Blink and you would’ve missed them. The Florida Gators basketball team opened their home stand for the 2015 season with a tempo that was fast, brisk and tiring for anyone not ready to play it.
North Carolina A&T was not ready to play it.
The Gators passed the century mark for the first time since 2011 with their 105-54 win and finally reached a pace of play that head coach Mike White has been asking of from them.
“It was fun, you know, I had been waiting for this,” said a smiling Brandone Francis-Ramirez.
“It fast tempo. I think we are gonna keep getting better every game cause we learning from our mistakes from the first game so by the third game we gonna learn what we did wrong this game and just emphasize that.”
Many times White could be heard on the sidelines screaming, “Go, go, go, go, go!” pushing the Gators tempo and it sent his guys on a fury that saw dunks off fast breaks, running layups and exciting play that kept the Stephen C. O’Connell center rocking.
“I thought we could be good in transition offense,” says White.
“I think our guys have confidence that we can be good in transition O, we can get stops, create turnovers.
It was more than just the tempo that White was pleased with though.
The Gators turned the ball over 23 times in their exhibition game against Palm Beach Atlantic, 19 times in their opener against Navy, but reduced that number to 13 versus North Carolina A&T.
“It was a good night for us. We got a little bit better tonight in some areas,” explains White.
“Of course we handled the ball at a much higher level. We had a lot more possessions. 13 [turnovers] is still too many but we made better decisions with the basketball… we played at a faster pace and it’s of course, when you’re making better decisions and your turnovers go down that helps you as well.”
One reason the turnovers are going down is because guys know, when your turnover number goes up, your playing time goes down—like, immediately.
“If you get a turnover, you know you’re coming right out,” explains Francis-Ramirez.
“We be emphasizing that in practice, working on it every day. We spend about 20-30 minutes working on those kinds of drills so we just come out there and try to put that in work.”
Redshirt senior Dorian Finney-Smith broke down all that happened in one sentence after the win.
“It felt good though. I know a lot of guys scored, made a lot of 3’s, a lot of people had career highs. It was fun.”
In fact 11 different guys scored, six got into double digits and the team went 15-29 from the three-point line—and 37-69 overall.
That shot chart from beyond the arc though is what is standing out to White and his players.
“We move the ball, play together, push the ball and get our transition,” explains Finney-Smith.
“That’s how we want to play and tonight we just made shots. At Navy we took the same shots, just made what 3-19 so tonight we just made shots.”
“We’ll take 15-29 any night,” says a laughing White, “and Schuyler [Rimmer] shooting 1000% percent, he needs to be our leading attempt guy now.”
Rimmer, the forward transfer from Stanford, played 10 minutes and scored seven points in a 1:51 span of time.
Leading scorers DeVon Walker and Devin Robinson (both with 15 points) combined to go 4-8 from three, being set up many times by guards Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza who had eight and five assists respectively.
“Throughout the forty minutes we played very, very unselfishly,” brags White.
“That’s not always easy to do. We didn’t have any agendas creep through, so I thought we played with a lot of togetherness. “
Robinson and Walker were both tremendous. With questions arising as to which of the two should be starting over the other, the two forwards showed it didn’t really matter, because this has the possibility to much more of a rotation than a hierarchy. Whenever one was on the floor, there was a threat on the wings and a presence on the inside (the two combined for 11 rebounds).
Now the Florida Gators do what Francis-Ramirez alluded to; taking this game and improving on an impressive win. It’ll mean keeping up the energy pace and tempo according to DFS but they have the experience now to do that.
“Our defense is looking good,” says Finney-Smith.
“We play with a lot of energy but know we got to tune it up a little bit more. You know take care of the ball.
They’ll head to Connecticut for a matchup against St. Joseph’s on November 21 and will put more of these lessons to the test.
Now though, they have a perfect example of what this new style of play can do for the Florida Gators and, as Dorian Finney-Smith describes, the desire to keep repeating it.
“It’s a lot of fun, especially when the bench into it, the crowd into it, everybody excited. Dunks, alley-oops, 3’s it’s always fun.”