The last two weeks of Florida Gators basketball have been nothing short of a nightmare. A nightmare for all those who had to watch and a nightmare for the team itself.
For whatever reason, since the start of SEC play the Gators just fall apart in the final minutes of the game. They can’t make a shot. They can’t get a stop. They can’t get on the same page.
When it happened twice in a row, it felt like a coincidence. Now that the same storyline has played out in four straight games and Florida has only scathed by with one win, it is obvious the problem is much deeper than that.
It is not because this is just a bad team. There are plenty of deficiencies, but the Gators have beaten good teams this season and had several others on the ropes.
This has to be some kind of mental block, because even a defense that’s been next to elite for a better part of the year isn’t playing at the same level.
Mike White is just trying to keep his team from going in the tank and continuing down this dark road.
“If we play discouraged and woe is me and why does this keep happening to us, it will keep happening to us,” White said. “I can guarantee you that. We’ve got to dig ourselves out of the hole that we’re in. No one’s going to do it for us.”
Florida has been trying to counter the late-game struggles by working on those situations an inordinate amount these last few days. The problem with that is it takes away from time to practice the things that would give the Gators a chance to be ahead or close with the minutes winding down in the first place.
When it comes down to it, someone has just got to step up when the game is on the line.
Last year, Florida had players who would do that without hesitation. The same cannot be said any longer.
“Chris Chiozza isn’t going to make a big play for us at the end of the game in Athens,” White said. “It ain’t happening. Egor Koulechov ain’t saying, ‘Coach, give me the ball, give me the ball. I want to take every shot. Every shot.’ You’ve got to take it. You can’t hope for it.”
While the Gators aren’t in a great place right now, the last thing they need is to be down in the dumps and feeling sorry for themselves. That is a good way to let the same thing keep happening over and over again.
The season is far from over, and that is the message White continues to preach.
“We can all lose our minds and just talk about how unbelievably negative of an experience this is for all of us,” he said. “But on the other hand, you can say, ‘Guys, we could easily be sitting here as a top-10 team in the country if we would execute down the stretch, have a little bit more swagger to us, make plays when they need to be made, because we’ve been really close to beating some of the best teams in the country. We’ve been really close to winning on the road against quality opponents, at home against high-level opponents. I mean, we’re close. We’re very close. I hope that that’s what our guys are thinking.”