A second half surge gave the Gators a chance at stealing a win but ultimately their struggling offense bit them once again, falling to the Texas A&M Aggies by a score of 54-52. Incapable of producing any quality shots in the first half the Gators went into the break with only 12 points on 2-26 shooting but found a way to create points in the second putting up 40. However, when it came to late game execution the Gators didn’t have much they could muster and Myreon Jones was forced to double pump on a deep three that ultimately didn’t even catch rim on the final shot of the game. Texas A&M remains undefeated in league play while beating the Gators for the second time this season while Florida falls to 3-3.
Unfortunately the Gators have been in an offensive tailspin recently and despite scoring 40 points in the second half they still finished the game shooting 26% from the field. With only 9 turnovers the Gators took care of the ball and ended possessions with shots–they just weren’t able to create many good ones. Yes, there were times where a three-point shooter was left wide open and the shot clanked out, but most of the time it was the Gators once again being unable to create quality looks. It was clear the Gators looked to force feed the ball into Colin Castleton but the Aggies did a good job of pushing him far out from the rim, and when he got the ball there wasn’t enough action on the weak side to keep the Aggies from doubling him and walling off the paint. Making matters worse–Texas A&M entered the game ranked 88th in the country in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric so it wasn’t a great defense that the Gators struggled with.
After struggling for Florida’s three most recent games Trey Bonham was taken out of the starting lineup and veteran Myreon Jones took his place. Jones has been playing excellent team defense as of late and has also started knocking down some of his threes and for a team that’s desperate for shotmaking, those have been huge. On a night where pretty much every Gator struggled the experienced Jones was able to be somewhat productive with 10 points, shooting 3-10 for three. His best work might have been on the defensive end, with his 3 steals showing some of what he was doing so effectively on that end. Bonham came off the bench for just a couple of minutes and wasn’t able to make his mark on the game, so you have to think that Jones will stay in the starting lineup for the near future.
Clamping Down Defensively
While Florida’s poor offensive output is putting a damper on their overall wins, the Gators have continued to be a stout defensive team that is frustrating to play against. Even on a night where the Gators couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean they were still in the game for 40 minutes and it’s all because of the quality of their defense. The Aggies are a potent offensive team that runs some beautiful actions but you wouldn’t have known it based on how they played against the Gators who hounded them all night and made things difficult for them. Tyrece Radford and Wade Taylor, guards who were very good against Florida the first time around, were held to 8 points each as the Gators did much better at keeping them out of the paint. If Florida is able to get their offense to a respectable level they’ll be able to win some games based on how good this defense has been.
On the second to last play of the game, Florida forced a key turnover. On the final play of the game when the Gators had the opportunity to send the game to overtime or win outright they had a sideline out of bounds play that didn’t work at all and wasn’t able to free anyone up for a clean look. That was the perfect encapsulation of this game–Florida’s defense was good enough to put the team in the position to win, but their offense is nowhere good enough to compete at the level they need to. The gap between Florida’s defense and offense is continuing to widen, and it’s clear what they need to get better at if they’re going to be able to reach their goals this season.