Gators gain much-needed win, down West Virginia

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Florida coach Mike White. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

NEW YORK — After earning what coach Mike White called the “biggest win thus far in a very early season,” Florida is reveling.

The Gators knocked off West Virginia, 66-56, in the second game of the Jimmy V Classic Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

KeVaughn Allen scored a game-high 19 points to lead Florida, and while he was the only Gator to reach double-figure scoring, it was enough. Florida won its third game in its last five starts and improved to 5-3.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, meanwhile, spoke quietly.

The message behind his words could not have been louder. Or clearer.

“We have some guys who need to grow up, and if they don’t do it then I can’t have them around,” he said. And while he did not mention players by name, he said he has “three or four guys who continually do things they’re not capable of doing.” And, he added, they “pout” when they are criticized.

Asked if he was concerned his team could be upset by disillusioned players, Huggins said, “I think I can fix it. I’ve fixed it before. And when I can’t fix it, I cut it out.”

The loss snapped West Virginia’s four-game winning streak. The Mountaineers fell to 5-3. Chase Harler led West Virginia with 11 points.

“We knew we had to come out and just match their intensity just to give us a chance to win the ballgame,” Allen said.

Despite being outscored 14-4 in the final 7:25 of the first half, Florida went into halftime with a 30-27 lead. The Gators never trailed until Logan Routt drove the lane for a one-handed dunk with 16:39 left in the second half.

Florida responded with a 14-2 run in a span of 5:57 to turn a 31-30 deficit to a 44-33 lead. Keyontae Johnson’s driving baseline two-handed jam and Andrew Nembhard ‘s 3 on consecutive possessions highlighted the run and forced Huggins to call a timeout.

The break did not slow the Gators and when play resumed Allen drilled a straightaway 3 and Deaundrae Ballard made a free throw to extend the lead to 15.

“Our guys’ attention to detail in (the 1-3-1 zone) was pretty good, and we hadn’t played a lot of it,” White said. “We got off to a pretty good start by getting a couple stops and we just rode it.”

Florida would lead by as many as 16 after Noah Locke made two free throws with 5:15 left. The Gators would make 11 free throws in the final 2:24 to close out the game.

“Hopefully that gives us some confidence moving forward because we’ve struggled from the foul line_and we struggled from the foul line again tonight until the end,” White said. “Hopefully this gets us going a little bit to settle us in at the foul line.”

BIG PICTURE:

FLORIDA: The known is Florida’s defense. Entering Tuesday night’s nationally televised game the Gators ranked second in the SEC in points allowed (62.4 points per game) and third in steals (9.0 per game). The unknown was how potent they could be offensively. Even though the Gators were averaging 71.7 points per game, that number is somewhat misleading due to a 98-point outing against North Florida on Nov. 27. In their remaining six games, however, Florida has averaged just 67.3 points.

WEST VIRGINIA: ‘Live by the 3, die by the 3,’ is not the Mountaineers’ motto for the 2018-19 season, but it might as well be. In West Virginia’s five wins prior to Tuesday night it shot 38.2 percent from behind the arc, but only connected on 29.3 percent in its two losses. Against Florida, the Mountaineers missed 16 of 23 from 3.

UP NEXT

FLORIDA: Hosts No. 10 Michigan State on Saturday.

WEST VIRGINIA: Hosts Pittsburgh Saturday.

FLORIDA 66, WEST VIRGINIA 56
WEST VIRGINIA (5-3)

Ahmad 3-9 0-5 7, Harris 3-7 1-2 9, Konate 2-10 0-0 4, Bolden 1-11 0-0 2, Harler 4-5 0-0 11, West 0-6 1-2 1, Routt 1-4 0-0 2, Gordon 3-5 0-1 6, Matthews 0-0 2-2 2, McCabe 0-0 2-2 2, Haley 0-2 3-4 3, Knapper 2-5 2-2 7. Totals 19-64 11-20 56.

FLORIDA (5-3)

Stone 2-5 4-5 9, Hayes 2-3 2-6 6, Allen 5-13 6-9 19, Nembhard 1-7 4-6 7, Locke 1-5 5-6 8, Bassett 0-0 0-0 0, K.Johnson 4-5 1-2 9, Stokes 1-1 2-4 4, Hudson 0-3 0-2 0, Okauru 0-0 1-2 1, Ballard 0-6 3-4 3. Totals 16-48 28-46 66.

