A favorable three-game home stretch to close out 2009 might be what Florida needs to help break out of its current rough stretch.
The No. 18 Gators look to avoid a third straight loss when they host South Alabama on Tuesday night.
After winning its first eight games, Florida (8-2) has hit a road block. Nine days after losing 85-73 to then-No. 7 Syracuse, the Gators were upset 56-53 by Richmond in the Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday.
Despite its latest defeat, Florida remained ranked and has a chance to stay in the Top 25 if it can take advantage of a favorable stretch starting with South Alabama (8-4), followed by American and Presbyterian - teams that have four combined victories - before the new year.
Florida’s longest losing streak last season was three games, set Feb. 24-March 4.
The Gators, 5-0 on their own court this season, must find a way to bounce back from a dismal effort against Richmond.
Florida led by 13 in the first half, but was outscored 20-5 to start the second half and shot 7 for 27 while putting up 21 points in the final 20 minutes.
“I can get them physically ready to play, but they’ve got to understand every game is 40 minutes,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I take responsibility from the standpoint that obviously what I’m saying to them is not getting through.”
Junior forward Alex Tyus was the only player in double figures with 15 points for the Gators, who shot 38.2 percent while being held to their lowest point total of the season.
Starting guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton, who are averaging a combined 25.4 points and 8.3 assists per contest, were held to 15 and two assists while shooting 5 of 23 from the field.
“We need to learn how to be a team that when we don’t shoot well from the field, we can do other things to overcome that and still win games,” said Tyus, who matched a season high for points.
The Gators hope they don’t find themselves in a similar situation while trying to improve to 3-1 all-time against South Alabama, which has lost two of its last three but won 74-61 at Arkansas on Nov. 29.
The Jaguars are coming off a 72-54 loss to surging UAB on Saturday. Allyn Cooks had a team-high 11 points as South Alabama shot 34.0 percent and was unable to answer a late 11-0 UAB run.
Junior guard Tim Williams is averaging a team-high 12.9 points, but has been held to 15 total in his last two contests.
On its way to the first of back-to-back national titles, Florida beat South Alabama 76-50 in the first round of the NCAA tournament in the teams’ most recent meeting. The Jaguars won 88-87 in the 1984 NIT for their lone victory in the series.
South Florida has lost three straight against ranked opponents since beating No. 25 Houston 66-62 on Dec. 17, 2005.