Stifling Defense Leads Gators To Win Over Tigers

Playing suffocating defense all night long the Gators were able to outlast the home LSU Tigers coming away with their second win in a row, coming out victorious by a score of 67-56. This wasn’t a glamorous game by any means but the Gators took pride in making the game a rock fight, grinding the game to near standstill and not allowing the Tigers to get any offensive rhythm. Once again Florida’s offense left something to be desired but their defense was so stellar that it didn’t matter. The Gators are now on a mini run of two wins in a row and they’ll look to extend the winning streak on Saturday against the Missouri Tigers.


Stifling Defense


The Gators had a clear plan of how they wanted to defend the Tigers and they executed it about as well as they could have hoped, limiting the Tigers to 56 points on 32% shooting. Adding to the Tigers’ frustration was 16 turnovers coaxed by Florida’s relentless defensive pressure. Florida is starting to take immense pride on the defensive end and it’s making up for issues on offense as they slow the game to a grind and force misses and turnovers that allow the Gators to get enough points in transition to come out ahead. Particularly impressive on the defensive end was Will Richard who had three steals and was excellent with his perimeter defense and help side defense when the Tigers entered the ball into the low post.


Offense By Committee


Florida’s offense left plenty to be desired but if you’re looking for a positive, it’s that the Gators didn’t need one player to go off in order to get enough points to win. No one on the roster had more than three field goals, which on one hand speaks to how poorly the team was shooting, but on the other hand shows that the Gators are starting to spread their offense around and not just rely on Colin Castleton or Trey Bonham to pour in points. While Castleton only had three made field goals he did get to the line a ton shooting 12-15 from the stripe, allowing him to finish with a team high 18 points.


Steadily Improving


Freshman Riley Kugel has had some excellent moments in his young career but there have still been a couple areas of weakness the coaching staff has been pushing him to improve, such as defense and rebounding. Against the Tigers he had arguably his best performance in both of those areas, playing much improved perimeter defense and also adding in 6 rebounds which was second on the Gators only to Colin Castleton. Kugel is a big-time athlete at 6’5” so he has the raw tools to be an excellent defender but as a freshman there is lots to learn about timing and rotations, and while there have been some growing pains, you can see that he is drastically improving. He came off the bench in this game, but don’t be surprised if he earns a starting spot soon.


Getting Into Form


Myreon Jones, known for his erratic play throughout his career, is quietly stringing together some good basketball and he made some big plays in the end of this game leading to Florida’s win. To add to the positive night he was also 2-5 from three on a night where the Gators desperately needed someone to make a shot, so he could be earning more minutes as this team is still searching for offensive answers.


Final Thoughts


It wasn’t always pretty but in the end the Gators got a somewhat convincing win on the road against a team that was yet to lose at home. LSU is a team that the Gators think they can finish higher than in the SEC standings and they backed it up with a double digit win. Florida’s offense remains a concern but if they can continue to defend at this level they’ll keep stringing together some wins.

Eric Fawcett
Eric is a basketball coach and writer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His work has been found at NBA international properties, ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @ericfawcett_.