So much for the feel-good 5-0 start. So much for being billed as one of the best shooting teams in the country.
No. 5 Florida continued its tailspin Wednesday with a numbing 65-59 loss to Loyola-Chicago, a 16-point underdog, that left third-year coach Mike White and his players searching for answers. The Gators (5-3) dropped their third straight game, their longest losing streak since losing four in a row in White’s first season in 2015-16. It also was their second consecutive home loss.
The losing streak could extend to four if the Gators can’t get their act together before facing No. 17 Cincinnati on Saturday at the Never Forget Tribute Classic in Newark, N.J. (6 p.m., ESPN2).
“This is the lowest we can get,” Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson said. “I don’t think we can get any lower than this. I’m sure we’re out of the rankings; none of that even matters. But we’re as low as we can get. We’ve got to completely change everything we’re doing and go back to the basics. … We’ve got to have a change of heart, a change of everything. It’s not working.”
Florida let Loyola-Chicago get too comfortable early and paid for it late. The Ramblers made 10 of their first 13 shots and 5 of their first 6 3-point attempts to build a 13-point first-half lead and gain belief they could pull off the upset.
“I’ve done a very poor job with this team defensively,” White said. “We are not a good defensive team. We’re not very tough, and that starts with me.”
The Gators shot just 36.9 percent from the field, 2 of 19 from 3-point range and dished just seven assists. No Florida player reached double figures. Point guard Chris Chiozza had 9 points and 5 assists, while Hudson finished with 9 points and 4 rebounds.
Still, Florida had a chance to tie the game coming out of a timeout down 61-59 with 35.6 seconds left, but junior guard KeVaughn Allen missed a driving bank shot. Center Kevarrius Hayes appeared to tie the score on a putback tip but was called for basket interference. From there, Loyola-Chicago made four straight free throws down the stretch to close out the game.
Aundrae Jackson led Loyola-Chicago (9-1) with 23 points, while center Cameron Krutwig burned the Gators inside with 14 points and 8 rebounds. The Ramblers overcame losing starting point guard Clayton Custer to an ankle injury late in the first half.
“Just unbelievably proud of my guys for the effort they gave and battling through adversity when Clayton went out,” Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser said. “Proud of the culture, the type of guys that are here, happy for that kind of effort.”
White made a few starting lineup changes — going Hayes and forward Keith Stone up front, with Chiozza, Egor Koulechov and freshman Deaundrae Ballard in the backcourt. Allen and Hudson came off the bench, with Ballard making his first career start.
“I was looking for guys who were going to play hard,” White said. “We can not shoot our way into being an elite team, it’s not going to happen. Hopefully our guys know why. You have to learn to win games when you are not shooting at a high level.”
The lineup changes didn’t provide the intended spark. Stone had an early putback basket inside, but Florida left Jackson too open on the perimeter. Jackson made the Gators pay, hitting a pair of early 3-pointers to help ULC jump to an early 8-4.
Loyola-Chicago continued its hot shooting start, building a 27-14 lead on a Donte Ingram 3-pointer. Florida spent the rest of the half playing uphill. Chiozza capped an 8-0 run with UF’s lone 3-pointer of the half, cutting Loyola’s lead to 27-22. After ULC went back up 32-22 on a Donte Ingram 3-pointer, the Gators answered with a 9-0 run which included a Koulechov three-point play, Stone putback basket and Allen steal and transition basket. But Loyola-Chicago guard Marques Townes was able to hit a running basket in transition at the first-half buzzer, putting the Ramblers up 34-31 at halftime.
Florida scored 15 points off turnovers in the first half, which help offset a 1-of-8 start from 3-point range.
UF took its only lead, 39-38, early in the second half on a Hayes steal and breakaway dunk off an in-bounds pass. But Loyola-Chicago quickly took back control of the game, going up 42-39 on a pair of inside baskets by Cameron Krutwig and Jackson, which prompted White to call a timeout.
“We’re not a very accountable team right now,” White said. “We’re a team that has been told how good they are, it’s been at an all-time high right now in the past 10 days, so hopefully we’ve been humbled a little bit. We’ve got guys who have gotten a lot of accolades, scored a lot of points that are struggling to put it in the basket right now and their other deficiencies are glaring, none of which are very surprising at all to my staff.”
LOYOLA OF CHICAGO 65, No. 5 FLORIDA 59
LOYOLA OF CHICAGO (9-1)
Jackson 10-12 0-0 23, Krutwig 6-10 2-2 14, Custer 2-5 0-0 4, Townes 1-4 0-0 2, Ingram 4-10 0-0 11, Williamson 1-3 0-0 2, Skokna 0-0 0-0 0, Satterwhite 0-1 4-4 4, Avery 2-5 1-3 5. Totals 26-50 7-9 65.
Stone 4-7 0-0 8, Hayes 2-6 1-2 5, Koulechov 3-13 1-1 7, Chiozza 3-7 2-2 9, Ballard 3-6 1-2 7, Gak 3-4 0-0 6, Hudson 3-11 3-5 9, Allen 3-11 1-2 8, Okauru 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-65 9-14 59.
Halftime_Loyola of Chicago 34-31. 3-Point Goals_Loyola of Chicago 6-12 (Jackson 3-3, Ingram 3-7, Custer 0-1, Avery 0-1), Florida 2-19 (Chiozza 1-3, Allen 1-5, Stone 0-1, Ballard 0-2, Koulechov 0-3, Hudson 0-5). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Loyola of Chicago 29 (Krutwig, Ingram 8), Florida 32 (Koulechov 9). Assists_Loyola of Chicago 14 (Krutwig, Satterwhite, Custer 3), Florida 7 (Chiozza 4). Total Fouls_Loyola of Chicago 12, Florida 14.