There were no offensive fireworks on this night for No. 5 Florida. No rain fell in Rainsville.
Instead, Florida continued its letdown trend against rival Florida State. In a hapless offensive display, the Gators hardly resembled a top-10 team, falling 83-66 to the Seminoles at the O’Connell Center.
Florida (5-2) suffered its fourth straight loss to the Seminoles and its first home loss of the season. The Gators, who came into the game leading the nation in scoring at 99.5 points per game, were unable to solve an athletic FSU team that overplayed the passing lanes and crashed the boards. Florida State scored 19 points off 17 Florida turnovers, outrebounded the Gators 51-34 and outscored the Gators 24-8 in second chance points.
Florida coach Mike White said the Gators spent the last 24 hours talking about throwing the first punch in a rivalry game. But instead, White said, it was FSU who threw the first punch and didn’t stop punching.
“Tonight,” Florida coach Mike White said, “was the epitome of soft.”
Asked how to solve the rebounding problem, and whether abandoning the four-guard starting lineup is an option, White said: “I don’t know what to say there. It’s not our strength. If we get (senior center) John Egbunu back healthy, we’re not looking at that for a while. Again it comes down to being more accountable. Kevarrius Hayes, he had no defensive rebounds but he fought as hard as anybody, Kevarrius and Chris Chiozza are flying around, playing with physicality. It’s those 8 to 10 missed block outs by guards that we work on every day in practice, that needs to get better.”
Defensively, the Gators had no answers to stop FSU junior swingman Terrence Mann, who led all scorers with a career-high 25 points. The Seminoles (7-0) also got 17 points from sophomore guard CJ Walker and a double-double from senior forward Phil Cofer (12 points, 10 rebounds), who finished his FSU career 4-0 against the Gators.
“We played exceptionally well tonight, probably a little better than we have been playing,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Florida brought out the best in us tonight and hopefully we can continue to play that way.”
Junior guard Jalen Hudson led the Gators with 16 points, with junior guard KeVaughn Allen adding 15 points. Senior point guard Chris Chiozza struggled, scoring just 3 points with 4 assists to 4 turnovers. Florida shot just 36.2 percent from the field and 24 percent (6-25) from 3-point range.
Hudson said the Gators were a “little too celebratory” in practices after winning two of three games and taking No. 1 Duke to the wire over Thanksgiving weekend at the PK80 Tournament in Portland.
“It’s just a reality check because I think maybe we felt too good about ourselves, coming back from Portland,” said Florida senior forward Egor Koulechov, who had 11 points but struggled from the perimeter, going 1 of 7 from 3-point range. “This is kind of what we need as a team, not just to get back to basics but to work harder, be mentally tougher and find other ways to win because we’re not going to be hitting 15 3s every game.”
Playing its first game in eight days since falling to No. 1 Duke in the PK 80 Tournament Finals in Portland, Ore., Florida slogged through a sloppy first half. FSU hit a pair of 3-pointers early and jumped to a 10-1 lead when Mann stole the ball from Florida center Kevarrius Hayes and drove in for a breakaway dunk.
It was a sign of things to come. Florida State scored 11 points off 11 first-half turnovers for the Gators. Florida took a brief 15-14 lead on a Hayes putback but missed a chance to build a lead when Hudson and Hayes combined to go just 2 of 5 from the free-throw line after an FSU flagrant foul.
Mann heated up, helping FSU regain the lead 20-18 on a three-point play while drawing Hayes’ second foul of the first half in the process. The Seminoles went up 28-22 on a pair of Cofer free throws, but Florida, sparked by a pair of freshmen, went on a run to regain the lead. Freshman point guard Mike Okauru’s 3-pointer cut FSU’s lead to 28-25, while freshman Deaundrae Ballard put the Gators back ahead 33-32 on a putback jumper.
Hudson put Florida up 34-33 before the Seminoles closed the half on an 8-0 run. Cofer scored four points on the run with a turn-around inside jumper and breakaway dunk off a missed Chiozza drive. Hudson was unable to hit the rim on a rushed, contested 3-point attempt at the buzzer as the Gators went into the locker room trailing 42-35 at halftime.
Florida shot just 11 of 30 from the field in the first half and 4 of 16 from 3-point range. FSU also had its way on the boards, outrebounding the Gators 28-21 in the first and outscoring Florida 14-6 in second-chance points.
“We were pressing from the jump,” White said. “It was ‘how quickly can I get a shot up’ putting our head down against a team that does a good job swarming to the basketball and taking charges.”
It didn’t get much better for the Gators in the second half. Florida cut FSU’s lead to 48-44 on a Hudson dunk in transition, but couldn’t get closer as FSU extended its lead to as many as 18 in the closing minutes.
“It’s super humbling,” Hudson said. “We’re definitely not as good as we think we are, we’re definitely not as good as the rankings say. We’ve got to get back to work.”
FREE THROWS: Freshman 6-9 forward Chase Johnson was unavailable due to an illness. Johnson is day-to-day. … Freshman center Isaiah Stokes, still recovering from a torn ACL, did some shooting drills a few hours before the game. Stokes is still at least a month away from returning and could choose to redshirt. … Scouts from a handful of NBA teams attended the game, including scouts from the Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors. … The Seminoles’ four-game winning streak against the Gators is their longest in the 68-game history of the series.
|FLORIDA ST. 83, No. 5 FLORIDA 66|
|FLORIDA ST. (7-0)|
Cofer 4-12 2-2 10, Obiagu 2-3 0-0 4, Mann 11-17 3-4 25, C.Walker 5-9 4-6 17, Angola 2-11 4-4 10, Kabengele 0-6 0-0 0, B.Allen 0-0 0-0 0, M.Walker 2-6 2-2 8, Savoy 0-2 0-0 0, Forrest 2-6 5-6 9. Totals 28-72 20-24 83.
Hayes 1-3 1-2 3, Hudson 5-11 4-9 16, Chiozza 0-5 3-4 3, Koulechov 4-13 2-2 11, K.Allen 4-11 6-6 15, Stone 1-2 2-2 5, Bassett 0-0 0-0 0, Gak 1-1 0-0 2, Ballard 4-10 0-0 8, Okauru 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 21-58 18-25 66.
Halftime_Florida St. 42-35. 3-Point Goals_Florida St. 7-23 (C.Walker 3-6, M.Walker 2-5, Angola 2-7, Savoy 0-1, Cofer 0-1, Mann 0-3), Florida 6-25 (Hudson 2-6, Okauru 1-1, Stone 1-2, K.Allen 1-6, Koulechov 1-7, Chiozza 0-1, Ballard 0-2). Fouled Out_Forrest. Rebounds_Florida St. 42 (Cofer 12), Florida 32 (Ballard 9). Assists_Florida St. 9 (C.Walker 4), Florida 7 (Chiozza 4). Total Fouls_Florida St. 19, Florida 20.