Defense declines in UF’s SEC loss to South Carolina

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South Carolina guard Tre Campbell wards off Florida guard KeVaughn Allen during Saturday's game at the O'Connell Center. [Lauren Bacho/Staff Photographer]

Mike White didn’t mince words following Florida’s 71-69 collapse Saturday night against South Carolina at the O’Connell Center: the defense was a shell of itself from a week prior.

In that previous contest, a 77-43 dismantling of Butler on Dec. 29, the Gators consistently forced the Bulldogs into contested shots and poor possessions in winning their fifth game in six contests.

In the SEC opener, however, the Gators could only watch as a 14-point lead became a two-point defeat over the final 12 minutes.

“Those guys in that locker room with that Gator jersey, they put on a defensive clinic seven days ago. That wasn’t the same defense, and that was what was feared all week,” White said. “That’s what’s frustrating, because beating South Carolina would have been a very big win.”

Repeatedly, Florida took a double-digit lead, only to see the Gamecocks come storming back. Each time, it appeared as if UF would run away with the result, yet critical trips down the court often resulted in zilch on the scoreboard.

And even when the defense was able to force turnovers — the Gamecocks committed 22 of them to UF’s 15 — the Gators struggled to convert down the stretch. After scoring 19 of their 36 points in the first half off of turnovers, the Gators managed just seven points in the second half off of USC’s miscues.

In retrospect, UF freshman shooting guard Noah Locke chalked it up to an issue that has plagued the Gators throughout the 8-5 start to the 2018-19 campaign.

“I feel like we weren’t playing as aggressive as we should have been,” Locke said. “If we had been more aggressive, we could have been much better.”

Florida’s flaws were more apparent on the final possession. Senior Gamecocks forward Chris Silva may have used his hands to create separation, and he may have shuffled his feet, too, but White said it might not have come to that if UF’s defense had been in proper position.

“We were supposed to be running press, in man-to-man press. We were supposed to have a guy on (the ball), yeah,” White said. “We thought they were preparing for the zone press we had played the whole game. Unfortunately it was the wrong call.”

In all, as the Gators once again let a double-digit lead decay down the stretch, White said he was no longer surprised — just disappointed, considering the apparent progress just a week prior.

“Our defensive effort wasn’t the same as it’s been. I thought that we felt too good about ourselves all week, I said it to our guys every day,” White said. “We didn’t have a lot of maturity this week after coming off the performance we played against Butler. Didn’t get better this week. South Carolina out-prepared us, out-fought us, out-disciplined us.”


Up next

Who: Florida (8-5, 0-1 SEC) vs. Arkansas (10-3, 1-0)

When: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Ark.

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

19 COMMENTS

    • You can put all the blame on Coach White that you want. Doesn’t change the fact that it would be insane to make a coaching change at this point in his time here. Even if they miss postseason play this year, it’s best to give a coach a little more leash. Recruiting is getting better, if results don’t follow, then we have a problem.

  1. More than sad Monk, almost hopeless. These guys will not survive the SEC schedule without more dedication and developing techniques that are successful in the second half to finish a game it should have won.
    It’s bad enough that are players are undersized, and undisciplined in shot selection. But also cannot sink 3 point shots. There is a missing ingredient and they better find it quick, a good game performance every other foe will not get it done. NIT is looming, and even that may become lost.

  2. I have been a Mike White supporter over the years. I thought we should give him a chance to work out some of his inexperience and he would settle in to be a good coach. The problem is that he has not improved and I think he has regressed badly. I am a huge believer that basketball is more about talent than coaching. The coaches job is to put the players in the position to make plays and it is up to the player to get the rebound, make the shot, box out, etc. The coach can’t do any of that for them and with only 5 guys on the court, you can’t hide deficiencies very well. Last year, I thought he did a decent job of hiding the team’s lack of size because of injuries and many of the losses were because our players were just not good enough.

    This year, more than any of the other years, Mike White has not put his players in positions to win. He has complained about effort and hustle and want-to. These are players that he recruited. It is difficult to judge talent and how it will stack up on the college level. I get that elite recruits did not want to commit to UF after Billy Donovan left. All that being said, effort and want-to is pretty damn easy to spot. So if Mike White wants to call his team a bunch of lazy bums, those personality traits should have been easy to spot in recruiting. I get having some players that don’t go hard all the time….but 90% of the players! Coach needs to own his inability to recruit hungry players and then toughen them up in the offseason.

