Florida Gators need leadership after three-game SEC skid

The Florida Gators haven’t won a conference game in more than two weeks.

It’s been an odd stretch to say the least—a gutsy win at Kentucky, followed by a loss to South Carolina a few days later, a blowout of Baylor, then back-to-back second half breakdowns in losses to Georgia and Alabama last week.

The Gators have struggled with communication all season long, and Saturday may have been the worst display of that of the year.

Florida broke down on defense, especially in transition, multiple times and let Alabama fuel its fire while the offense and defense crumbled.

“I think we didn’t really have anybody step up like we usually do,” said senior point guard Chris Chiozza. “Just a lot of frustration, a lot of emotions, in the second half when we couldn’t get a stop and we just didn’t have any leadership.”

This team has lost its identity and hasn’t found consistency all season. The only thing that can help now is leadership, from both coaches and players.

Chiozza has been Florida’s back bone, but he wasn’t much of a factor last time out. As the final games of his senior season continue to pass, he wants to be the first one to step up and right the ship.

“I feel like being the older guy on the team, I have a big part of that,” he said. “I just try to keep the guys confident. And we went through this before where we bounced back pretty well, so hopefully we can do the same. It’s just tough when you go through a stretch like this. We just try to stay focused and try to bounce back as best we can.”

On the other end of the spectrum, head coach Mike White is trying to find the right balance in his coaching to help his team get out of the skid.

He knows the Gators don’t have the tools to be great defensively right now, but they do have what it takes to be great offensively. They’ve proven that, but that offense hasn’t shown up in a while as Florida has put up 60 and 50 points the last two games.

A lot of the struggle has stemmed from poor shot selection.

The Gators miss a few shots and then start feeling the pressure and making poor decisions. At the end of the day, that is on White to get his players’ minds in the right place.

“Shot selection is very, very sensitive,” White said. “I beat this team up on shot selection early in the year and it seemed like the direct result of that was we couldn’t make a shot for a month and we were overthinking everything. It can’t become too mental. I want our guys to play with a lot of confidence and I want us to be aggressive, but we’ve got to clean some of these shots up that are deflating … But when a guy is open on Wednesday night, I don’t want him over-thinking whether it’s a good shot or not. We’ve got to shoot with confidence. It is a balancing deal, and we’ve got to get better with it.”

Florida is on a slippery slope right now and the way it responds to this adversity could be the difference in the season. There is still a lot to play for, but some changes have to be made quickly.

Chiozza said he expects this team to play the hardest it has all season over the final eight games.

“It’s crunch time,” Chiozza said. “The urgency is higher than it’s been all year. We’ve got to figure out a way to get out of the three-game skid. We’ve only got eight games left and we want to put ourselves in a good position for the postseason, the conference tournament and everything. We want some momentum going into that.”

The chance for redemption starts when LSU comes to town Wednesday night.

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Bailiegh Williams
Growing up the daughter of a baseball coach in a household that revolved around Gators sports, Bailiegh’s future working in sports was her destiny. She played four years of varsity softball at Suwannee High School and one year on softball scholarship at Gulf Coast State College. In her first year she discovered a love for journalism so she packed her bags and moved to Gainesville to finish her A.A. and begin interning for Gator Country. She is now on track to graduate from the University of Florida in 2019. In her free time, Bailiegh enjoys binge watching her favorite TV shows and spending time with her family and her two fur babies.