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Tennessee 67, Florida 56: Rock Bottom On Rocky Top, Or Gators' Wake-Up Call?

Tennessee 67, Florida 56. What do you want me to say about that, beyond it being an indefensible loss to an inferior team that can't merely be explained by the early start time and the road trip? Here are some bullets of concern.

  • Erving Walker struggles away from the O'Dome. He's 14-38 from the field on the road this season, with 17 assists and 14 turnovers, but, more importantly, he goes from distributing the ball to trying to make plays, and that has always been the formula for sabotaging Florida's offense.
  • The Gators looked lazy for nearly the entirety of this game. They didn't rotate on defense, and didn't move like they need to on offense; they didn't get back in transition or box out underneath; they didn't follow shots like they can at their best or press like they do when the press is working. Billy Donovan's system requires playing hard and executing almost to the degree it requires playing with patience, and the Gators not wanting to do those things will be a prelude to them losing.
  • Foul trouble threw Bradley Beal off in this game, but Will Yeguete's foul trouble limited him severely, and disrupted the Florida defense. Yeguete's more than the basic glue guy; he flies around and reminds every other Gator to play hard. If he's not able to do that, Florida can scuffle. Today, Florida scuffled.
  • Beal is in the midst of what could charitably be read as a very deep slump: since making seven of 15 field goals against Florida State three days before Christmas, Beal is 14-for-47 from the field and two-for-16 from three-point range, and has 14 turnovers. He does other things on the court, with decent and improving defense and good rebounding, especially for his size, but Beal needs to pull out of this funk and play up to what everyone thinks his talent level is if the Gators are going to be better than a Sweet Sixteen team this season.

But moreover, here's the scary conclusion: Florida is a good team with great talent that only occasionally puts all of that together, and has terrible struggles on the road. That's a bad sign for the SEC schedule, a bad sign for the SEC Tournament, and a bad sign for the NCAA Tournament.

Donovan probably knows that, too. It's whether he can get his Gators to realize that and react to it appropriately that will be the central storyline of Florida's SEC schedule.