-of-46 shooting), Donovan noted there was noticeably room to improve. Specifically, he said he wished the Gators were shooting closer to 70 percent from the free throw line rather than the 62.5 percent Florida ended the game with. Ole Miss shot 84.2 percent from the charity stripe.
"Everywhere on the stat sheet, it wasn’t too bad in terms of the numbers," Donovan said. "There’s just no room for error when we make the amount of mistakes that we make."
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Billy Donovan looks down the court during Florida's 72-47 win against Mississippi State on Saturday in the O'Connell Center.