Halftime_Florida 30-27. 3-Point Goals_West Virginia 7-24 (Harler 3-4, Harris 2-5, Knapper 1-3, Ahmad 1-4, Bolden 0-3, West 0-5), Florida 6-20 (Allen 3-7, Stone 1-1, Nembhard 1-2, Locke 1-4, Hudson 0-3, Ballard 0-3). Fouled Out_Konate, Gordon. Rebounds_West Virginia 42 (Ahmad 9), Florida 38 (Stone 8). Assists_West Virginia 9 (Haley 5), Florida 12 (Nembhard 6). Total Fouls_West Virginia 30, Florida 22.


Up next

Who: No. 10 Michigan State (7-2) vs. Florida (5-3)

When: 12 p.m. Saturday

Where: O’Connell Center

TV: CBS

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

51 COMMENTS

  1. A win is a win, but Sly is right. The GAtorsn played poorly. West VA., thankfully, played worse. Writing from 20 years of coaching overseas, here’s my take. THIS IS NOT A GOOD TEAM AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON.
    There are so many things to list, I’m not sure where to start.
    ]THE OBVIOUS: Gators are below average from the free-throw line (29-49 vs. WVU). It says something about your team when you score almost HALF your points from the charity stripe. A pedestrian 6 of 23 from 3-point land. Fifteen turnovers.
    This was not a signature win. I am seeing Jalen Hudson disappear from the game (0-4 from 3 pt. line) and only played 7 minutes. There is no post play or big rebounder. in fact,there is little rebounding. Off THE BALL: I am seeing little movement when a player has the ball. Watch the other guys when NEMBHARDT is at point. I am seeing very little pick and roll, little passing and cutting to the weak side, no ferocity on defense or rebounding, and I really can’t tell you what type of offense White is playing, other than it’s a half-court game. Shot selection is limited because there is no inside presence. Well, almost none. I rate the defense as good. AT this point, the Gators have to limit the opponent to 60 or fewer to have a chance at beating other SEC teams. Right now, I think .500 would be a good season for this team.
    Finally, I do NOT SEE White setting a fire on this team. I am sure he sees what I see. I think he doesn’t want an up-tempo offense (for whatever reason) and he’s not getting players to move off the ball or position for an offensive rebound. I will stop here. I have been redundant and could keep going, but enough is enough. I think the NIT is a possibility.

    • I was going to offer up a number of thoughts on this game but no need, as the above pretty much covers it. This was a brutal game to watch for both UF and WV fans alike. Both teams played VERY aggressive on defense and whistles were constantly blowing. It looked like a brick layers convention. Hudson was not only 0-4 from the 3 point line, he also clanked his only 2 free throws. He is a shadow of the player he has been the past 2 years and I don’t think White really knows what to do with him. I do love the effort we are seeing from our freshmen players, so we can can hope that if Allen will continue to play like last night and Hudson comes out of his cocoon there is hope for the season. But of course, as I learned many times in my 40 year career, hope is not a business plan.

  2. So sad. A win may be a win – but the Gators are PAINFUL to watch on the offensive side. Hudson is an 0-fer and then Locke becomes an 0-fer. Bigs can’t hold on to the ball in the paint or get a shot up in the paint. No reason to believe a free throw will be made. White has a big job ahead solving this no-scoring mystery.

  3. I get all the negative comments, and I helped lead the ”Florida needs some bigs” argument. But Nembhard is a bright shinning star on a team that needs to gel and grow. Gator big man, Bassett, got into the game and immediately got 2 fouls and was yanked. Hayes, God bless him, will never have soft hands in the paint (4 years there, too!?!?), and Stokes is finally making appearances. Truthfully, I didn’t think U.F. would win last night, so… Go Gators! Shock the world and beat No. 10 Michigan State!

  4. I am happy with the win and it was nice to see Allen have a good all around game. Unfortunately, we do not have a go-to guy at this point who can consistently score. What happened the free throw shooting? Absolutely pathetic. While I was surprised to see how well our football team did this year, I am equally surprised at how poorly our basketball team is doing so far this year. White needs to recruit more “bigs” who (besides hopefully staying healthy for an entire season), can rebound and score.

    • cattrick, Hayes is from up here in Live Oak in Suwannee County. He was listed as a 4 star prospect, was part of the ESPN Top 100, and was ranked as the 16th best power forward, but I don’t think he was a McDonald’s All-American. He has some athleticism, but his hands and footwork are obvious liabilities that keep him from having any sort of post game. His offense is basically put-backs and dunks off assists from teammates. His FT shooting is obviously bad. He’d be a decent backup, but except for Stokes, he’s all the Gators have for the moment.

