Cronin: Gators need to keep Chiozza fresh

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Florida's Chris Chiozza (11) takes a shot in front of Cincinnati's Jarron Cumberland during the second half Saturday in Newark, N.J. Florida won 66-60. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin witnessed the ability of Florida senior point Chris Chiozza first hand during UF’s 66-60 win over Cincinnati on Saturday at the Never Forget Tribute Classic.

Chiozza finished with 15 points and six assists, including scoring the final six points that turned out to be the difference in the game.

“Great player,” Cronin said. “Give the kid a lot of credit. He’s smart. He made shots today. Takes care of the ball. Never gets tired. One of the better guards in the country.

“I think the key for them, obviously, is keeping him fresh. Somehow you’ve got to keep him fresh. It’s a long year. I’ve relied on a guy like that before, and it’s tough. You’ve got to find a way to keep a kid fresh.”

Chiozza logged 36 minutes in the win and is averaging 31.3 minutes per game, a significant jump from the career 22.9 minutes he averaged heading into his senior season. At 6 feet and 175 pounds, Chiozza has already absorbed his share of punishment driving the lane, suffering a bruised elbow during the preseason and bruised ribs and an elbow injury in UF’s overtime win over Gonzaga over Thanksgiving in Portland.

But considering Florida’s backup options at the point are freshman Mike Okauru and junior guard KeVaughn Allen, who isn’t a true point, the Gators are going to need to ride Chiozza for significant stretches the rest of the season. Florida coach Mike White said Chiozza is one of the toughest players he’s coached and has prepared himself during the offseason to take on more minutes.

Chiozza said it wasn’t his intention to “take over” the game down the stretch against Cincinnati, but the Memphis native certainly came up with some big shots and big plays in the final minute to help the Gators end a three-game losing streak.

“I just was trying to play for my team,” Chiozza said. “And I just happened to get a lateral break out from Jalen (Hudson) and two free throws and layup. I just had a chance to get one. I wasn’t really looking for shots. I was just trying to make good plays and that just fell into my hands.”


Up next

What: Orange Bowl Classic

Who: Clemson vs. Florida

When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: BB&T Center in Sunrise

TV: Fox Sports Florida

Radio: 103.7-FM

Tickets: Orange Bowl ticket sales office at (305) 341-4701 or email tickets@orangebowl.org.

6 COMMENTS

  1. The coach is right. And I believe Okauru is excellent and up to the task. I think Okauru is the best freshman guard other than Beal that we’ve had in a long time.

  2. Cheese is one of the toughest and most durable point guards I’ve ever seen in the Orange & Blue (and as a life-long Gator basketball fan, that’s saying a lot). Keeping these starters ”healthy and fresh” is very important for this U.F. team. Just look at how much they’re missing their center, John Egbunu. I can’t even imagine this basketball team without Chris Chiozza. And hopefully, these Gators won’t ever have to.
    Go Gators! Beat Clemson!

  3. It’s smart to develop Okauru and our other young players quickly. Mike White is doing a great job in getting minutes for everyone.

    We have experienced players starting in most positions, the bench is young. These relief minutes will pay off in many different ways.

    • ye gads……..very far from a NBA player. Can only rebound so-so and block few shots……minimum for any NBA center. He has to have some kind of offense and more physicality.

      • so you would think, but the NBA is very ready to jump on board and sign anybody with the one talent Egbunu has that can’t be coached, 7′ tall. look at the career that Mareese Speights has had, and he’s only 6’10”.

        I remember hearing a stat: 45% of all seven-footers get NBA contracts. That’s not 45% of all seven-foot basketball players. That’s 45% of all seven-foot people. It is a very, very small group.

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