UF’s effort not good enough at this level

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Florida guard Jalen Hudson drives past Arkansas' Anton Beard during the second half Friday of the quarterfinal at the Southeastern Conference tournament in St. Louis. Arkansas won 80-72. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS — Arkansas hasn’t won anything yet. The Razorbacks are still two victories away from claiming an SEC Tournament title and who knows what will happen next week with an erratic team?

But they sure celebrated like Friday night’s win over Florida was a big one.

And who can blame them?

Florida has owned the Razorbacks of late. But with a throaty crowd celebrating every shot like they were back in their own arena, Arkansas handled Florida and stuck around long after the game to celebrate with loud whoops and hog calls.

Or maybe they just didn’t want to take a chance on the streets of St. Louis.

Either way, Arkansas enjoyed this one and Florida and the few fans who cheered for their team were left wondering why they again regressed.

“It wasn’t our best effort,” Florida coach Mike White said. “We need to get home and find our mojo.”

Again.

Team Mystery went sour in St. Louis. For whatever reason, they weren’t the same team that has won so many big games against quality teams and they were the same team that has laid so many eggs they could make the world’s largest omelet.

“Some of us were ready to play and some of us weren’t,” said Keith Stone, who would definitely fit into the former category.

But the fact that he would say that just adds to the mystery that is this team.

“We had four or five guys that just weren’t the same,” White said. “Our intensity level wasn’t as high as theirs.”

When it is, they are really good. When it isn’t, it’s not good for the Gators.

For this Florida team to have success the way they had the last three games of the year and at various points during this season, they had to do all of the little things to make one big thing.

Like rebounding.

The Gators have an excuse for losing rebounding battles because of their lack of size. But excuses are for the weak and when the Gators have stayed within reach of opponents on the boards they have been fine.

Friday night? Arkansas outrebounded Florida 43-28.

“We were pounded on the boards,” White said.

That will get you knocked out of a lot of tournaments.

They have to lock down defensively on every position and commit to that defense. While the late fouling skewed things a little, Florida gave up 80 points.

“We couldn’t find a way to get stops,” White said.

That will get you knocked out of a lot of tournaments.

And when you add those two things into a 4-for-20 from Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov, well, you get knocked out of a lot of tournaments.

Like this one.

The Gators had so much going against them in this one, including a crowd that was 80-20 in favor of the Razorbacks. There was also — if you buy my theory — that it’s an advantage to have played one game on site than it is to spend three days in a hotel.

(The SEC scheduling of punishing the three seed with the latest game makes no sense, but I digress).

Mostly what they had going against them was that Arkansas really wanted this one. The eight-game losing streak might have been only a press release stat before Thursday night when it was brought up to Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford.

They seemed almost insulted and acted hurt. And determined.

But all of that — the crowd, the streak, the officials (did I mention them because it was the most exasperated I’ve seen White at a game this year?) — were not the biggest reasons Florida’s SEC Tournament was both long (in terms of time spent in St. Louis) and short (in terms of number of games played).

The Gators just didn’t play well enough to win a game at this level in this event. They continue to be their own worst enemies at times.

As a result, they are one-and-done and yet, still alive as far as the season goes. Sunday’s seed may be knocked down a line with the early exit. But the only thing that matters is whether or not they do those things next weekend that they didn’t do this weekend.

“It’s never a good thing to lose,” said senior Chris Chiozza. “Hopefully, this gives us our edge back. It’s a new season Sunday after they tell us where we’re going. We have to get that edge back.”

The sad thing is that this game was going according to script for much of  the first half. It felt like Florida should have been up double digits and somehow found itself down by one.

“We had an opportunity to spread the lead,” White said.

There was another baffling missed layup (there would be another couple in the second half) and the inevitable missed free throws by Hudson. And, of course, that 3-point shot that goes in that leaves you shaking your head.

This one belonged to Barford, as if he needs any help (he had 27 Friday night after 28 the night before). It bounced off the rim, landed on the top of the backboard and dropped through.

That’s the thing about tournament play — sometimes it’s just not your night.  Sometimes you just lose to a really good team. But usually when you do it’s because you didn’t play like a really good team.

This Gator team has had to regroup so many times they should be able to write the manual on it. Now, one last time taking everything they have learned during a crazy season and applying it to the biggest game of the year.

Because the rest of the way, every one of them could be your last.

And if they play like this, it won’t take long.

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

12 COMMENTS

  1. I know we will never get rid of conference tournaments because they are money makers for the conferences, but they are such monumental wastes of time and energy.

    • Only when the Gators get embarrassed the way they did last night. A pitiful effort on offense and defense. No movement. Passing up open shots and then driving into a crowd. Disgusting is the only way to put it.

