Donovan hopes UF learns lessons in losses

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- After his Gators were handled in a 74-59 loss to the top-ranked juggernaut that is Kentucky on Sunday, Billy Donovan was quick to find a silver lining amid the dark clouds of UF's third straight loss.

Senior point guard Erving Walker summed up the losing streak, saying UF played with a "lack of effort versus Georgia, but besides that, we played well versus Vanderbilt -- but that's a good team on their home court -- and Kentucky is playing like the best team in the country.

"Yeah, definitely, we've got to shake this off."

Enter Donovan, who praised his team's effort immediately after Sunday's loss to Kentucky.

If there is a bright side to the losing streak that ended what had been a much more promising regular season just a couple of weeks ago, Donovan says, it's the opportunity for his Gators to learn what it takes to practice, to lead and to win.

"The biggest thing going forward is commitment to work collectively as a team," he said, "whether it's in practice or a game and every little detail that goes with it."

One who surely pleased his coach was Patric Young, who led the Gators with 21 points and nine rebounds. But it's Young's acceptance of a leadership role that has Donovan praising his center's "growth and maturity."

"It's really encouraging," Young said. "I thought I gave it everything I had tonight. I had a few mistakes, but overall I thought I played pretty well. I think I could have done a better job communicating with our team and trying to lead the guys out there. We were just so close, but they had a four-point lead and there was a lot of time left in the game that I could have done a better job with.

"Going forward, we can go into the SEC Tournament looking good. We played really hard today. Overall, the future is looking pretty bright."

Donovan's message, Young said, is resonating.

"We have to play a complete game from here on out. It's live or die," Young said of Donovan's post-game assessment. "He was really happy with our effort that we had tonight and the way we played. But we just got to have better character, staying together in the last few minutes of the game, and really fighting and pushing through and really believing that we can win the game."

For Walker, however, there is no solace in playing well in Sunday's loss to Kentucky.

"Not at this point in the season. It's about wins and losses," he said. "Whether you play hard or not, you've got to come up with a win. We've got one-and-done situations now, so we've got to figure this out.

"It's a new season now. Everything is pretty much over for the regular season. Nothing else matters. It's one-and-out, so we've got to have that mentality."