Limiting your opponent to 40% shooting from the field wins you a lot of basketball games but Florida’s inability to run offense and score lead to their demise in a disheartening 72-60 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. Though offense wasn’t easy to come by at any point in the game, it was a 9 minute and 44 second stretch in the second half where the Gators didn’t have a single field goal that really hit home the fact that this Florida team can go really, really cold. It’s hard to say anyone had a particularly good night for the Gators but Chris Chiozza did lead the way for them in scoring with 15 points, his fourth straight game going for double figures. Yante Maten used his size and skill down low to lead the Bulldogs with 20 points and 7 rebounds and his presence was felt on the defensive end as he constantly rotated over to plug up Florida’s penetration attempts. For a team that prides themselves on their firepower this was a humbling game for the Gators that hopefully forces some changes to the way this team plays.
Missed shots aren’t always deflating but when a player goes on one on one and forces a tough shot it feels like the clanging of the rim could be heard from Athens all the way to Gainesville. All too often tonight players like Jalen Hudson (3-14 FG), Egor Koulechov (4-10 FG), and Chris Chiozza 6-13 FG) went outside of the flow of offense to try to generate their own shot, especially down the stretch at the end of the game when Florida needed a bucket. A player calling his own number often shows that he doesn’t have faith in his team’s offensive system, thinking that a shot he generates one on one has a better chance of going in than a shot generated by offensive movement. Until Florida has complete buy-in from the players and trust from them that playing team offense is their best opportunity to score, we are going to have some stagnant offensive possessions when players resort to one on one. That isn’t to say that isolation basketball is always bad and Jalen Hudson and Chris Chiozza have both shown the ability to score easily in one on one situations at times, but games like tonight show that hero ball isn’t going to win every time in the SEC and leads to some really inconsistent play.
Georgia won the rebounding battle +9 tonight and unfortunately I think that number doesn’t even do justice to how much they pounded Florida on the glass as Gator players had to constantly use fouls to prevent guys like Yante Maten and Nicolas Claxton from getting boards. Kevarrius Hayes and Keith Stone were putting in solid work down low but weren’t able to corral some longer misses off 3-point shots that they needed some guards to come grab. On a night where it didn’t always feel like Florida wanted it as badly as Georgia did, the rebounding margin looks ugly.
More Offense Talk
The Gators only had 8 assists on 23 made field goals tonight, one of the indications that the offense wasn’t humming. Like we’ve seen many times in the past the Gators played extremely slow offensively in the second half and allowed Georgia to get their heels dug in. Players not getting to their spots to start the offense further slowed things down and the Gators were left in late shot clock situations without any room to breathe due to the dogged Georgia defense. Florida needs to decide what tempo they want to play at and stick to it from the opening tip until the final minute as the apparent difference between the times they want to play fast and when they take the air out of the ball are making it tough for the team to have consistency.
Second Half Adjustments
The Gators struggled to rebound inside in the first half so it was an interesting decision for Mike White to start the second with a smaller lineup, taking out Keith Stone and inserting Jalen Hudson who had struggled to score up to that point. Hudson made Coach White look great by hitting two threes early in the half to propel the Gators to a 12-2 run, erasing and overtaking the 5 point lead Georgia had at the half. That run was a pivotal point in the game and Mike White has to be applauded for his adjustment. If not for that run to start the second, this game could have gotten out of hand fast. Unfortunately, they probably could have used a few more clutch adjustments to stay in the game tonight.
What’s Up Next
With the Gators playing on Tuesday night instead of their normal Wednesday night game, the Gators get an extra day to prepare for a Saturday afternoon matchup with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama has been just behind the Gators in the standings all season and a win over them would create some much needed distance. Alabama is lead by star freshman Collin Sexton who has the physical tools to give Chris Chiozza some issues. This is a big game with huge SEC standings implications so make sure to watch.
Disappointing night for the Gators. Let me know your exact feelings in the comments here or post on the Gator Country forums.