    The game on Saturday was absolutely horrible coaching. Too many 3’s. No movement on offense and when SC went to the 3-2 matchup zone that they play ALOT, the offense had no answers. You can’t run 3-guard high-motion against a zone that is stacked high. You have to attack the corners and the down low box. On the final play, the Gators chose not to guard the in-bound man. If you give the inbounder a clear look down the court, you must sandwich the deepest player. One guy in front and one guy in back. The other guys play passing lanes. The Gators were playing passing lanes and had 3 guys running around the 3-point line. If you are going to play that scheme then you put a 6-9 guy on the ball so the inbounder cant see down the court. It is basic coaching. If you watch the replay, the guy on the wing was left open and was streaking to the basket. Silva could’ve caught the ball and threw a pass for the wingman to dunk it or take an open jump shot. All the options were open! I read where White said the players were in the wrong defense. Well then take some initiative and use the damn time out you had left and put the players in the right positions!!! These are all examples of the coach not putting players in the position to make plays.

    I’m not so sure about Mike White. He seems to have lost his confidence as a coach. He is not very good at his offensive schemes and he is recruiting soft players. His off-season workouts are obviously not tough enough since he is complaining about his players preparedness and strength and desire constantly. I don’t think you fire him this year but if he cant win with the studs he is bringing in next year, you have to find a new coach.

  3. first ever comment………..on any sport….after 50 yrs of bleeding O&B
    The first year I had concerns even with elite 8………..he got a pass
    Second year.. saw the same……but reasonable success, Cheez’s miracle, and what appeared to be decent recruiting I let it go even though I told my son I was not sure White could coach, After all, BD did not leave him much.
    Last year without Cheez we don’t make the tournament and we have no shot this year as none of White’s recruits who are not freshmen this year have developed at all.
    I see:
    lack of fundamental ball skills
    a total lack of capacity and/or instruction to penetrate. You simply cannot have a successful 3 point game without it.For 3 1/2 years now we have watched useless passing around the perimeter for 15 of the 20 minutes of basketball. I simply don’t understand the lack of “plays”. “having no bigs” is not an excuse.
    Lack of consistent discipline ……and frankly I am tired of White blaming the players game after game………”we practiced that all week” “I have been telling….” etc………hey …THAT’S YOUR JOB!!!!!

    I know he is going to get at least another year because of the incoming recruits even though he still refuses or fails to get talented bigs but at least I am beginning to see posts that share my long held views…..White is questionable at best!!!! The rest of the SEC is getting better…….much better….. during his tenure, while we have declined significantly .
    We should at least have the plug in hand.

    • I agree with you on these points. I went back and looked it up. Billy Donovan left White with quite a bit of talent. He recruited Egbunu, Chiozza, Robinson and Kasey Hill from the 2016-17 Elite 8 team. They were the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th leading scorers on the team and the top 2 rebounders. They were also the players known for their toughness and leadership. The year before, Donovan left White all of these guys plus Finney-Smith and Frazier III.

      If you aren’t going to recruit 4-5* talent, then you have to find players with a high basketball IQ that are hardnosed and aggressive. Adrian Moss and Will Yuegette come to mind. Those guys went and got rebounds.

      It seems that we are stuck in this cycle of recruiting 4* guards, 2-3* big men and then offering nothing in player development or strength and conditioning. We then use an offense that requires inside-out movement but there is only one guy on the inside who can play. White may end up being a good coach but right now there seems to be WAY more questions than answers.

      • Don’t mean to sound disrespectful orlando, but there’s a couple of other things I think you should consider. One would be the fact that nobody was calling for BD to be fired after two (count ’em, two) straight NIT seasons immediately after the back-to-back NC’s. One would expect much better recruiting and development during that time. BD got back to that elite level, but it took a few seasons. Also, although there may have been some grumbling, nobody called for his head after five straight seasons (2001-2005) of failing to make it out of the first weekend of the tournament.

        The other thing is the fact that BD himself couldn’t even get the team he left MW to ANY post-season play in 2014-15. MW had them in the NIT the following season and a couple of minutes from a Final Four the season after that.

        That Elite Eight finish should buy some patience from the fans, especially since the injury bug severely depleted last year’s team and has hurt this season as well. Obviously Egbunu and Stokes never saw the floor last season, Chase Johnson missed all but a couple of games, and Gak was extremely limited by his bad knees. This season started with Egbunu opting not to seek a medical redshirt, and now Gak is still recovering from knee surgery, Johnson is gone, and Stokes is struggling having missed practice and playing time last season. That means Stone is having to start at the 4 when he’s really better suited for the 3 spot, and Hayes, who really should’ve been a career back-up, is starting at the 5 spot.

