Florida’s vehement defensive intensity kept them in the game against a really good opponent but ultimately the offensive dry spells and a tough break in the final seconds meant a 63-59 loss to the #10 ranked Michigan State Spartans. Down 61-59 with less than 15 seconds left, a loose ball generated by a Kevarrius Hayes steal fell into the hands of MSU’s Kyle Ahrens who had a straight line to the hoop because of a stumble by Keith Stone. Dunking the ball to put the Spartans up 4 with 9.4 seconds left was the dagger and the Gators weren’t able to conjure any magic to overtake the deficit. Xavier Tillman and Nick Ward were big in the frontcourt for Michigan State combining for 27 points on 12-15 shooting while Andrew Nembhard was the best Gator with an efficient 13 points on 6-12 shooting while also contributing 3 assists. He easily could have had more but some fumbles by Hayes, Dontay Bassett, and Isaiah Stokes left some points off the board.
Offense Stays Cold
Michigan State is a good defensive team but the Gators made them look elite by taking bad shot after bad shot early in the shot clock without having to make the defense work and shift side to side. KeVaughn Allen was particularly trigger-happy and though he hit a big shot late in the second half his desire to take tough jumpers and his major struggles finishing inside had him going 5-15 from the field. Overall the Gators shot 36.5% from the field while only hitting 25% of their threes. There was an encouraging stretch of offensive basketball in the final five minutes where the Gators had some tempo and scored on three consecutive possessions but the offense is still a definite work in progress.
This game could have been a blowout due to the way the Gators struggled to score but their defense kept them in the game down to the final few possessions. Though Michigan State shot an excellent 51% from the field I think that number is very misleading as the Gators generated 13 turnovers and a lot of the shots that Michigan State hit were tough, contested looks. Even though Joshua Langford, Kyle Ahrens, and Cassius Winston hit some difficult shots the Gators should be commended for excellent defensive work. Though Nick Ward and Xavier Tillman had big games I don’t think that was because Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes were bad, on the contrary I thought they were solid, I think it was due to breakdowns on the perimeter that had Stone and Hayes stepping up to help and leaving those big men free. Florida doesn’t play pretty but they grind and they grind hard and that is going to keep them in some games they shouldn’t be in.
Keyontae Johnson and Kevarrius Hayes were excellent on the offensive glad tonight with 4 offense rebounds each, extra possessions the Gators desperately needed due to the fact they weren’t scoring the ball efficiently. As a team the Gators got 14 and that’s a great feat against a good rebounding Michigan State team. Florida hasn’t been great on the offensive glass this year but it was good to see them get some boards against a physical front line.
The defense was excellent. We know this.
Andrew Nembhard plays winning basketball. That is no shock to anyone that has watched him.
Florida’s offense is still sputtering. Also no surprise.
But how about some stuff that wasn’t quite as apparent. Jalen Hudson got the most minutes he’s gotten in a few games with 16 and I thought he was noticeably getting after it defensively. He went 1-3 from the field but the fact he played 16 minutes shows that he might be getting back into Coach White’s good books. He hasn’t commanded a big role back quite yet but I think he’s getting closer.
Mike Okauru played only a single minute and he’s falling out of the rotation. I would petition for him to get more run because I think he’s a player that the ball doesn’t stick with and a guy who could make some things happen away from the ball while also keeping up the defensive intensity this team is hanging it’s hat on. Things aren’t working offensively right now and I’d love to see a different look with Okauru, and the benefit with him is that you know you aren’t losing any of the defense that has kept you in games by putting him in.
The Gators take on the Mercer Bears. Hopefully this is a game the Gators can build some offensive confidence against.