No. 24 Gators hoping to end inconsistent ways

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GAINESVILLE, FLA. (AP) - Florida has developed a distinct pattern this season: big win, then big letdown.

It’s already happened three times, with the Gators following victories against Florida State, Kansas State and Tennessee with surprising losses against Central Florida, Jacksonville and South Carolina.

Florida’s up-and-down ways have been so mystifying that even coach Billy Donovan can’t figure his team out. He has a theory, though. His players simply haven’t handled success very well.

The No. 24 Gators (15-4, 4-1 Southeastern Conference), ranked again after winning seven of their last eight games, have a chance to buck the trend Tuesday night at Georgia (14-4, 3-2).

Donovan won’t be holding his breath.

“When you have some success and something good happens to you, it is a human element to think, ‘OK, I’ve finally got it solved. I know what I need to do,’” Donovan said. “It’s a different mental approach. If I could get into every one of these guy’s head and know what goes through their mind, I could probably be more help. But there’s a human element that it’s normal and natural after a big win to come back and have a letdown.”

The Gators could be a case study this season.

Not only have they lost three times following significant wins, they haven’t even played well in those games.

Florida came out flat against UCF in early December, looked downright lost at home against Jacksonville three weeks later and gave an even more lackluster performance against the Gamecocks at the O’Connell Center 10 days ago.

Donovan demanded more from his team after the latest loss.

“From here on out, guys are going to play to the level he wants us to play, and if not, then he’s going to do things about it,” center Vernon Macklin said. “We have to have more intensity in practice.”

So far, the Gators have responded fairly well. Sure, they only scored 45 points in a five-point win at Auburn last week. But Florida’s defense was solid throughout the game and several key shots fell down the stretch.

The Gators put together their most complete game against Arkansas on Saturday, a 32-point win in which they dominated from the opening tip.

But how will they respond against the Bulldogs?

If recent history is any indication, Florida fans might not want to watch the nationally televised game.

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