Gritty Gators missing from action vs. South Carolina

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Florida senior guard Chris Chiozza drives around South Carolina defender Wesley Myers on his way to the basket Wednesday at the O'Connell Center. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

In the hallway near their Exactech Arena locker room, Chris Silva and Wesley Myers — the South Carolina heroes of the night — were studying box scores with big grins.

As Gamecocks coach Frank Martin walked by, Silva with a long finger pointed out to his coach the stat that mattered most to him.

“Twelve rebounds,” he said. “That’s something I’m proud of.”

About 20 minutes later, Mike White glanced at a crumpled box score of his own. He didn’t need to study anything to know what went wrong for the Gators on Wednesday night.

“Our margin of error is not that big,” he said.

Welcome to the new look SEC, where you had better pack a lunch every time you pull on your game jersey.

Because Florida did not, the Gators went from the ecstasy of a big win four days prior to the deflation of a home loss to a team that was under .500 in the league.

On Saturday night, White was firing up a bus of happy Gators as the team pulled away from Rupp Arena. On Wednesday night, he was wondering where those guys went.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he said.

In a way, though, it does.

Florida has two major weaknesses on defense — the lack of size inside and the inability to cover 3-point shooters.

Bang went Silva inside. Swish went Myers from outside.

The two players combined for 40 points, the only Gamecocks in double figures. It was enough because Martin played nine guys for at least 11 minutes each and the other seven combined for 37 points.

Silva, they knew all about. They even knew that Maik Kotsar seems to take his game to a different level against UF as anyone who watched last year’s Elite Eight game knows.

But South Carolina’s ability to make 3s gave the Gamecocks a halftime lead and allowed them to rally after an 11-0 UF run to start the second half.

“We let them get comfortable,” said UF’s Egor Koulechov. “First half, they make seven or eight threes. When we do that on the road, we feel pretty good.”

But this was hardly an aberration. Florida came into the game last in the SEC in defending the 3. It certainly didn’t improve its standing with South Carolina going 11-of-21 beyond the arc.

“I don’t know what it is with our late clock 3-point defense,” White said. “It’s gotta be 80 percent.”

White was quick to point out how well South Carolina played. They came in needing a resume win and left with a big RPI boost. And that’s the thing. This Florida team, as scrappy and tough as it has shown at times, has to grasp that it needs to be that way at all times.

It’s not good enough to coast. Especially on defense. Especially against a team that is going to play hard for every second it can breathe.

“Every mistake we made, they made us pay for,” White said.

They did and a lot didn’t go right for UF. Perhaps the game could best be summed up by one play with two minutes to go. Koulechov made a steal stumbling near the baseline and — as he was falling out of bounds — turned to find someone to throw the ball to.

Except there was nobody there, except Myers.

“We’re running down the court like it’s noon ball,” White said of the pickup games with coaches and managers. “We gotta get the damn ball in first.”

Seconds later, Silva hit a jumper for a five-point lead.

And you started to get that feeling that it was another frustrating loss to this team.

So here’s the deal — there’s nothing that can be done to get that game back. Baylor awaits Saturday. Like every team left on UF’s schedule, the Bears are good enough to beat Florida.

The Florida of Wednesday night.

“We can’t be a roller-coaster team,” said Koulechov.

Nobody can make that erratic ride stop but the guys on the court.

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

58 COMMENTS

  1. And in spite of all that, and it’s all TRUTH, IF ONLY THEY COULD MAKE LAY UPS! I said it back early in December, they HAVE TO MAKE EASY SHOTS UNDERNEATH THE DANG BASKET! They missed at least 8 points underneath the basket, (a game of ) HORSE SHOTS, and that would of given them 80 points! A win!
    Regroup and play harder, ’cause y’all aren’t ”good enough to coast”. Go Gators!

  2. Same poorly defended, poorly executed, unfocused game that we played when fsu came to town. White has to figure out a way to get these guys ready to play at home. Like the fsu rivalry game, this SEC game was important and we laid another egg at home.