      • Smith
        TY for correcting me. He must have been an all-American Big Mac eater. Solid recruit: yes. Developed into all-SEC or better? No. He has gone downhill. Some of the recruits (Nembhard, Sloan and Stokes aside) there are some players on this team that better develop in the next 10 games or White will be on the hot seat. AS Vince Lombardi said (paraphrasing) “If you are not fired with enthusiasm to play for the Florida Gators, you will be fired with enthusiasm to not play for the Gators.” I just see such lack of intensity and focus in some of the returning players, not to mention the disappearance of a jump shot or free throw from them. We all know who they are. If I were coach and my returning best players have tanked the season with absolutely disappointing play, I might bench those guys and just go with the freshmen and sophomores who WANT to play fired up basketball. Get them ready for next season.

  5. All of the posts above are correct. The team does not look very good at all. I don’t know if playing defense that hard makes them tired when they are on offense but it sure looks like it. The problems I see is they stand around and look for one on one match-ups, they shoot very bad shots at times and can’t hit a free throw to save their life. I know we weren’t picked to win the SEC but we can’t play like this and expect to win against better competition. Hudson has been a disappointment all season. Allen had an okay game last night but missed to many shots to get 19 points. Stone and Hayes are playing hard on defense and are what they are on offense. Nembhard had his worst game of the season last night as did Ballard. It looks as if we are only going to go as far as our 3 point shot takes us, if it goes in we win if not we go down. Still early in the season for some major improvement so lets figure this out CMW. We can’t underperform year in and year out like this. Especially with the studs he has coming in next year. Go Gators!

    • I see Nembhard begging for a screen, a back-door cut, a cut through to the weak side, a switch and roll, an overload, but it’s just not happening and Nembhard looks stupid out there dribbling the ball for 15 seconds waiting for someone to break. He’s not yet a good dribble-drive-pass point guard, but he will be by next year.

  6. Sorry to say.
    coach white biggest problem has been players development.
    Every player on the teams he has coached has regressed. Keith Stone first appearance. makes 4-5 baskets in a row. Now he disappears. Allen scores 35 points as a freshman. Now he can not make a free throws. Hudson pre season All SEC. now he is bench warmer.
    Mike White might be a good man but, terrible coach in this league.
    I hope recruits do not read this. I am disgusted.

  7. Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to respond & provide analysis b/c Gatorsports could not be bothered to send a reporter to provide analysis!?!?! Maybe we cannot expect the Gators to perform very well if the expectations for this team are so low that the Gainesville Sun does not think it worth to cover the team as they head to Madison Square Garden & participate in the Jimmy V. Classic against an Big 12 opponent! Dick Vitale & Dan Shulman provide little helpful analysis during the game. That game last night set basketball BACK 40 years! And this comment is from a “relieved” victorious Gator fan. There is something very wrong with this team. The regression of basketball skills is frightening! The inability to grab defensive rebounds, the lack of finishing at the rim & the ABYSMAL free throw shooting are very frustrating. This team does seem to play very hard, have pretty good athletic ability & look for each other but I am sure Coach White must be incredibly frustrated in how they are actually playing basketball. Now I would appreciate someone much smarter than me who is with the team (a beat reporter??) that can analyze & inform the fans that care about basketball the strengths & weaknesses of the team & who they are improving! I am “happy” the Gators won last night but I am very concerned about what this season might hold for this team. I think the Gators are in a very precarious position right now. Maybe they gel as a team, understand their roles, run an effective offense & play to their potential (Allen & Hudson!!!!) or this season could quickly “get away” from them as they head to SEC play!

    • Yaz, I’m with you. Gator basketball coverage misses Kevin Brockway tremendously. For Pat and Graham Hall, basketball seems to be an afterthought, and I understand that considering their football responsibilities are still in full swing. I can’t understand, though, how Gator basketball doesn’t deserve its own beat writer. Regarding ESPN’s coverage, I feel bad for Dan Shulman, since he can’t even call the game for Dickie V’s self-serving ramblings about his favorite coaches, diaper dandies, and PTP’ers. His new Gator fan friend got almost as much TV time as the game. Then, we have to suffer through an interview with two WWE chicks about Madison Square Garden while the game is relegated to half-screen or ignored completely. Agree completely with your assessment of the game and team.

  8. Swarming defense was outstanding. Missed open looks continue to plague the team. Basketball is easy when the ball goes in the basket… players need to get going at the FT line too… won by ten despite all of this. Big game Saturday.

