If Florida Gators basketball head coach Mike White looks a little tired and ill, he has a good excuse—a case of Stefan Moody.
“I have a Stefan Moody headache right now,” joked White on Thursday.
Saturday will be a homecoming for White, as the Gators prepare to hit the road and face Ole Miss. White was a four-year starter for the Rebels and went on to spend seven seasons as an assistant coach in Oxford as well.
While the situation will be admittedly awkward, says White, it’s overshadowed by the large presence that the small senior guard will hold in the Pavilion at Ole Miss.
“I’ll always be a big fan of Ole Miss, outside of one game of the year. Or two, with this new schedule we got going on,” said White before adding, “[but] Again, I’m more concerned with the game plan and how we play against those gives to give ourselves a chance.”
Moody is leading the SEC and ranks fourth in the country in scoring, averaging 24.4 points per game. Among major conference players, he trails only Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield (26.6).
“Boy, he’s arguably the best scorer in college basketball, he’s right there. Pound-for-pound, I know he’s the best scorer, for a little guy he’s phenomenal and it’s gonna take a great effort, not from whoever’s on him, but from whoever gets in the game to always know exactly where he is and what our responsibilities are just to slow him down a little bit.”
The numbers back up White’s statement and show why he’s reaching for the ibuprofen.
Moody has scored 20+ points in 14 of Ole Miss’ 16 games this season, including the past 11 in a row. He dropped a career high 33 on Wednesday night as the Reb’s fell to LSU 90-81; Moody went 4-4 from beyond the arc in the first nine minutes of the game.
“He’s really good. He’s really fast, really quick, shoots the heck out of it, when he gets off the bus he’s in range, he can shoot it from anywhere,” points out White.
“They do a great job of getting him looks. The guys around him understand that their roles are to get Stefan as many shots as possible.”
A Moody 3 has given Florida Gators basketball fans a headache before as well, when he scored the game winner with 2.7 seconds left in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center last season.
To keep him from sending another dagger to the hearts of Gator fans this year, White says his teams defense—which has been their strong suit—will have to work together to keep intensity up and not let Moody be their only focus.
“If we try to hold Moody to only getting eight or 10 shots, we could do that but he’s probably more likely to get 15 free throws with his ability to draw fouls it’s incredible, especially off ball screens. He’s seeks contact. He creates contact, while maintaining his handle and making good decisions. And then at the same time you’ve got two or three other guys in some of their better offensive outputs two or three other guys stepped up and hit two or three 3s a piece and that’s when they’re most dangerous because Moody for the most part he’s going to get at least most of his. I’m not sure that he gets 24 every single night but it’s really, numbers tell you that it’s almost impossible to keep him from getting 20.”
It’ll be a tall task, much like what the Gators faced in LSU’s Ben Simmons last week. Simmons finished with 28 points—14 coming from the free throw line—and 17 rebounds. It was the Florida defense that beat Simmons though, forcing him into eight turnovers.
With a realistic game plan and their sights set on a winning SEC record, the Florida Gators basketball team (10-6/2-2) will now head to Oxford to face Moody and the Ole Miss Rebels (12-4/2-2) on Saturday the 16th. Tip off is set for 8pm on ESPN2 and as always, join GatorCountry.com to follow along for full updates and coverage.