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March 1, 2014

Shooting shines in 79-61 victory

For the better part of this season that now stands at 29 games old, No. 1 Florida has lived off defense and merely supplemented with offense. The Gators' offense, slightly below average in a down Southeastern Conference at 70.8 points per game, has been the dressing on a pressing, turnover-inducing salad.

Saturday, the conference's No. 2 offense in terms of scoring came to town, but it was Florida that put on a show.

"We had really good looks from behind the (3-point) line and they went in for us," Billy Donovan said. "I was just happy our guys shot the ball with confidence and it was good to see the ball go in the basket."

Florida shot 57.4 percent from the field and 56.5 percent from beyond the arc, making a season-high 13 from deep. It put together six more assists than LSU, a team that carries the SEC leader in assist-to-turnover ratio, Anthony Hickey.

Donovan has talked in the past and as recently as Friday about his team lacking a certain killer instinct to put teams away instead of resting on perfectly surmountable leads of 10 or 15 points. Any time it looked like the Tigers were even chipping away, the anvil was dropped.

By game's end, the Gators had led by double digits in 31:37 of the afternoon's 40 minutes of action. Maybe there's a killer instinct in there somewhere after all.

"It was big obviously because it made the game a lot easier," senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "We did that by a combination of defense and we hit a lot of 3s."

The sudden explosion came after what was Florida's most grueling stretch of the season - 14 days, five games, four on the road against top-100 RPI teams. By Tuesday's 57-54 win against Vanderbilt, which capped off a three-game span which the Gators swept by a combined 12 points, the on-court product looked tired. Saturday, it was revived.

"Offensively, I thought we wasted a lot of possessions the last week or so," Donovan said. "You can lose sight and lose focus of where we're really at and what's really going on and what the numbers say and how we play. The last two days, our guys have come back and really been committed to sure up some of those things and get better in those areas."


After clinching an outright SEC title because of a Kentucky loss Thursday night and with the potential of clinching the most regular season wins in school history, Donovan didn't want his team uncertain of whether or not it would be celebrating postgame Saturday with a net-cutting ceremony.

So he addressed it, asking his four seniors if they'd be interested. They said no. He agreed and later admitted he wouldn't have allowed them to even if their answer was yes.

"With what we're dealing with right now, I've seen players and teams lose their way and lose their identity," Donovan said. "It's very easy to have happen. You lose who you are. So who have we been. We've been a team that has gone through this process since the season started. We've worked hard. We've been the same each and every day in practice. But the minute you start losing sight of who we are because of this other stuff, sometimes it's hard to regain your identity. That's the challenge right now."

-- ETC. --

- Florida is now 27-2, surpassing the best regular season in school history (26-5 in 2006-2007).

- The Gators have now won 21 consecutive games this season and 31 consecutive games in the O'Connell Center.

- Dorian Finney-Smith proved his Tuesday night slump-breaker was no joke. He led the Gators in scoring with 16 points, thanks in large part to 4 of 8 from 3-point range. Finney-Smith is now 7 of his last 14 from beyond the arc. He had previously suffered through a 1 for 26 skid from the same distance.

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