  2. Someone might mention to White that the strategy to attack a zone is not to dribble, but to pass and have a guy at the high post, such as Stone. Between Chiozza and Egor, turnovers were plentiful and forced shots or clock violations were numerous.
    This team definitely lacks rebounders, White wouldn’t play his hottest player on the night, no defense, and Arkansas 2nd shot and tips were killing.
    White is simply in over his head, as several of us have said all along. We may get hot and win one but 2 in a row is probably out of reach for this bunch.
    Recruiting is not White’s forte, either, particularly instate which is loaded. One top 2018 signed with A&M from state finalist Oak Ridge, another from Oak Ridge to sign with LSU, best 2019 leaning to Duke or Miami. It goes on and on. Vernon Maxwell’s son leaning to Duke or Carolina.

  3. What happened in this game has been my biggest complaint all year: NO EFFORT. NO HEART. NO DETERMINATION. NO HUSSEL. NO DEFENSE. NO REBOUNDING. NO SHOOTING. NO BALL MOVEMENT. NO PLAYER MOVEMENT. They played like they did not care and their lack of effort and desire showed. They were whipped like dogs and manhandled. You cannot win in the tournament with this effort. If this is how they are going to play they don’t bother to even show up.

  4. Stone and Cheez played hard. The first 10 minutes of the game the whole team played pretty hard. But after that it was really just those two. Hudson really disappeared. Egor took bad shots (on top of missing an easy one). Hope they get the bad game out of them before the NCAA’s.

  5. How many shot clock violations did we have in the 1st half? And Egor throwing up bricks , really! When he is off, and it happens to every player he still insist on taking stupid shots. We have a bunch of whiny , sensitive players, they think they should get a trophy for being there.

  6. Hudson two early fouls in the first half and sat till the second half
    + Florida had it going early then the officials made some questionable and inconsistent calls that ruined their flow
    + Florida became hesitant to attack the basket after a few early charging calls
    + Arkansas scored some points assisted by a few lucky bounces off the rim
    + Florida losing confidence
    = Loss in a meaningless game in the big scheme

    Let’s quickly forget this meaningless game and move on.
    Let’s get excited for the next game; a game that actually matters.

    Pat – Love your signature quirky analogies and similes:
    “Team Mystery went sour in St. Louis. For whatever reason, they weren’t the same team that has won so many big games against quality teams and they were the same team that has laid so many eggs they could make the world’s largest omelet.”
    When the time comes, you should publish a book compiling them and then go on a post retirement speaking tour.

  7. Kevarrius Hayes is a body taking up space. Not much production for a player who had the 4 most playing minutes in the game vs The Hogs. Tally 26 minutes = 5 Rebounds,0 Ast,and a blah 4 points. Gordon Gak had 5 minutes and tally 1 point. Dontay Basset tally 4 minutes recorded no stats. That sounds like Basset was not fully recovered from his concussion or something else. Gak is no threat to any team ,average 2.3 PPG & 2.4 RPG. No Post game = early exit in the dance.

  8. When your teams is not playing well change defenses and press to get them better engaged, get some turnovers. Stop the dribbling and trying to go one on one into a crowd, do we not have an offense other than that. Tell Hayes he must have 10 and 10, no reason he cant if he gives effort and stop trying to block every shot and leaving your man open for o rebound dunks. Hopefully it wasnt true that all he shows of film is the good things they do, that would be a disservice to them

  9. Pat, great article that accurately describes how I felt watching that game. My family & I drove 7 hours each way from Michigan to watch that disappointing game! Additonally, I agree with almost all of the points made in the comments section also. Between the missed Egor layup(should have been a dunk) & the 6 rapid foul calls against the Gators towards the end of the 1st half — I told my son to watch for the foul count to even out although I told it it would probably be subconcious by the officials–Ha Ha 🙁 — the game really turned on Florida. I agree the Gators played soft & without much passion & reverted to poor shot selection –Why did we take a timeout at the end of the 1st half & design a last play of the half that became Allen dribbling for 10 seconds & then getting the ball to Chiozza at the top of the key with 5 seconds remaining so he could try a driving fadeaway shot?? I have seen that offensive set too frequently this year! It is easy to dismiss the value of the SEC tourney & I cannot find a correlation with success in the tourney & success in the NCAA’s from the Gators past history. However, the ‘Cats seem to find value in putting forth the effort. If I knew the Gators didn’t care about the SEC Tourney then perhaps I shouldn’t have made the effort to support them. Maybe that is why there were probably more KY fans at our game than Florida fans & many more Arkansas fans (It is a 4-6 hour drive for them depending on where they live in the state). Kudos to all you Gators who did make the effort! I was concerned the “bad” Gator team might make the trip to St. Louis & it appears there were many gator fans much smarter than me. In fact David Lee didn’t even make the trip to pick up an SEC award?? It is none of my business & I hope that all is well with him & his family but it was strange to have Scott Stricklin accept the award & wave to the polite applause from the crowd. I guess the good news is this team will now be unranked as they head to the Tourney. They seem to have performed much better this year without the accolades & recognition & when we are most concerned about their play. I hope they have us right where they want us.

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