  3. We have no inside game. Hayes is too young and raw. Teams now overplay the 3 pt shot and we’ve gone from averaging 90+/game to 60+/game. WE also got exposed on the defensive end inside. WE NEED BIG MEN!

  4. Wow – so, so, so disappointing – not sure how in the world we finally beat Kentucky in Lexington and get all excited and then the very next game just get completely outplayed by a mediocre South Carolina squad in Gainesville.

    Coach White is the real deal, but I feel sorry for him coaching this group – he has to be as frustrated as us fans.

  5. There is still the element of make/miss in basketball. So. Carolina more than maxed out their 3 point shooting. Sometimes that happens. That’s not just on the Gators D. Sometimes teams are just hot. It happens. The Gators also had a sub-par game at the free throw line. And had a sub-sub-par game turning the ball over. If any of these things go according to season norms (for either team), the outcome is probably different.

    • Agreed 100%. There were two things at work here: (1) a bad matchup; and (2) bad luck. Our strength is moving the basketball around and hitting threes. South Carolina’s strength is defending the three. Bad matchup. And on the other end of the floor, South Carolina was hitting threes at a pace that was utterly inconsistent with ANYTHING they’ve done this entire season. Bad luck. Of course Coach White is correct that we have to defend the arc better, but shoot, those SC guys were hitting out of their minds. We should NOT have had to defend the arc well from a statistical standpoint.

      • I guess you missed the fact we’re last in the league in 3 pt defense. Seems like a lot of teams get hot against us. Perhaps it’s you that doesn’t understand the concepts of basketball…

        • Hardly. The best shooters in the world rarely shoot 52% from 3 in any box score, against any defense, in any league. Let alone the entire team. Yes our 3 point defense is last at the moment, maybe that’s because we collapse to the paint due to the fact we have ONE NATURAL POST DEFENDER, as I MENTIONED. Would you rather give a team paint touches against our 6’5 and under guards/4 men all night, or collapse and risk running out late on a 3 point shooter?

  6. What a big disappointment to me personally and all the Gator fans, what a let down. Coach white I now question your coaching ability. Gators cannot guard against shooting threes, why? are they short legged or just don’t care as much any more and think they will coast just because they are favored.
    Coach you coached a bd game. The players come in as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and that is not good enough for Florida fans especially after the disappointment of the Florida football team.
    Well when does college baseball season start?

    • Give me a break. Coach White can’t suit up and play. Your comment suggests to me you didn’t watch the game. And probably don’t watch much Gator basketball.

    • There is no doubt the intensity was missing. But, CMS, Coach White needs to run a more balanced offense and stop relying on one on one basketball. I was at the game and watched every possession with a birdseye full court view. The only player moving for the first 15-20 seconds on the majority of trips was the guy with the ball and perhaps the guy setting a single pick. The others just stand around and watch.

    • hussein, you might as well give up on baseball, too, because after the Gators first loss they’ll be a “terrible team with no talent, no grit, and no heart”, and Sully will be the worst coach to ever sit in a dugout. If you didn’t question them last year, especially offensively, then you weren’t paying attention. Basketball and baseball teams are gonna lose games. The 06 and 07 championship teams lost 11 games combined and last year’s CWS champs lost 19. Relax!

  7. What a big disappointment to me personally and all the Gator fans, what a let down. Coach white I now question your coaching ability. Gators cannot guard against shooting threes, why? are they short legged or just don’t care as much any more and think they will coast just because they are favored.
    Coach you coached a bd game. The players come in as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and that is not good enough for Florida fans especially after the disappointment of the Florida football team.
    Well when does college baseball season start? why can you not adjust during the game and why are our players hot one game and cold the other all the time.

    • Hussein, you question his ability? Seriously? Yes, when does baseball season start so you can concentrate on a game you might know something more about. Thanks for being a fan and cheering on the Gators, but if one single game where the team isn’t fired up is enough to change your tune….just sit there and cheer, ok?

