SUNRISE — Don’t expect Florida coach Mike White to lighten up on his players with Christmas approaching.
In fact, White is considering ratcheting up practice length and intensity to try to get the Gators to break out of their recent funk. Florida lost for the fourth time in its last five games Saturday, blowing a 12-point second half lead in a 71-69 loss to Clemson at the Orange Bowl Classic.
White was asked whether UF’s legs were compromised during a travel-filled non-conference stretch that included three games at the PK80 Tournament in Portland, Ore., and a game in Newark, N.J., against Cincinnati last week. Florida bused down to Sunrise on Friday, a 5-hour trip, and took a bus back Sunday.
“We’re not going there with my guys,” White said. “I gave them off Sunday, I gave them off Monday. We’ve had three separate times this year where I’ve given them two consecutive days off. I’m sure Clemson has practiced as long, as hard, as we have, if not longer and harder. I’ve really tried to shorten stuff up. I don’t think we’ve gone longer than an hour and 15 minutes in a month, as part of dealing with that. That probably leads to some mistakes we make in games, too.
“If we looked more tired in the second half than Clemson, it’s more mental than physical. I’m just a believer in that. They were bouncing around, staying in front of the basketball, and we weren’t. Heck, the game is 40 minutes long. We went an hour and 15 (Friday), three days ago we went 47 minutes, I remember bragging to our guys how short we went. Maybe that’s something we need to address and consider.”
Florida has two home games remaining — Wednesday against James Madison and Friday against Incarnate Word — before its SEC opener Dec. 30 at home against Vanderbilt. White will give his players Christmas weekend off to be with their families before returning to campus to resume practice the following week to prepare for Vanderbilt.
On Saturday, White also bemoaned the quality of practices, which he says has been inconsistent this season and has led to breakdowns on both offense and defense during games.
“I’m just a huge believer in you practice how you play, and vice versa,” White said. “If you practice really well it usually carries over to the floor. I told our guys to be honest, we get back from Cincinnati and we’re good again. That’s not the right mentality. We had two very, very poor practices, early.
“We went four straight days. Took off Sunday, Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday we were horrible in practice. That’s who we were. I could count the number of bad practices on one hand that we had last year. I don’t understand it. When you have to coach effort a lot in practice it takes away from some other things that you should be better at. That said, the last two days we were really good. We bounced back. But this team has got to get to the point where we do that every single day, or we’re gonna continue to have some tough postgame locker room environments.”
Who: James Madison (4-8) vs. Florida (6-4)
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: O’Connell Center
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850