    • Finally a positive. Yes, the game was hard to watch. I was yelling at the TV so much my wife finally had to leave the room. But bully to the team for defense. Except for that stretch at the end of the first half, D was pretty good. And props the KeVaughn for his play. 5-13 doesn’t look too impressive but I really liked that he was aggressive. Still, the free throws kill me.

  9. Still early in the season and the Gators are figuring who they are and who they could be.Patience. Lot of newbies on the floor, and Hudson has time to work his way out of his funk. Kind of fitting the Gators played an ugly, grind it out game where they had to struggle and persevere to win. That epitomizes the point behind the classic– Jimmy V and his struggles with a disease that tests one’s will. I hope they learn from this in a way that shows up on the court and transcends beyond it.

  10. Credit Coach White, players. and staff for finding a strategy to beat WVa. “Gators Win”…66 to 56! There have been plenty of years, the Gators would have lost this game. I guess some posters here would be happy if we looked better even with the uncertainty of the outcome. WVa would certainly have taken the win and been very happy with it. You see, unless you have completely dominate talent, as a coach, you have to find ways to attack and defend you opponent in order to give your team a chance to win. That’s call strategy. Sounds like many posters here completely bought in to Vitale’s negative rhetoric and bashing of the Gators! I loved this game. We demonstrated our resolve to win. We took down a good program; another for the Gators! Give White and the Gators credit for the win. Go Gators!

    • Steve, it is no problem knowing how Huggins felt considering the number of times (and duration) that the ESPN cameras zoomed in on him and showed his every facial expressions and comments. He also talked to the game officials non-stop. Meanwhile, they showed very little of Coach White, probably because he has a calm demeanor and is not a show dog like Huggins. I actually like Vitale as a person, but as a game analyst, he prattles on and on about the coaches, how great each on is, and how he is good buddies with all of them. I actually watched most of the game with the mute button on, as I just want to watch the game and the young men playing it.

  11. I love all these comments about how this team sucks so bad. Last year at this time all these same posters were about to put a national title crown on this team’s head. We just started December — it means NOTHING unless you lose your way out of the tournament. No team in America looks now like it will in February.
    Everyone settle down, please.

    • I don’t think any are personal though. I love the team personally…just stating the obvious that our team is struggling to score…and that Hudson for whatever reason, has gone AWOL. To be fair…as I don’t recall many talking national titles last year, we did come out of the gate a lot better and played a stellar Duke team to the wire…and looked the part…only to be inconsistent. We also suffered through a bad shooting year for Allen.

    • I agree that it’s still early, Carlton, and the team can certainly show improvement between now and the end of the season. I do think there’s cause for concern over the shooting, though. Players can go into shooting slumps, but it usually doesn’t happen to every player on the team at the same time. So I think the pattern of poor shooting by multiple players is probably more indicative of poor shooters rather than slumping shooters. Ballard shot very poorly last season, but had been shooting well until this game. I hope it’s just a bad game instead of an indication that his hot shooting stretch was just an anomaly. Free throw shooting is a major concern, although they shot well down the stretch this game. Last season, when the team was riding high, Hudson was shooting FT’s at about 76%. Then, he missed the front end of a potentially game clinching 1-and-1 against Duke, and he probably shot in the low 60’s the rest of the season. My point is that shooting doesn’t generally improve significantly during the course of the season, so I think it’s a big concern. Of course, I trust that Mike White knows the team best, but I think the way for this team to shoot better is to get easier shots, and I think the way to do that is to play faster in transition.

    • Carlton, you do realize that most of these people posting are writing these comments b/c they CARE about the Gators & the basketball team!? Because the Gainesville Sun seems disinterested in covering & providing quality analysis about this team, we as fans (& most of us do not profess to be experts) can only comment on what we saw. While very happy to win the game this was NOT a good performance (& we haven’t seen any prolonged stretch of quality basketball yet this season). It was a “gutty”, hard fought victory. However, the quality of the basketball did NOT make many of us feel very comfortable as we head into a very difficult SEC schedule. Most SEC games (in fact most conference games — regardless of conference or even level of play) are battles & usually will come down to the last 2 minutes & execution of half court offense &/or making free throws. I have been watching Florida Gator basketball since 1982 & I hope this team does play well & improve, but I am also very concerned that it could quickly head in the “wrong” direction without better play from our senior/upperclassmen leaders.

  12. Agree with many commenters, including Reza on player development. Ask yourself, do your eyes tell you that the following players have improved during their careers: K. Allen (other than his physique, his play is still inconsistent and sometimes disinterested), K. Hayes (no hands, no footwork, no game), J. Hudson (regressed, shell of himself…sad), K. Stone (same as he ever was).

