Players said they weren’t out for revenge when they beat South Carolina 65-41 after the Gamecocks defeated the Gators in game one of the series, but man did it ever feel good to dominate game two. Florida will be searching for the same result when they take on Georgia on Valentine’s Day to try to avenge a disheartening 72-60 loss they suffered at the hands of the Bulldogs on January 30th. Georgia is currently on a nasty slide in the SEC standings going 2-8 in their last 10 games and 1-6 in their last seven with their only win coming over, ugh, the Gators, and will desperately be looking to get a win to get some positive momentum going their way. Having been beaten by the Bulldogs already the Gators can’t take this game lightly at all so they need to come in focused and ready to try and extend Georgia’s current 3-game losing streak.
Florida currently sits tied with Tennessee at 8-4 for second in the conference with Auburn holding a 2-game lead. The Gators still have head to head games with both opponents coming up (actually in back to back games next week) where they can really shake up the standings but until then they just need to keep winning games and keeping pace. It should be noted that out of Florida, Auburn, and Tennessee the Volunteers have the easiest remaining schedule and Florida and Auburn have the harder remaining schedules (a result of the unbalanced SEC schedule) so the Gators will have a chance to catch Auburn but will be in tough to catch Tennessee if they drop games to opponents like Georgia.
Keeping the ball out of their hoop was a bit of an issue for the Gators to start the season but they have really turned things around on their end of the floor. According to popular college basketball analytics site KenPom the Gators are now the 29th best defensive team in the nation according to adjusted defensive efficiency, a mark they should be extremely proud of. Teams are also getting totally slowed down by Mike White’s defenses as Florida’s opponents have the 334th longest average lengths of possessions in the country. These slow possessions show how hard the Gators are making opponents work to get a shot and they are further proof of their suffocating defense. Mike White and his staff deserve tons of credit for turning this team into one of the nation’s best defensive squads and this defensive effort brings a lot more consistency in winning games then a team reliant exclusively on offense.
While I’m still giving credit to Mike White and his staff I have to point out how good the adjustments were against South Carolina. We’re now into the portion of the SEC season where the Gators are playing teams for the second time and now that they really have the book on their opponents they need to be adjusting and against the Gamecocks they were really successful at it. They made drastic changes to their offensive sets to handle the pressure of Frank Martin’s “deny” defense and exhibited a focused defensive effort on their own end to lock down the paint but not allow any open kick outs for three. We’ll now see what they can do adjustment-wise against Georgia.
Florida’s first meeting with Georgia this season didn’t go very well, so let’s take a look back at that game and see what the Gators can do to have a better outcome this time around.
Yante Maten has been a dominating force his entire college career and is currently leading the Bulldogs as their only player to average double digits in points with 19.4. Despite knowing he was unquestionably the key to everything they do offensively the Gators weren’t able to slow him down and he went for 20 points on an efficient 6-11 shooting performance. Mike White will have to draw up something differently to defend him on Wednesday because whatever they were doing back in January wasn’t effective enough. Different looks are always a nice way to try to throw off a key player and the Gators might try to put Dontay Bassett on him for stretches as he has earned himself a regular shift these last few games. You could also see Florida sending “delayed” double teams instead of hard, immediate double teams to throw off Maten’s rhythm. A delayed double team is when you wait a few seconds after a player gets the ball to send a second defender. Sometimes that offensive player will catch the ball and immediately look around and when he sees single coverage he thinks he can make a move but as soon as he takes a couple dribbles that unexpected second defender arrives. Florida’s great team speed lends itself well to this style of defense so I would love to see it employed.
Getting buckets around the hoop was a no-go for the Gators as they really struggled with the interior defense of players like Yante Maten and Derek Ogbeide inside. Florida shot a dismal 37.8% from 2-point range with Jalen Hudson punctuating the struggles with an 0-8 mark himself. Making a concerted effort to drive the basketball made Florida’s offensive a lot sharper against LSU and South Carolina and the Gators will need to keep driving with purpose in this one to generate offense and not be phased by Georgia’s rim protection. Florida also only shot 6 free throws in the first matchup with showed how shy they were to get good looks at the rim, instead resorting to tough off-balance fadeaways in the midrange when they did attack. If Florida can make a concentrated effort to drive and finish at the hoop their offense will be much more effective.
Georgia was the more physical team on the glass and it resulted in them beating Florida by 9 in the rebounding category. When things aren’t going your way you need to be able to control things on the backboard and because they didn’t the Gators lost by double digits. Florida is coming off it’s best rebounding performance this season (and possibly the best rebounding performance by the Gators in multiple seasons) by going +20 against a long and strong South Carolina team so if they keep that effort going they shouldn’t have any problem with a smaller Georgia team.
Allowing dribble penetration far too regularly the Gators were forced to use a lot of fouls which ultimately lead to the Bulldogs going 18-22 from the free throw line. Fouling is often a sign of defensive breakdowns and in this game that was definitely the case. Defense on the perimeter needs to be better but luckily the performances against LSU and South Carolina suggest this team has started to focus a lot more on this area of basketball and are improving drastically. William Jackson, Juwan Parker, and Jordan Harris were all attacking closeouts and getting into the paint so those will be the players Florida will have to key in on.
Keys For The Gators
Making the focus of the offense to get easy buckets first and jump shots second. Don’t get me wrong, if they can get an early three that’s wide open, please take it, it’s the possessions where you can tell the Gators aren’t looking at all to get the ball inside that really hurt them by making them easy to defend against. Reliance on the jump shot was the reason Florida’s attack was subpar against Georgia the first time around and last week’s games against LSU and South Carolina showed how much better the offense is when it isn’t one-dimensional. Defensively, the Gators know exactly what they are going to get from Georgia and know who has the ability to hurt them so they need to make some adjustments in terms of what they want to do to stop them. If Florida can execute these things then I think they’ll be looking at a 3-game winning streak by the end of Wednesday.
What are you expecting when the Gators take on the Bulldogs? Leave a message here or post on the Gator Country forums.