This Florida Gators basketball team is at a crossroads. It can either go in the tank and let these last three games slip away or take advantage of the opportunities they present.
It’s been almost two weeks since the Gators last won a game, and while fans and others around the program may have lost hope for the rest of the season, head coach Mike White is surprisingly optimistic.
Wednesday’s offensive performance in the 62-57 loss at Tennessee was nothing short of ugly, but Florida came away feeling good about how it battled against the Volunteers’ toughness.
“I’m not playing any games,” White said. “I’m always as honest as I can be with you guys and the team. I was really pleased with how hard we played. We went in there and really battled with those guys. Tennessee played really hard. They play really hard. We went in there and out-rebounded them. I didn’t see that coming. I was hopeful that we’d step up to the challenge and get after it and match their physicality, and we did that. Unfortunately, we came up a little bit short offensively.”
Another thing that give’s White hope is the hurt he saw on the faces of his players after the last game. The desire of the players has come into question recently, but the feeling in the locker room spoke louder than words.
He said he hasn’t seen that much disappointment after a loss from this team in a very long time.
“It’s just like any other loss, you don’t want to lose,” said junior guard Jalen Hudson. “I thought we competed at a very high level and fought the whole game. It was pretty hard to take. That’s probably as hard as we’ve played, and we still lost.”
The Gators still have three opportunities left before heading to the SEC Tournament, and the first of those is Auburn.
Florida even gets the luxury of playing two of the last three games at home. Well, for most teams it would be a luxury anyways.
For whatever reason, the Gators have played their best basketball on the road this season, and they just can’t put their finger on it. Aside from a couple strong home performances, it’s like there is a mental block about playing in the O’Dome.
“Maybe going into the game it’s a mentality about our guys,” White said. “Maybe there’s a pressure or an expectation that we’re supposed to do this at home, or that at home. Maybe we’re overly comfortable. Which I’ve just said two completely different things on the spectrum, but I don’t know. We’ve talked about it. The feedback I get from our team is the same thing, kind of at a loss. I don’t quite understand it, but that said, again, hopefully we can match the intensity we’ve played with these last couple.”
Florida likely didn’t expect to be put in a must-win situation to close out the season after the high it started on all the way back in November, but now it must play with the cards it’s been dealt.
Not making the NCAA Tournament would be a huge letdown considering the potential of this team. A win over the No. 12 team in the country and the top team in the conference on Saturday would surely help the Gators’ case.
“Obviously, we have to win,” Hudson said. “That’s a good part of it. If we can get these last three, I think we’ll be in a pretty good situation. Auburn is gonna be tough. They’re number one in our conference right now, but I think we can get them tomorrow.”