        Regarding some of the players BD left, DFS did play his senior season for MW, but MF II left for the NBA after his junior season and never played for MW. Regarding the inside-out ball movement for a perimeter oriented offense, there’s more than one way to create that movement, and for this team, the best way is to get penetration and then kick the ball back out. Nembhard did that well against SC, but the others who should be able to do the same, Allen and Hudson, were not effective. I like Allen, but if you want to play the blame game, he, like Hayes, is a BD recruit that MW was able to keep. Also, if you watched ESPN’s “Mic’d Up” segments during the game, you could hear MW hounding them to move on offense and drive the ball. He can only coach ’em; he can’t make the plays for them.

        MW’s 2019 recruiting class is his third straight top 20 class and is ranked number 9 in the country, number 2 in the SEC. It features a 5 star PG, a 5 star SF, and 4 star center. I don’t think Nembhard is going to be a one-and-done, so next year’s team should have three 5 stars and three 4 stars. Give MW a couple of seasons to develop those guys, and if he can’t produce a deep tournament run in that time, then I’ll join you in questioning his coaching ability.

        • No worries. I like a good discussion. I didn’t think you were disrespectful at all. Just to be clear, I did not call for Mike White to be fired and don’t think he should be fired. I was making the point that he did have quite a bit of talent to work with from Billy Donovan. Now, that being said, he is the one that put that talent together and took them to the Elite 8. I don’t entirely believe the saying, “that someone won with another coach’s guys”, because obviously the other coach couldn’t win with them. I was saying that at this moment in time there are more questions than answers.

          Last year, I thought that White did the best job he could to cover the deficiencies of that team. They lacked size inside and he did a great job of masking it and getting to the tournament, but I feel like that was because he had some very good guards who could shoot the 3-ball

          I also agree that his recruiting class is stellar and we should have a good amount of talent next year.

          My biggest concerns are this:
          Toughness: He is always questioning his players’ toughness but, quite frankly, that is one of the easiest things to spot in recruiting. I feel like we may be stagnant in strength and conditioning too. It feels like he needs to improve his ability to manage an entire program.

          Development: I’m glad he finally brought a coach on who can work with the bigs. The low-post offensive development has not been stellar. There have been injuries, but when it happens for consecutive seasons, you have to learn that adjustments and development are keys to dealing with injuries.

          His in-game coaching has to improve. I totally get that he cannot make plays for the players, but putting them in the best position to win is his job. This team does not have a very high basketball IQ. That was evident on the last play against SC. If you aren’t going to guard the inbounder, you must sandwich the deepest player. If you are going to play passing lanes, you must guard the in-bounder so he has to throw it high. The Gators did neither. White blamed his players and said someone should’ve guarded the in-bounder and they were confused if they were in man or zone. Well if you know your team can’t handle all of that, sometimes you need to take the TO and set the defense or dumb it down for them. If your motion is too complicated and nobody knows where to go, dumb it down.

          I think he is a young coach with a lot of upside, but I also think he needs to work on his game management, player development and program management. I don’t want him fired but I do believe that if he is stubborn and does not work some of these issues out, that he may end up much like Will Muschamp. Good mind, good guard coach, but can’t pinpoint or admit his weaknesses.

          • Well, orlando, I can’t see anything in your post to disagree with. Thoroughly reasoned and well stated. I completely agree that Silva should’ve been sandwiched by Hayes and Johnson, although I think I would’ve used Hayes and Stone for the extra length. At the very least they should’ve made Silva work harder than a light shove in the back to get free.

            That play actually brought back a horrible memory of a game in Columbia where Chandler Parsons was at the line for a 1-and-1 with the Gators ahead by one and about 3-4 seconds on the clock. Dan Werner was back at the SC FT line as a safety and the other three were in the front court but not on the blocks to rebound. Predictably, Parsons missed, there were no Gators on the blocks to contest the rebound and little resistance to the outlet pass. The outlet was a baseball strike to Zam Frederick (I think), who blew past Werner and laid the ball in for the win before Dan could even turn around. I swear I think he must’ve been looking into the stands, picking his nose, or anything other than watching Parsons take the FT, because I don’t see how any D-1 athlete who was paying even half attention could’ve been beaten so badly on a pass like that where everything was in front of him. Oh well, Go Gators!!

  4. Defense nonexistent. Love Hayes, but he is clumsy with the ball.
    Fellow Gators, you’ve GOT to give White a chance. If you’re looking strictly at facts, he’s done very well the past two years. We coulda/shoulda won last Saturday, let’s see if we come together and make the Tourney. You should not bail after the first conference game. But one thing for sure, and everyone here knows it, we need contributing big men!!!!

    • Thank you Joe! A well thought out post about the entire process. I remember all the hate on the local call in shows when Donovan was getting knocked out in the opening weekend every year. In 05 when MSU knocked them out, there was a vocal minority that wanted him fired. Back to back titles the next couple years seemed to make people forget. I’m not claiming White will ever win a title….but everyone outside of our own fans think he’s a great coach.

