Dooley: Gators can score; defend a question

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Florida Gators guard KeVaughn Allen gets around Gardner Webb guard Jaheam Cornwall during first half action at the University of florida took on Gardner-Web in O' Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida on Monday November 13, 2017. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

Chris Chiozza’s grin was sly and knowing. It didn’t take him more than a split second to answer the question about what it’s like directing a basketball team with so many weapons.

“It’s easy,” he said. “So many shooters and guys who can make plays every where I look. I just run fast and throw it to the guy who is open.”

Simple, eh?

It was simple Monday night, as Florida opened its basketball season by scoring 116 points and made Gator fans remember what an offense looks like.

Those bright numbers on the board. What do you call them again? Oh yeah, points.

They came by the armfuls against Gardner-Webb, from all corners and all angles. It was a ridiculous night of shooting (40-of-69 from the field) in part because guys got open and because the Russian Destruction named Egor Koulechov was lights out.

Three-Gor went for 34 points in 26 minutes, a boxscore line that’s sure to get the attention of future Gator opponents. So will the rest of the offensive numbers for a team hitting the court for the first time that counts.

“We can’t count on that,” Florida coach Mike White said of UF’s 58-percent shooting, 51.7 percent from 3.

But what he can count on is an offense that can attack you in a lot of different ways.

“It’s harder for people to scout us,” said Jalen Hudson, who had 16 points. “I think that’s our weapon. Once KeVaughn (Allen) gets going, we’re going to hurt some people.”

Allen scored only nine points because he didn’t need to score any more. Even on an off night shooting (3-of-9) he chipped in five rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.

Florida lost four of its top five scorers from last season and — for a night anyway — looked light years ahead of that team on offense. That’s supposed to be the story of this season, that the Gators can really score it.

But can they defend it?

Even on a night when UF eased into its season as comfortably as someone slipping into a warm bath, the defensive issues were evident. John Egbunu likely won’t be back until the calendar changes to 2018 and if you look past the eight blocked shots there were way too many easy baskets.

Gardner-Webb scored 36 points in the paint and five of its first seven baskets were layups as they actually had a brief lead.

This is a concern for White’s team. It was in September and October and it certainly is in November with a lot of games in a short period of time coming up.

Florida comes at you in waves on offense, but the tide is still receding defensively.

“I don’t know how deep we are defensively,” White said. “I don’t know how many accountable guys we have. That’s the charge right now.

“It’s not surprising because there’s a lack of physicality in there. Some of it is just softness. You’re there and I’m there and you’re supposed to hit a wall and you don’t. We gotta get physically tougher. At times we were really talking and we’re not listening very well. It’s a two-way street.”

That will be the interesting part of what should be an interesting season for America’s No. 8 ranked team. Defense is as much about want-to as it is talent and convincing what is essentially a brand-new team to buy in is part of the challenge for White and his staff.

Because when you’re in Portland, Oregon, or Lexington, Kentucky, or College Station, Texas, and the shots aren’t falling and the crowd is getting loud, defense always travels.

But that’s down the road. Monday night was a feel-good night on a campus that has had its share of feel-bad days.

Funny how a little offense can bring back the fun.

Make that a lot of offense.

“We’ve got a good team,” Hudson said. “There are more than three or four guys who can have a night like (Koulechov’s).”

And that will spread out the floor and keep advance scouts up all night. Right now, that’s what Florida is. But it’s a long season.

We’re one game in.

And Florida is averaging 116 points a game.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

5 COMMENTS

  1. What I noticed is that Florida’s D feel off some when they had nearly a forty point lead. I did not see many easy shots before then. Wow, critical after a win like that one. You have been hanging around the football program too much, Pat. That no offense or defense has rubbed off on you.

  2. Of course Mike White is going to criticize the defense and find areas for improvement. That is coaching. This team probably does need to get better on defense but in fairness to the team, it is hard to maintain defensive intensity up 40 with all 11 guys playing. Plus if this team can score more then they have more room for error.

  3. What I loved seeing the most was the unselfishness and passing. I think they had 26 assists as a team, and any coach would love to see that. This is one characteristic that White’s teams share with Donovan’s, the willingness to share the ball and the scoring. When big John gets back I think we’ll see the interior defense get stronger. For now, wow, that was fun. For the first time in several months I watched a Gator game on TV and never once wanted to throw the remote at the screen! Of course, Saturday is just around the corner.

  4. Great opener and a hopefully a preview of a season of scoring with so many options. Can you imagine what the offense will be like with 2-3 starters finding the basket? What a get with Egor transferring from Rice! Opponents, pick your poison please.

    Agree that it’s hard to keep the defensive intensity with an inferior opponent and a 20+ point lead. From what we saw (Mike White yelling and pulling players from the floor), the defense will continue to improve with each game.

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