The first half may have had you thinking it was going to be a long one for the Gators but a strong start to second cushioned Florida enough for them to hold on for a 73-64 victory over the LSU Tigers. Jalen Hudson’s 18 points lead the way for the Gators on the offensive front on an efficient 7-13 shooting clip and his team leading 9 rebounds also showed a dedication to finishing defensive possessions. Brandon Sampson was the only Tiger in double figures tonight with 17 and his 4-7 mark from the 3-point line was especially unexpected as a he entered the night with a mere 34% average from deep. LSU is a potent offensive team and the fact the Gators were able to keep them from going on any runs shows some level of defensive improvement which will certainly make Coach White and the rest of the staff pleased. Winning a game by 9 points over a bottom third SEC team might not seem like a big deal but every winning streak starts with a single win and this can be launching pad to the Gators getting some momentum going towards the end of the league’s regular season.
KeVaughn Allen fell out of the starting lineup today but it wasn’t because of his play in past games or his work in practice, it was disciplinary. After being late to today’s shootaround he found himself on the pine with Hudson starting in his place. Not a major issue, but it is clear White will enforce his team rules.
Okauru Stepping Up
Michael Okauru saw his role increase by a sizeable margin tonight as he played 17 minutes, the 7th most on the team. He made good use of his minutes on the offensive end putting in a solid 9 points on 4-7 shooting, doing most of his damage against the Tigers when they went to zone. Most of his minutes came from the fact Deaundrae Ballard never entered the game, giving Okauru the exclusive role of second guard off the bench. Ballard has struggled to grasp team concepts on both sides of the floor this season and has a lot to learn if he wants to get back to a regular shift. Many Gator Country posters have been vocal in their opinion that Okauru should get more minutes and those people will probably get their wish going forward. Florida needs to be able to go deeper into their bench so they don’t ride the starters so hard so hopefully Okauru can keep this up and Ballard can follow suit.
Point Guard Matchup
Chris Chiozza and Tremont Waters was the big matchup tonight and, well, neither one really dazzled. Chiozza was particularly quiet offensively with 3 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 turnovers but he did a solid job defending Tremont Waters who had a really inefficient 9 points (3-15 shooting) and a mind-boggling 7 turnovers. It certainly looked like LSU’s defense was designed around limiting Chiozza and it worked so it was good to see Florida able to win a game despite Chiozza’s struggles.
Second Half Savvy
In Florida’s losses this season one of the trends has been for them to struggle coming out of the gate in the second half. Some put that on the coaching staff due to adjustments (or lack there of, I suppose) and some chalk it up to fatigue from having to ride the starters so hard but whatever it is, it has hurt the Gators. Tonight we saw a much better start to the second for the Gators when they jumped out on a 17-3 run. Though the Tigers were able to make up the lead it was that cushion that ended up being the difference for the Gators. Slow starts to the second can kill a team so it was great to see the Gators not allow that to happen.
What’s Up Next
The Gators have a chance at redemption on Saturday when they take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. In their last meeting on Wednesday, January 24 the Gamecocks embarrassed the Gators in Gainesville and started a string of rough game for them. Florida will look to handle South Carolina’s defensive pressure with more poise then they did in the last game and try not give up as many open three attempts.
Let us know what you thought of the game tonight. Leave a comment here or post on the Gator Country forums.