Florida Gators searching for answers offensively

The Florida Gators have arguably had the oddest offense in the country this season.

After the first games of the season, Florida’s offense had even the toughest of critics calling Final Four. It was just that good.

Until it wasn’t.

What was once the hottest offensive team in college basketball has not been able to find any consistency as the season’s moved forward.

Even in the best games since then, the Gators haven’t returned to where they once were.

Florida can shoot lights out one game, then go ice cold the next. That was never more evident than over the past week.

The Gators put on an offensive clinic, especially in the first half, to blowout Baylor 81-60 last Saturday in a game where they drained 14 three-pointers.

That same team didn’t show up at Georgia on Tuesday in Florida’s worst offensive performance since the ugly Loyola-Chicago loss earlier in the season.

The Gators shot 36.5 percent and went on a 1-for-20 stretch late in the game to dig their own grave.

During that stretch, Georgia defended well, but Florida didn’t help itself. The Gators would pass up a good look only to have to throw a crazy shot up late in the clock.

The three wasn’t working well, so the Gators had to defer to other options, but those didn’t pan out either.

“We’ve got to develop guys’ ability to get to the rim, to finish versus contact, to get to the foul line more,” said head coach Mike White. “And we’ve gotta be able to score in the paint, whether it’s drives or post ups. Right now, we’re very one dimensional. We’ve gotta continue to improve. We’ve gotta find something that works other than catch-and-shoot threes.”

Florida seemed to have countless opportunities to make a play at the rim on Tuesday, but just didn’t, and that’s been a problem all season long.

An end doesn’t appear to be in sight.

“Obviously, I don’t have the answer, because we haven’t gotten better at it,” White said. “We’re hovering around somewhere like 300th in the country out of 351 Division I teams, in terms of finishing two-point shots. It’s not something going into the season that I would’ve thought we would’ve had a lot of difficulty with … I think some of it is a focus thing. I think some of it is a physicality thing.”

From a physicality standpoint, the Gators have been outmatched in nearly every game this season, and especially in the last two SEC matchups.

While they are shorthanded in that area, the inability to finish has still been inexcusable. The players know that.

“We’ve all got pride,” said Egor Koulechov. “It’s tough, because obviously, they’ve got bigger guys. I mean, we have big guys out—[Isaiah] Stokes, John [Egbunu]—that we hope to get back, but it’s what we’ve got right now. It’s who we have and there’s no excuses to be made, because at the end of the day, nobody cares about that once the ball is tipped.”

Things won’t get any easier for Florida on Saturday as Alabama comes to town. Prior to its loss to Missouri this week, the Crimson Tide had won five of the last six games, including wins over Oklahoma and SEC-leading Auburn.

“From top to bottom, they’re as talented as anybody in our league, in my opinion,” White said. “They probably have the best combination of speed, quickness and length as well, which makes them really dangerous on the glass, really dangerous defensively. They’re everywhere defensively. It’s like there’s six guys out there.”

The Gators need a strong offensive performance against an unorthodox Alabama defense and some momentum to carry into the final stretch of conference play.

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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.