    • You just have to love fans that think the games mean more to them than players and coach that work hours upon hours for their sport. As Mark Wise says, enjoy the journey, and quit taking every loss personal. Coach White is a great coach! We have a team that is pieced together. They aren’t gonna look great every game. Go Gators!

    • Come on man…really? Speak for yourself. So, when Billy D had poor shooting teams between 2011-2014, it was coaching? This is still a tourney team. The SEC is a tough league this year and was underrated last year…and we are dealing with missing personnel. South Cack is better than their record. We have to get out of this funk at home though, but clearly not all Gator fans feel as you.

  8. Coach, watch film of other teams’ defense. Make some adjustments. No other team switches everything on defense like you do, leaving guards to play defense inside against bigs. Chiozza and other guards are often taken inside. Get at least one assistant who can coach the bigs. Ours have digressed. There is something badly wrong when Egor is continually posted inside by guys 3 and 4 inches taller. He is not a post or at least, he can’t defend one.
    Hudson is your best player. Take some minutes away from Egor and let Olaru play. He can defend the 3 point line or at least he tries.
    Very poorly coached team as some of us have said all year. And, did Stone attempt any 3’s last night? And, if coaching is not your forte, and it isn’t get better recruiting. You badly need to get down to POLK COUNTY for a look at 3 players in the 2019 and 2020 classes. One at Lakeland High, one at Auburndale High, and one at Lake Wales High. One at Lakeland High is 6-8 and says his dream school is UF. One at Aburndale High is son of a legendary player in Polk. Hurry or Leonard will be there if he isn’t already.

    • Literally everything about your post is so ill advised. Like Sparky said above, stop taking everything so personally. If you don’t think Mike White is a good basketball coach, you simply don’t know anything about college basketball. At all.

    • Are you daft?! What bigs? When Kalashnikov is your second biggest guy on court, what, play him at point guard?? White is a great coach doing the best he can with what he’s got. Not only is your criticism ill founded, you seem to not pay attention to who White is bringing in. Please, jump off that ledge. My Gators read this stuff, and need less of you.

    • Hayes is not too young or too raw. Hes refined his game big time since his freshman year. He simply is what he is.
      We have big men. They are injured. Chase Johnson is going to be a beast. Stokes is going to be a beast. EGBUNU IS A BEAST. Unfortunately it’s not guaranteed that either of those 3 guys will be back this year.

    • GatorLover,
      Watch the NBA, this is the Era of “switch everything” defense. And, when you literally only have ONE healthy post defender, why not do it? Stone is more suited to play the 3. Hayes is Undersized, but has better length than the average for his height. Basset is used out of necessity, clearly and needs to develop. With Egbunu, Hak, Johnson, and Stokes out theres not much else we can do.

    • This team appears to be one that could be one and done in the tourney, or if they get hot they can make a deep run. Cheese is the only “star player” on the team, imo. Last night he wasn’t at his best, and I’m not sure they will win often when he isn’t.

  9. So, Pat, you are saying that we’re pretty good on defense, except we didn’t defend inside very well, and didn’t defend outside very well, LOL.
    D is about “want to” more than anything. Thus, I disagree with the “we had a bad night/it’s a bad matchup”, etc crowd. S. Car. wanted it more, our players admitted as much. Our players got to them too late when they were getting their feet set, taking their time and draining 3’s. Then I saw our players settling for threes from NBA range, or throwing them up there the instant they caught the ball(specifically saw Egor and Allen do that a bunch), because S. Car hotley contested everything.
    Can’t stand that this team can’t consistently fight to win, game after game, except maybe Chiozza.

  10. Tell you what. Everytime they play in the O’dome I go “OH NO”. I think this team will be lucky to make dance. They just aren’t that good without a solid interior presence. What we thought were “solid” wins, don’t look so good anymore.