      • I’m with ya, Sparky. Basketball at UF is a different animal than football. For years it was just an afterthought and a curiosity to pass the time until spring football. Lon Kruger got our attention in ’94, and Donovan put us at the elite level for a stretch, but football is still the king. Coach White is recruiting at an elite level at a football school, and that’s quite an accomplishment. As you said in a post above, if he can’t do anything with the elite talent he’ll have for the next two seasons, then we most likely have a problem. Until then, I think he deserves our patience.

  5. I said when we hired White that you don’t replace an elite Championship coach at a top-tier program with a guy coaching at lower tier La. Tech. I said after four years we’ll see what we have with White, and I think we are seeing that now.

    But as for the defenders of White, I can understand their position as well… look at the top class we have coming in next season. Do you risk losing that class (or probably just one or two of the higher ranked players), to find a better coach? I’d have to say yes, you risk it.

    White reminds me of a basketball version of Will Muschamp… Muschamp was worried about having the best defense in the nation. White is tunnel-visioned on having the best 3 – point game. Problem is, they both forsook the rest of the things that made a team great.

    With White, our defense is intermittent and we just have no real inside presense in the paint. He recruits great three-point shooters just like Muschamp recruited great defensive talent, but White ignores the need for a couple of good, highly-ranked, big men who can control the lane and rebound.

    Once our three-point shooting goes sour in a game, we are basically beaten unless the other team kills itself with mistakes.

    I think White is a great guy and a great ambassador for UF, but I also believe he’s a basically a lower-tier coach at a top-tier program, a lot like willie taggart is at fsu, or McElwain was here at UF.

    • While I agree with you that the jury is still out on Coach White, by your logic we should never have hired Donovan. He was a young coach at a smaller program, and his offense was all about the 3 pointer in his early years. Donovan grew into the hall of fame coach in Gainesville. Here’s hoping Coach White continues to improve as a court coach.

  6. I’m still pro Mike White and still feel he’s the guy long-term. I’m no basketball analyst, but I think he’s got great basketball IQ and being young he can establish that Billy Donovan-like stability in the program. My belief is that the issues at times come from the team dynamic. It’s weird when the upperclassmen offer no consistency or aggression. If a couple of those guys (Hudson, Allen, Stone, or maybe Hayes) can show any sort of aggression, then this team is solid. It showed down the stretch on Saturday, nobody other than some of the freshman would take a shot!

    Sadly, I’m more excited for next year. We’ll have some great sophomores at that time and 3 really good freshmen. Then this team can really start to gel. Still hopeful this year’s team will bounce back. Go Gators!

  7. I was lucky enough to get a court side seat at a recent game right behind the Gators bench. I can tell you that Coach White tries to communicate with the players. I think he is a good coach. First thing since the Chase Johnson era is finally over, he is short one scholarship player and he was a front court player. He was a wasted scholarship and was not playing ever anyway, so I guess in the long term this is a good thing since maybe he can find another player who will actually play. In the short term this leaves them with almost no depth in the front court. If somebody gets in foul trouble (Hayes always does) or somebody gets injured (you know sooner or later this is going to happen in a long SEC season), they are going to have a lot of trouble matching up with bigger teams. You cant play guys you don’t have. Second thing pertaining to this game, the officiating was horrible. On the play wear they initially called a flagrant one on the SC player who clearly hooked and held Bassett, and then reversed the call after getting lambasted by the always cheerful SC Coach, that was absolute crap. By definition in the rule book it was obviously a flagrant one and they caved into the SC coach. Maybe White needs to yell more at the refs and he could get come calls. The final play Silva clearly pushed off to get space and it was not called. I saw another play where Silva again clearly hooked the Gator defender and it was not called. Coach White should have filed a complaint with the SEC regarding these officials if he did not. That being said, the Gators continue to go through long stretches where they just cannot score. Once again Hudson and Allen disappeared in a game where they were needed. I don’t know why Hudson even came back because he clearly is not motivated to play and has no confidence. I also think White needs to start Stokes over Hayes because at least he has some semblance of an offensive game, while Hayes’ only offense is the occasional dunk when he can catch the ball. Hayes also cannot defend without fouling and would be better coming off the bench. With a short bench there is no margin for error with this team. Guys who should be leading the team like Allen, Hudson and Stone need to step it up. The only guys I see playing aggressive are the freshmen Nembhard and Locke. At least the future looks bright. Sadly I fear unless some of the upper class men step it up, this is going to be NIT year at best. We will see in the next few games which way they go.