Just two games into the 2018-19 season, the Florida Gators are still figuring some things out.
The defense isn’t great, but that was to be expected. It started out that way last season, but by the end of it, Florida was playing with some real defensive toughness.
The biggest surprise in the first two games has been the lack of ability to score it. The Gators lost a couple of good shooters from last year’s team, but also returned the likes of Jalen Hudson and KeVaughn Allen and expected a few more to step up with them.
That hasn’t happened yet as Florida had nothing for an outstanding FSU defense in the first game and only made some small steps offensively against an inferior Charleston Southern team.
The Gators currently stand as the No. 252 field goal shooting team in all of college basketball at 41.8 percent, and No. 292 in three-point shooting at 26.9 percent.
“It starts with me and the staff just finding ways to get these guys going and putting them in better position,” said head coach Mike White. “We’ve got two high-level senior scorers. We’ve got to give them space, we’ve got to give them time and we’ve got to give them opportunities.”
The most troubling thing is the Gators have found a good amount of open looks so far. They have just missed many of them.
Maybe the pressure has gotten to them, maybe they need some time to get in a groove or maybe they’re just poor or inconsistent shooters.
“It’s different shooting it in shoot arounds and shooting drills and a medium intensity practice than when guys are flying around the court and the Rowdies are screaming at you,” White said. “And guys are putting forth a lot of effort and you find yourself open and your heart is beating a little faster. The challenge, and you go through this every year, we’ve got simulate that level in practice to be able to make shots when you’re that winded.”
An underlying factor in some of the shooting struggles may be the serious lack of an inside presence.
White still hasn’t found his ideal big, and Florida can’t expect to win only by draining deep ones every game.
“I don’t want to give in to the fact we don’t have an inside scoring presence just yet,’ he said. “And that doesn’t necessarily mean a back-to-the-basket guy, either. I think, collectively, our post players, if we continue to improve, can get it done … Paint touches are a little different. It’s not just one guy. KeVaughn has to get to the rim more. Jalen has to get to the rim more. All our guards. We’ve got a bunch of jump shooters. If all we’re relying on are made jump shots to produce offensively, I think it’s fair to say you probably put a little pressure on yourself.”
Whatever the reason is, Florida has a lot of work to do before its trip to the Bahamas for Battle 4 Atlantis next week, and especially before SEC play rolls around.
Allen and Hudson both have to find some consistency and lead the way. Keith Stone needs to wake up. Deaundrae Ballard needs to continue making strides. And the freshmen need to grow up fast.
If some combination of those things don’t happen, it could be a long season for this offense.