  11. With no competent bigs to defend the other teams bigs, our defense has to collapse inside thus are exposed to giving teams uncontested outside shots. It’s happened all year. Hayes, Gac, Stone can’t do it consistently without fouling or double teams. Why in the heck year after year we can’t recruit competent big men. Our woe’s won’t end until Eg joins but how much he can play is yet to be seen. Lastly we live and die by the 3 because again we have zero, zilch inside scoring game.

  12. Too bad Florida doesn’t have the interest or money to attract someone like Tony Bennett. Unlike our boy toy, 27-yr-old coach now, Bennett would not have lost the Florida St., Loyola (Chi.) and S. Carolina games. The Athletic Dept. is so giddy about the new fb coach, I doubt they even check the bb scores until the following day.

      • You refer to one game?! Check with 25 AD’s across the country and see whether they’d take White or Bennett. I would guess maybe one of 25 would take White.

        • Dude, I know who Tony Bennett is….TOTALLY different styled philosophy which was why they went after a young coach who ran similar sets and pushed tempo. Chaka Smart took the Texas job a year before Billy D left.
          He likely would have been the guy due to his success at VCU. Why? His familiarity with the system we run and because he coached under Billy D. Tony Bennett did fairly well at Washington State 2 out of his first 3 years….made the tourney twice. Mike White is in year 3 and just finished in the Elite 8 in year 2…and beat Tony Bennett rather easily his second year. Based on that, I would ask, how are you so sure White isn’t on the uptick or at the very least would have the career Bennett has had if given the same time?

        • A Tony Bennett coached team probably couldn’t score 30 on FSU! He’s in his 9th season at UVA and has been to the Elite Eight only once despite being a 1 or 2 seed in three straight seasons. UVA lost to the 10 seed in that game. In two NCAA tournament games against the Gators, Bennett’s UVA teams have averaged 42 points per game. Yeah, that’s just what the Gators need. Give White 9 seasons and see what happens.

  13. Coach Martin is a bad match-up for White. Some coaches have that problem. Tennessee always used to give Donovan fits. Coach White has to figure South Carolina out. That being said, White is a great coach and this team has good players. They just don’t have any big men. And that matters when defending the three point line. If you have to double in the post or sag to help inside or crash the boards to rebound, you drop an extra step from the perimeter. When you do that, you are a step slow in recovery. However, last night the sagging and doubling didnt work and we gave up all kinds of points on the perimeter and inside. This team has no margin for error and this was a bad bad match up. I feel bad for Coach White because if he had some of his bigs, we would see a much improved team. He has hidden our deficiencies very well.

    • Exactly. The 2006 Gators matched up poorly with South Carolina and Tennessee that year and lost both times, barely beating South Caroling in the SEC title game. Excellent point on match ups. Also like gelco said….they were on fire from 3.

  14. Mike White is an ELITE basketball coach, and anyone who can’t see that clearly has a very limited understanding of the game.

    • Exactly. This is why we can’t be a basketball school. A lot of our most vocal fans literally know nothing about basketball. Coach White is absolutely in the ranks of the elite.

  15. So, that means Frank Martin and Auburn’s Coach are elite. lol A survey of top 50 coaches in America by AD’s would include maybe 1 AD who would choose our coach. That would be his father at Duke. When K retires, if he attempts to bring in his son, there would be a revolt and he would be fired or killed. Dookies would not put up with this.

  16. Some posters have mentioned that White is an elite coach. Oh, please, okay? Elite coaches do not lose THREE HOME games (in less than 2/3 of the season) when they were PROHIBITIVE FAVORITES!Did you get that — prohibitive! Florida’s missing players were accounted for in the Vegas betting spreads. Anyone dumb enough to think these wiseguys are stupid? After watching the S. Carolina debacle, wouldn’t be surprised if Emmitt Williams cancels his visit this weekend.

      • @Smith, perfect allegory!
        bf, White achieved the elite 8 in year two of a power five major college program. Does that establish him as elite? Perhaps not, but few coaches can boast that accomplishment, and the Gators employ one of them. I can’t think of more than five coaches I’d truly prefer at this stage. You judge him after every gave vs a full season. Myopic much?

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