It was a night for the big men as the Florida Gators basketball team defeated Florida Gulf Coast University 70-50 on Friday to improve to 5-1 on the season.
Forward Dorian Finney-Smith and center John Egbunu led the team with 23 and 17 points respectively, with Egbunu finishing the night notching his first double-double with the Florida Gators basketball team (17 pts. -11 rebounds) and third of his career.
Having that presence inside has been a nice addition for Doe-Doe, as seen in the first minute of the second half when Finney-Smith fed it inside to Egbunu who put it in for a dunk that gave the Gators a four point lead and kick started an offensive second half.
“It’s fun,” says Finney-Smith.
“Especially somebody who’s competing on the glass with me. I’m still mad he got more rebounds than me; friendly competition… He’s shown me he’s battling. I seen him, he’s crashing the glass. He missed a couple layups first half, he didn’t let that get to him, he fought through it and I’m happy the success he’s having.”
There were 19 rebounds between the two of them, part of the Gators total 44 and they were assisted by freshman forward Kevarrius Hayes who added four rebounds of his own while also posting a high of six points in his young career.
The offense that head coach Mike White got out of his big’s though was a huge positive, not only statistically wise but mentally wise as well.
“They played with a ‘we’re not gonna lose’ mentality despite us having our struggles. ‘I’m gonna make big plays for this team’”, explains White.
“John especially offensively and defensively; he didn’t just do it scoring the basketball. I thought John’s ball screen defense in the second half was as good as it’s been. I thought he was as vocal as he’s been. I could hear him loudly and clearly on the other end of the court…so he definitely anchored us. Those guys, John and Doe-Doe overall were terrific offensively and when you add Devin [Robinson] to that mix, you’re pretty long there at the 3-4-5, it gives you three guys that are good on the offensive glass.
It gives you great length obviously. It gives you a talented defensive team. That talented defensive team needs to turn into a good defensive team; a consistent one.”
This is the point of contention right now for White, who sees a team that, according to Finney-Smith will “show glimpses of being a great team and then rest of the game relax.”
This is two games in a row where it has been obvious, as Florida will perform lackadaisical in the first half, only to come out and dominate in the second.
When it happened against Vermont on Wednesday (a game the Gators won 86-62 thanks to a 52 point second half), forward Devin Robinson said much of halftime was players telling each other to get out of their heads, get past hurt feelings from their loss to Purdue and just play ball.
While Mike White admits that he and the coaching staff stepped in some during halftime against Florida Gulf Coast, he also alluded to much of the difference coming from his players.
“We raised our voices a little bit,” admits White, adding “but our guys did too with each other. They’ve embraced taking ownership to a certain extent and we’ve got to take more and more ownership…Our guys understood it was a poor effort defensively. We missed a couple open looks and we had a couple costly turnovers that led to baskets and those things happen. But the things that we could control, we didn’t do a very good job of controlling in the first half.”
Even the transition from first half to second half with an increase in energy needs work according to White; simply because, that energy should be there all game.
“We were an immature, inconsistent team defensively in the first half.”
And then referring to the dunk from DFS to Egbunu that opened it up in the second half, White points out a perfect example of how the energy level should work.
“Early second half Dorian makes a couple shots, gets John Egbunu on an isolation, he made a really good pass and then all a sudden we have more pep in our step. It really shouldn’t be like that. We’re happy that we made shots and that we converted but we can control our defensive energy level from the tip and that’s what mature teams do and that’s what we’ve got to get to.”
The second half was the best half of defensive basketball this season according to White, as they held FCGU to 17 points and a 25.9% shooting wise.
The key now is putting it all together. One good half of basketball does not a win against Kentucky make.
Luckily for Florida Gators basketball fans, the team is well aware of this fact, and has become increasingly attuned to it’s importance as the last two games have seen the Gators go to halftime with only a four point lead in one and losing by one in another.
“That’s kinda what we’re trying to figure out, like what do we have to do to bring it in the first half as well as the second,” explains Hayes.
“When you end up getting later into the season and both halves really matter, the first half is gonna be a big part of it too so that’s what we have to figure out as a team; what do we have to do to up our effort in the first half.”
There’ll be no days off as White pushes his players to improve on shooting woes and stringing together a full forty-minute game.
The Florida Gators will get their next shot on the court Tuesday December 1 when they tip off against Richmond at 7pm in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Catch the game on SEC Network and follow along on GatorCountry for full updates and coverage.