    Also, what has happened to this team since the Duke game on November 26, 2017? Over the first eight games of last season, the team averaged 97.4 ppg, including four games over 100 points. For the rest of the season, they only scored 80 or more in five games. While opposing defenses may very well have made adjustments, my eyes tell me that White clamped down on the offense in order to emphasize defense. This team no longer shoots freely with confidence. J. Hudson is the prime piece of evidence in support of this theory.

  13. Adding to original overview of the Gators, I watched the highlights again (some would say the lowlights). I see Nembhard really improving as point guard. He is trying to get others involved in the offense, but many of his teammates are not responding. Nembhard is just a freshman so he’s getting on the job training. We can’t expect his to be Cheeze or Wilbikin his first year. He is the only bright spot I see among a slew of mediocore players. But these mediocore players were supposed to be stars. “Where have you gone Jalen Hudson?” Allen plays most of a game like he is lost. Getting 19 or 21 against WVU is nothing to brag about. So, here is my final take on this team after 8 games. The D will win them some games in the SEC against the bottom feeders, but not against TEnessee, LSU, Auburn, KY and others. If, and this is a big IF, those offensively challenged players start finding a reason to play offense –and get their shooting touch back from the line and the floor–Gators have a slight chance at 20 wins. Right now, winning 15 games would be an over-achieving season. Nembhard will be a top-notch point guard by his sophomore year. Thankfully those seniors who are taking up space and shooting bricks will be gone. So, it’s wait for next season for White to produce. The only thing I might try as a coach is go to the up-tempo offense and see if that works. It seems apparent the half-court offense is not working. White might also mix up the offenses during the game. Triangle (forget that offense. You need a solid #5 or 4 and a consistent outside shooter to make that work). So what will White do?

  14. I am also thinking White has too many players in the rotation. The standard lineup is 7 or 8 players. That’s for those in the rotation to understand what the other players do and to gain confidence. I am not sure why Donte Bassett is playing as he does not yet understand that Div. I is not the IMG Academy. I know every player on the team wants to get in, but a coach can definitely screw up his team by playing 10-12 guys every game. Some will just have to sit and watch and learn, much like Joakim Noah, Taurean Green, Al Horford and Lee Humphrey had to do during the 2004-05 season (Brewer was the only 04 who started immediately).

    • I like your analysis and agree. That has been a knock on Leonard Hamilton…playing too many guys. I think here an there it has worked (2000 Gators for ex.), but a rotation of 8 to me is probably the max it should be to get continuity in the game.

      • 8 IS PERFECT FOR THIS TEAM. Continuity is a perfect point. During my coaching days, a player only moved into the rotation if there was an injury or that player outplayed the guy ahead of him in practice that week. Most years 8 were in the rotation, a few years I used 9 because I had more than enough top defensive players. One worrying note: I am still not sure White knows who should be in the rotation to give him the best chance on offense and defense.

      • I don’t mind using a lot of players if, as you say, the continuity is there. If you’re playing a lot of players just trying to find a combination that works, that’s a problem. Out of curiosity, I looked up games played and minutes for the ’06 and ’07 NC teams. The ’06 team had 9 players play in 35 games or more with a minimum of 9.2 minutes per game. The ’07 team had 10 players play in 30 or more games with 7 averaging 17.7 minutes or more and the other 3 averaging from 5.7 to 8.9 minutes. Obviously those teams had continuity, but I certainly get your point. I’m hoping Coach White will crank up the tempo a bit, so it might be necessary to play 8 or 9 to keep fresh legs on the court.

        • Joe S: Yeah…you are right. 07 did add Speights and Werner to the mix with Hodge and of course the 6th man extraordinaire Chris Richard. I think ole Leonard was playing like 12-13 cats…but then again he got to the Elite 8 last year but I believe he lowered it to 10-11 🙂

          cattrick…this team should def have a couple of guys learning from the sideline. 2013 Casey Prather sat basically 2 full years and most of his junior year before being a really good college player for us.

  15. A win is a win, but god that was ugly. They played poor. The only reason they won was because WV played even worse. This team can’t make a free throw. There is no excuse for how poor their free throw shooting is. In a tight game that would be the difference and they would have lost. They also have no inside scoring. Even then the free inside opportunities they had they missed. Easy layups and put backs. Horrible. Also, on offense there is very little ball movement and player movement. Too much dribbling around on the outside and no dribble penetration. They are just standing around. They are not going to beat a good team playing like this.