Unable to right the ship after painful loss to Florida State, the Gators fell to Loyola-Chicago Ramblers 65-59 in a frustrating night for many. After a very hopeful start to the season, the Gators have now lost three straight. Though a loss to #1 Duke was excusable (though being up 17 in the second half and still losing was rough), and a loss to Florida State was justifiable (a long, athletic team the Gators had a tough time matching up with), a loss to Loyola-Chicago is tough to stomach. Shooting woes continued for the Gators as they shot 38% from the field and a heartbreaking 10% (2-19) from three.
Loyola-Chicago’s best player tonight had to be Aundre Jackson he finished with 23 points on an incredibly efficient 10-12 from the field. Continually getting to his spots on the floor, he picked apart the Gators for bucket after bucket. At 6’5” and 230 pounds, he was quick enough to get by Florida’s bigs while still having the girth to body up smaller wings. He will be key moving forward for the Ramblers as they look to hopefully win the Missouri Valley Conference and head to the NCAA Tournament. Cameron Krutwig was also superb for the Ramblers as he used his massive 6’9”, 260 pound frame to bully the Gators down low for 14 points and 8 rebounds. We know size has given Florida trouble, and unfortunately Krutwig is just the next chapter in that story.
New Starting Lineup
For the first time this season, Mike White started a five of Chris Chiozza, Egor Koulechov, Deaundrae Ballard, Keith Stone, and Kevarrius Hayes. After playing the bulk of his minutes at the four this season, starting Koulechov at shooting guard seemed to be a good idea though he struggled, shooting 3-13 from the field. Though his impact offensively was minimal Hayes did provide 3 blocked shots, a category he has done quite well in to start the season. Even if this starting lineup didn’t work particularly great, pulling some regulars out of the starting lineup should be a wake up call for some starters and also show bench players that they can earn more minutes with effort both in game and in practice.
Florida’s biggest strength to start this season became a struggle tonight as Egor Koulechov, KeVaughn Allen, and Jalen Hudson combined to shoot 9-34. For the Gators to get back to top 10 form they need their best players to be their best players, and SEC play could be very difficult if these wings continue to shoot the ball inefficiently.
Florida had zero players hit double digit scoring numbers tonight. The Gators’ high scorer was Chris Chiozza with 9, which could very well be the lowest total by a Florida high scorer this season. I mean, at least we can hope that 9 is the lowest total by a high scorer this season.
The Gators now move on to play the #17 ranked Cincinnati Bearcats in the Never Forget Tribute. Mick Cronin’s Cincinnati teams are always extremely gritty so this one is sure to be a battle. Florida will be Cincinnati’s first game since their emphatic 89-96 loss to rival Xavier in the always intense Crosstown Shootout (this game nearly saw a fist fight between Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin and Xavier player JP Macura) so you can bet the Bearcats will be intently focused on this one. They’ll have had a week to prepare for the Gators so expect a cerebral matchup between two teams. The Gators will have to play with some desperation as their non-conference schedule is starting to slip away from them. There is lots of season left, and the Gators just need to continue to learn from these rough nights and improve looking forward.
What did you think of the Gators’ performance tonight? Leave a comment here or post on the Gator Country forums.