No guts, no glory . . .
. . . and the Gators were entirely and completely lacking both in an opening loss to FSU that Coach White speculated may have been the biggest “butt whooping” of his career.
“It was 21 (points) . . . it could’ve been 40. It could’ve been 40,” he repeated the disparity with a look and tone of total dismay.
A couple times White said he was “shell shocked”, and admitted to not seeing this coming. No one did. . . not players, coaches or fans. Not an 81-60 loss that likely should have been far worse.
It was so bad White felt compelled to apologize.
“I am apologetic to our fans who made the drive . . . we had fifty or so rowdies, and the local fans,” he said, voice trailing off as he began to address the game itself.
White wasn’t saying ‘sorry for the loss’. Teams lose. And Florida has found ways to do so against the Seminoles for 5 straight years. But this was different, and in ways White felt were deserving of apology.
“Character, accountability, selfishness creeping in offensively,” White shook his head again, and rattled off the most bothersome issues. “Just not a very good performance by us, starting with me”
It was the third or fourth time White uttered the word “character” since the final buzzer mercifully sounded, first lamenting to Mic Hubert that his team “didn’t play with much character at all”.
Coaches often critique shot selection, decision-making or turnovers, but it’s an attention-grabber when character is questioned.
And White wasn’t mincing words, nor being passive in trying to find guys with the needed effort and intensity.
“Just the character we showed early in the second half . . . right out of the gate they scored a bunch in a hurry,” he said. “And then we searched for combinations that would dig-down and string together some stops”.
It was a largely futile search . . . one that saw seniors KeVaughn Allen, Jalen Hudson and Kevarrius Hayes on the bench while White offered extended opportunity to Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke, Keyontae Johnson, Deaundrae Ballard and Isiah Stokes. The latter two arguably showed the most fight (almost literally, in Stokes’ case), and Ballard collected a team-high 13 points.
Hudson, who managed 11 points and was oft benched for not closing out defensively or attacking offensively, provided little resistance to his coach’s decisions or analysis.
“We just didn’t play hard enough. They played more together and like they wanted to win it more,” he acknowledged.
Most confounding was the continued disappearance of KeVaughn Allen, whose stat line (0 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound) again invoked the “shell shocked” descriptor from his coach.
But like he demanded from his team, White was quick to show accountability.
“I’ve got to put him in a better position. His teammates do. . . I do,” he said. “We’ll put our heads together and figure out how we can get him going”.
But even if left unsaid, much of that responsibility will fall on Allen himself.
And after one game . . . one horrendous game . . . the same can be said for Stone, Hayes, Hudson, et al.
But it is indeed one game in a season of many, and one Florida needs to flush quickly.
“Boy, I would hope our guys are ready to get back in the gym tomorrow and get back to work,” White said. “The first thing we will do is watch film and get this taste out of our mouths”.
Hudson at least sounded ready.
“We have to go back to the drawing board,” he said.
Call it a hunch, but scrawled on that drawing board, in big letters, may be . . . C-H-A-R-A-C-T-E-R.