The end of the season is still too far away to even think about, but the Florida Gators find themselves at a critical point.
After losing four of the last five games, moving to a 6-4 record and dropping all the way from No. 5 in the rankings to completely out in a two-week span, Florida can either fold and let the rest of the season go the exact same way or pick up the pieces and get back on track.
It has been a tough few weeks for this basketball team to say the least, but despite recent performances, the Gators don’t think they are too far off from being the same team that started the season on a tear.
“I think we’re pretty close,” said senior point guard Chris Chiozza. “Like I said, we have times where we’ve shown we can be elite on both ends of the court We just have to find a way to keep that up the whole game.”
Florida still hasn’t found the answer to where the offense disappeared to, but the focus continues to be on defense.
After a poor showing that let a 12-point lead slip away against Clemson in the second half on Saturday, head coach Mike White put his team through one of its toughest practices of the year to start the week.
“It was just a really physical practice,” Chiozza said. “We work on our toughness every day. We’re trying to go harder every day in practice and get used to battling. That’s one of the things we’ve talked about, too. We have to get tougher, so we’re going out there and trying to get after each other, battle each other, go after loose balls, things that happen in the game.”
White saw a big jump from several guys in Monday’s practice and a will to make the necessary improvements, but for others, he said defending at a high level is just not in their DNA.
The goal moving forward is to go in and change that DNA. It’s not easy, but it’s been done before—the perfect example being Devin Robinson a year ago.
“Probably to certain extent you can get a guy somewhat interested in defending through different ways of motivation to get them a little more interested or halfway committed,” White said. “Whether that’s finding a way to get them motivated by committing to their teammates, motivate them through starting or not starting, how many minutes they’re playing, positive or negative reinforcement, film study. We’re trying it all right now with these guys.”
The question is, how long does it take for those changes to set in?
The Gators don’t exactly have all the time in the world to get the ship sailing smoothly.
A couple of home games with James Madison and Incarnate Word are all that stands between Florida and a grueling conference schedule.
There is a high level of urgency within the program right now, but the Gators are trying to keep that sense of urgency with going into panic mode.
“You can never get too panicked about a situation,” Chiozza said. “It could always be worse. We could be 2-8 right now. We’re just trying to do our best every day and just go out there, play as hard as we can every day and let the chips fall where they may. We want to win every game. Everybody loses some. We’re upset with ourselves, but it’s already in the past. We’re moving on to the next game.”