Losing hurts, losing at home sucks, and getting totally blown out at home really, really sucks. After staying with Alabama for the first half the Gators came out of the break extremely flat and were dominated in every aspect of the game for the final 20 minutes, ultimately losing by a score of 68-50. Alabama outsized, out-toughed, and outlasted the Gators in a game where Florida wasn’t able to produce any rhythm on either side of the ball. KeVaughn Allen was the high point man for the Gators with 16 but there wasn’t enough offense from anyone else as Florida’s bench produced a total of 1 point. Collin Sexton was dominant for the Crimson tide going for 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists while also mostly shutting down Chris Chiozza. Florida is now going to fall in the SEC standings (we’ll see for sure how far after the rest of today’s games) but they need to find a way to right this ship as conference play continues.
Chris Chiozza vs. Collin Sexton was the main event in this one and the freshman Sexton ended up getting the best of Florida’s seasoned vet. Talking trash the entire game and backing it up with his play, Sexton kept Chiozza within an arm’s reach the entire 94 feet and never allowed him to get comfortable and it was evidenced with Chiozza’s statline of 4 points, 2 rebounds, and 4 assists. Offensively Sexton used his speed and power to get wherever he wanted on the floor and his length to finish at the hoop. One of the beliefs for opposing teams is that if you stop Chiozza you stop the Gators and that was true today.
If there was one success for the Gators today it was forcing 19 turnovers. Struggling to guard the size and athleticism of the Crimson Tide they were smart to gamble for so many steals and it ended up mostly working out for them. I think we’ll see them playing more aggressively for steals as conference play continues as they won’t like their chances to guard straight up against some of the more skilled and athletic teams in the conference.
Both teams used a starting lineup atypical to what they normally do. Alabama started an even bigger lineup than they normally do inserting 6’11”, 247 pound Daniel Giddens in the starting lineup next to 6’9”, 230 pound Danta Hall in place of 6’8”, 225 pound Braxton Key. Starting this way shows that they thought trying to outsize Florida was the book on them, a strategy we’ve seen used since the Gators have struggled on the perimeter. Florida, on the other hand, actually went smaller with Jalen Hudson getting the nod in place of Kevarrius Hayes. A team that has struggled with interior toughness it was an interesting strategy to go small and try to embrace offense instead of trying to a little bit bigger when they would still be outsized. Florida ended up getting pounded on the glass 44-25 and big men Donta Hall and Braxton Key both ended up having strong offensive games. The smaller lineup for the Gators was meant to increase offensive pop, but that didn’t end up working considering the 50 points and 34% shooting they finished with.
Florida’s lack of bench production was on display today combining for a single point when Michael Okauru split a pair of free throws. Meanwhile, Alabama’s bench provided their starters tons of breaks and they were able to play with extreme amounts of energy because of it. When Florida started to run out of gas in the second Alabama was still firing on all cylinders and that lead to the Gators getting run out of their own gym. The Gators bench needs to be more productive to give the starters a chance to rest as 29 productive minutes from starters is better then stretching them out for 35 minutes when they can’t keep a full energy level up.
Be Our Guest
The Gators hosted a pair of recruits for this game in 2019 4* CJ Walker (ranked 86th in his class) and 2020 5* Scottie Barnes (5th in his class). These are two high level recruits and it’s great to see them in Gainesville getting a feel for Gator basketball. CJ Walker is a 6’7” small forward with a fairly polished skillset and Scottie Barnes is a 6’6” forward who plays the game with power and athleticism, so both would look great in orange and blue.
What’s Up Next
The Gators get to stay home for a February 7 contest with the LSU Tigers. Coach Will Wade has lead this team to a much better performance than many people expected and guard Tremont Waters has been one of the best stories in college basketball as an undersized and unheralded recruit who has been one of the best freshmen in the nation. After having a difficult matchup in Collin Sexton tonight Chris Chiozza will be right back to another difficult matchup with Waters so we’ll see how he can bounce back.
What did you think of Florida’s performance today? Leave a comment here or post on the Gator Country forums.