The Florida Gators thought they were finally starting to figure some things out after beating the brakes off Butler just before the start of SEC play. As it turns out, it was just an anomaly.
It was a glimpse of how good this team can be when things come together, but that is the problem. It can’t seem to string performances anywhere near that level together on a consistent basis.
This may seem like an overreaction considering the Gators are only one game into the conference schedule, but it is not the fact that they lost to South Carolina at home, it is the way they lost. Giving up double digit leads over and over and over again throughout the game until the Gamecocks finally clawed their way back to a last-second win.
Mike White described his team as “timid” while playing with a lead. They are afraid to make a mistake, afraid to miss a shot, afraid to turn the ball over instead of just continuing to do the same things that put them in that position to begin with.
There are still 18 games to right this ship, but there has to be a sense of urgency, and White doesn’t get that from all of his players.
“I think we have a few guys with very good sense of urgency,” he said. “We don’t have enough of them, though … Sometimes you feel like you’re dragging these guys a little bit. That’s not a sign of a great team, when you’ve got to coach effort in practice. I’ve said it all year. When you’ve got freshmen leading, not a sign of a great team. That’s where we’re at.”
The only real contributors he sees playing with that winning mentality right now are senior Kevarrius Hayes and freshmen Andrew Nembhard and Noah Locke. Outside of them, White said it is a crapshoot.
While a pair of freshmen might be Florida’s two best players and only one senior is even trying to lead, there are veterans who continue to regress.
It has been like pulling teeth with KeVaughn Allen since the day he stepped on campus. He can be absolutely electric offensively, but only when he’s playing aggressively. He didn’t even take a shot for the final 19 minutes of the South Carolina game after scoring 10 in the first half.
Then, Jalen Hudson seemed to be trending back in the right direction, but he’s still nowhere near the player he was a season ago.
The seniors are by no means the only ones to blame for Florida’s struggles, but they have the power to make a difference in the confidence everyone on the court plays with.
So far, the response to Saturday’s loss has been good. The real teller, though, will be how the Gators handle both adversity and success throughout the remainder of the season.
“Yesterday, everyone on that court was really good,” White said. “It’s easy to be good after you get beat at home. It’s easy when you have an hour film session and coach is hollering at you and no one feels good about themselves, it’s easy to go out there and compete at a higher level. We weren’t at that level after the way we played against Butler. It’s an inconsistency with this team. It’s a begging of a certain level of competitiveness and intensity. If you have to beg for it, then you’re not going to get it consistently. It has to come from within.”