Coming into the 2018-19 season, few would have thought the strength and identity of this Florida Gators basketball team would be its defense. Even fewer would have thought the Gators would be having this hard of a time getting the ball to go through the hoop.
But that’s where things stand.
Florida is coming off a strong defensive performance after only giving up 56 points to West Virginia in the Jimmy V Classic earlier in the week. The Mountaineers were a decent team, but not the typical West Virginia of years’ past.
Now, a real big boy is coming to town. Michigan State will test Florida all over the court, but two main areas of focus leading up to the game are transition defense and defending the interior.
The Spartans are physical, and with the offense struggling the way it is, the only way the Gators can counter that is by matching the intensity.
“Michigan State is as tough as any college basketball program there is, in my opinion,” said head coach Mike White. “I’ve always admired their level of discipline and toughness. We’ve got a very tough test ahead of us. We’ll be very much tested. Our level of toughness and physicality has to be better than it has been all year.”
As far as the scoring issues go, White still doesn’t have the answers. On paper, this team should be able to put up points, but it’s just not.
KeVaughn Allen finally showed some signs of life offensively as he put up 19 points last game, but if the past three years are any indication, there is no way to know what he is going to do from one game to the next. He could come out and drop 30 against the Spartans or he might not make a shot all game.
Meanwhile, Jalen Hudson still hasn’t found a way to earn more minutes, and the minutes he’s gotten lately haven’t been pretty.
The Gators have young talent on offense, but all the pressure can’t be put on those guys to produce, especially in a game of this caliber.
“Yesterday we weren’t great offensively against each other,” White said. “Shots just aren’t really falling for us, but we’ve played some good defenses as well. We’ll play another really good defense Saturday. And we’re playing a lot of guys, too. Hopefully, we can settle in, in terms of what we’re trying to get out of who and who we can rely on the most. But we’re still just really searching.”
The Gators have a big-time opportunity lying in front of them. A win would be huge for the program and for putting things back in the right direction, but another exposing loss is the last thing Florida needs.
White likes the recent strides his guys have made, especially on defense. He just hopes those strides will be enough to pull it off.
“We’re a better team than we were a week ago,” he said. “We took a step. We’re going to have to be even better in this one to have a chance.”