The Florida Gators basketball team that nearly the entire country has come to know and love this season did not show up in any form on Monday night.
Florida did not look near the team it had been through the first six games of the season as it fell for the fourth straight time to the Florida State Seminoles.
The first minutes of the game pretty much explained how the rest of the night would go, as the Gators fell to a 10-1 deficit early on. With the Seminoles on a drought, Florida climbed all the way back to take a 15-14 lead midway into the first half.
The two teams went back and forth to close out the half, but from there, it was all Florida State.
From 13:39 in the second half to the end of the game, the Seminoles maintained a lead of 10 or more as they went on to defeat Florida 83-66.
The shots just weren’t falling for the Gators, and it seemed like for every shot that didn’t fall for Florida State, it got a put back to make up for it. The size advantage for the Seminoles just got the best of Florida.
The Seminoles dominated with a 51-34 advantage in total rebounds, but the game was really won on the offensive glass. Florida State had 23 offensive boards, compared to 11 from Florida, and 24 second chance points.
Mike White was not happy at all with the performance his team put on the court, saying the message all week was to come out and throw the first punch in the game, but the Seminoles threw the first punch, and just about every punch the rest of the way.
“I thought they played harder than us,” White said. “I thought they were tougher than us for 40 minutes. Obviously, much more physical than us. 23 offensive rebounds, when you know it’s the key to the game and you harp on it and harp on it and harp on it the last 72 hours, not the effort that we needed.”
The effort just did not seem to be there, and the Gators crumbled and failed to make adjustments when the offensive game plan was not working. There will be nights the shots won’t fall, and if Florida can’t find a way to win in other ways besides playing “quickest to 100”, then more losses like this one could be coming.
Jalen Hudson (16), KeVaughn Allen (15) and Egor Koulechov (11) finished with double figures, but all shot low percentages.
Florida was pressing all night to get shots up. The Gators shot just 36.2 percent (21-for-58) from the floor and 24 percent (6-for-25) from beyond the arc.
Even more uncharacteristically, Florida was extremely careless with the ball, as it finished with 17 turnovers in the game and just seven assists. Chiozza, who is normally the leader in that area, could not find his rhythm and did not look nearly as confident as he has in most games this season.
The only real bright spot was freshman Deaundrae Ballard’s eight points and nine rebounds in just 21 minutes on the floor.
His effort was one of the only ones not in question following the game.
While it was surprising to most, a game like this might have been a longtime coming for the Gators.
The week of practices between last Sunday’s loss to Duke and Monday’s game with Florida State was a chance for some much-needed rest and preparation, but Florida did not take full advantage of it.
Along with that, this team has been the talk of the college basketball world since it proved great potential in the Phil Knight Invitational. The Gators even moved up to No. 5 in this week’s AP poll.
White hasn’t bought into the rankings the entire time, and now the team understands it might not have been quite at that level just yet.
“I don’t think we had the greatest week this week,” Hudson said. “I think we were too celebratory on the PK80. We did some good things out there, but we’ve gotta bounce right back. That’s two losses in a row. It’s unacceptable. The way we played tonight is unacceptable.”
Florida is still more than capable of being a top-five team and making a deep post-season run, but Florida State exposed some big weaknesses that have to be taken care of, especially against more physical teams.
The Gators have a chance to turn things around quickly with two more games coming up this week. Loyola comes to town on Wednesday, and Florida will look to right the ship.