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Florida’s Micah Handlogten talks LSU Tigers on Monday

Florida basketball returns to action on Tuesday following its huge home win over the Auburn Tigers last Saturday — a Quadrant 1 win that put the Gators firmly back in the NCAA Tournament discussion with a little more than a month remaining before it kicks off.

Todd Golden’s team is coming off a tough triplet of opponents, having beat the Kentucky Wildcats two Wednesdays ago before dropping its game against the Texas A&M Aggies the Saturday following. Both were road games but now the Orange and Blue are back in the comfortable confines of the O’Connell Center to host the LSU Tigers.

Ahead of the next Southeastern Conference battle, starting center Micah Handlogten spoke with the press about his personal progress as well as that of his team.

On whether or not he established a new standard for himself

James Gilbert/Getty Images
James Gilbert/Getty Images

Yeah, I mean, I’d say that’s definitely the new standard for me. Coach Golden before that game, he challenged me. He literally said, “I want you to play as physical as you can. Go into this game and see how that works.”

So I went in there, did that and obviously it paid off. I would say that’s the new standard for me.

On being able to play more physically without getting into foul trouble

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Especially with how they were calling the game. I think that we had three or four guys with four fouls. It was really important to be smart, but also to be able to remain physical and have that dominance inside the paint. When you have guys like Johni Broome in there, you have to be physical but you can’t be jumping around, like jumping for joy.

You’ve got to be there and contest sometimes. You can’t jump for everything. Being smart with that is what you have to do sometimes.

On his timing as a shot blocker

Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

I would say that I finally started coming into my own with the timing aspect. I had it last year, but it was something I was struggling with earlier this year, and I would say that I’m starting to get the hang of it again. A lot of it is confidence, like having the confidence to go up there to block a dunk because you’re putting pretty much everything on the line when you do that.

You’re either going to block it or you’re getting dunked on. You have to have the confidence to go and know that you’re going to be the one who’s going to be successful.

On whether or not he was able to play with more confidence

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

For sure, especially towards the end of the first half. We were on a little run where I had two tip-ins and an assist to Riley along with like a block and a steal. And right there I was like, this is it. This is fun. Now we’re playing. Just having those little momentum swings, it’s huge for us.

On whether or not he had experienced everything clicking for him before

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

I felt it last year a little bit. When we played Coastal Carolina, I had a really good game. I think I had like 19 points, 20 rebounds, and a couple of blocks.

Ever since that game — not really and so to get that edge again, it felt really good.

On searching for that feeling possibly to a detriment

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

I think that’s just a part of the game. You always try to grow in different aspects of the game, which makes you lose track of some things.

So, I think it’s important to have everything in mind when you’re trying to grow your game, not just like specify on certain things but work towards those but also keep engaging and highlighting on other things that you’ve been doing well just so you can keep improving in that aspect.

On the rush from blocking a shot

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Blocking obviously gives you the adrenaline rush with the crowd getting into it, like hearing the crowd roar whenever you block a shot off the backboard. It’s cool though. It’s like a personal goal to alter as many shots as possible and hearing the crowd go crazy.

On Florida's chemistry, particularly between transfers in the starting lineup

Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of it’s off the court, just like spending time with each other outside, like you can look outside right now and you have two players and two coaches talking they’ve been talking for the last 30 minutes up there.

But just like having an environment… the coaches have done a great job of creating an environment that we can all grow together, enjoy each other’s personality, outside of basketball and then that translates onto the court like being able to play with your friends, not just your teammates.

On maintaining momentum and not becoming overconfident

Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

I think as far as like the A&M loss, I think that we kind of got a little bit off track, we kind like expected them to do something that they didn’t really do.

I mean we knew that they were just going to kind of put up random shots and then go hard to the offensive glass and I think that during the first half of that game, we did a really good job of keeping them away from the offensive glass, but the second half we kind of got a little bit off track and they were able to get a few on us.

I think that just, keeping our mindset on the scout, knowing what to do and doing that for all 40 minutes of the game and not just 20 I think that would be the main thing that we look for.

On the size in the SEC

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

I mean yeah you see it in just about every team that we’ve played in the SEC. You have guys like Tolu Smith, Jamoreon Sharpe, Connor Vanover, everyone in this league is tall, so it’s something you’ve just kind of like got to grow and learn to play with and so yeah, I’m looking forward to it, I think it’s going to be a challenge, that we’re ready for.

On his success scoring tip-in buckets

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

I wouldn’t say it surprised me, I knew what I was capable of, It’s always been kind of my game. I’ve known how to tip the ball around, get it to where I can get either the possession of it or get it to go in the basket, this is something I was successful with last year, something I was really good at in high school.

So I think that it’s just bringing it up a level, like I said before, confidence so if you go up there with confidence you’re going to get that ball.

On his timing around the rim as a scorer

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

It’s something I don’t think you can really teach, just something that’s like, if you can read it, you can read it, you can’t, you can’t, and I was blessed with the ability to be able to read those. I think I got can’t about mad at the Georgia one (called back to a basket on replay) because I knew that one, there were a lot of them that were close, but that one was like late, definitely a field goal and I was like, c’mon.

I’m just glad that they are lenient enough on it that they can let some play. I mean, I’m going to be honest, some of them may be on the rim but what goes in, goes in. It’s just something you have. It’s something that God blessed me with and I can just only use it to my advantage.

Next game info

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

LSU comes to Gainesville to take on Florida inside the O’Connell Center on Tuesday, Feb. 13. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire