Winning plays. Plays like hitting free throws when you need them. Plays like fighting hard over a screen to prevent an open jump shot. Plays like driving to the hoop knowing you’re going to take contact. Plays like properly executing inbound sets at the end of the tight game. Those were the kinds of plays not made by the Gators tonight.
Seemingly comfortable with a 10 point lead halfway through the second half the Gators took their foot off the gas pedal and by the time Georgia was back in the game it was too hard for the Gators to turn it back on and it lead to the Bulldogs winning by a score of 72-69 in overtime. Egor Koulechov (19 points, 6 rebounds) was the only Gator who scored in the last 10 minutes of regulation and his work to hit tough shots and make gritty defensive plays was the only reason Florida didn’t lose this game in regulation. Shooting 39% from the field didn’t do the Gators’ offense any favors and their 59% (16-27) from the charity stripe kept them from sealing this game in regulation and prevented them from ever having a chance in the overtime period.
Second Half Stuttering
We’ve seen time and time again that this Florida team struggles when they have a lead and then stop running offense. It very much shows a team that is playing not to lose instead of playing to win and for opposition that is like smelling blood in the water. The Gators have had too many blown second half leads that have resulted in losses to teams they needed to beat and it is going to cost them dearly on Selection Sunday when it comes to seeding.
Players need to understand that slowing down, taking air out of the ball, and then ultimately chucking up a tough late-clock jumper is not the best way to score and they need to continue to run sets to put points on the board and protect their lead. Until that happens, well, we might see more losses like tonight.
We have seen some great basketball from Jalen Hudson this season but tonight was not his night. Ending the game scoreless with two turnovers would have been bad enough but those weren’t his only errors. Careless fouls lead to multiple points at the foul line for Georgia and foul trouble from those foolish plays kept him off the floor. His tough night was punctuated on the second last possession of regulation when the Gators were up by 3 and inbounding the basketball. Hudson got open, got the ball passed to him, and with the nervous energy of a player scared to go to free throw line he ended up traveling shortly after the catch. Georgia, who thought they were dead in the water, suddenly had the ball back and was able to hit a game tying three. If Hudson were able to not travel, we are probably talking about a Gators win.
Okauru Stays Hot
Michael Okauru is a popular player amongst Gator Country posters and he delighted them with a neat 11 points on 4-5 shooting tonight. The Gators will need efforts like that from secondary players so hopefully he can keep up that production.
There is a basic strategy that you see executed by teams at all levels of basketball when up by 3 points in the final possession of a game. Instead of allowing your opponent to even have the opportunity to tie the game, you foul them so that they go to the line with the possibility of only getting two points, leaving you with the lead and the ball. With time winding down in regulation and the Gators up by 3 they did not use this technique, instead allowing Yante Maten to hit a game tying three point shot. In the future if the Gators are up by 3 with less then 10 seconds left I would love to see them intentionally foul to send their opponent to the line and not even give them the chance to tie the game.
What’s Up Next
The Gators head to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. Florida opened their SEC season against Vanderbilt on December 30th and came away with a victory and they would love to finish the season series with a sweep. As you may remember Vanderbilt went 3-0 against Florida last season and a 2-0 sweep for the Gators would feel pretty good to respond a season after. Unable to make the NCAA Tournament unless they can have a miracle run in the SEC Tournament the Commodores have been playing spoiler and would love to push the Gators’ chances on a good seed down a few notches. Look to Gator Country for all your Florida basketball needs leading up to this one.
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