Gators look to get offense cranking to start SEC play

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Florida senior guard Jalen Hudson sets up for the shot against Butler in the Dec. 29 game at Exatech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Hudson scored 11 points in the Gators' 77-43 win. [Cyndi Chambers/Gainesville Sun Correspondent]

The non-conference portion of Florida’s schedule didn’t go exactly the way coach Mike White hoped it would with four losses, three of them in the last couple of minutes.

The Gators find themselves still trying to figure things out offensively and working through different combinations on the floor.

They’ve run out of time.

SEC play begins tonight when Florida (8-4) takes on struggling South Carolina (5-7) at 7 p.m. at Exactech Arena.

“There are a handful of teams in our league like us,” White said, “We have a little bit of room for a jump if we can fix some things. South Carolina is one of those teams that can make a jump.

“It’s an exciting time.”

Basketball is different when conference play begins because the teams have a familiarity with each other and have had plenty of time to figure out themselves.

But that’s still a concern for White and a team that has been challenged offensively.

“We’re still defining roles, especially offensively,” he said. “Back in the summer, I wouldn’t have forecast it would take this long to search offensively.”

Florida is hoping last Saturday’s performance against Butler — a 77-43 win in what was Florida’s best performance of the season — was an indication of what is to come rather than a one-time fluke.

“It was one game,” he said. “We played very well. If you want to be a good team, you have to do it in a bunch of games.”

Another positive sign — senior Jalen Hudson may have figured some things out.

He has struggled through much of the season, but in the last two games, Hudson has scored 25 points with 13 rebounds. He has made 5-of-11 from 3-point land in those two games.

“It’s been pretty challenging, but I have been trying to stay with it, stay in the gym, play with confidence knowing I can play well,” Hudson said. “Just trying to break through it.

“It was a bunch of things. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.”

Don’t expect a lot of scoring tonight. Florida is 12th in the SEC in scoring, South Carolina 13th and the Gamecocks are last in the league in field-goal shooting.

But Frank Martin’s team still has 6-foot-9 forward Chris Silva, who will be playing in his seventh career game against the Gators. Last season, when the two teams split a pair of road wins, Silva had 18 points and 12 rebounds in a 77-72 win in Gainesville.

“He’s terrific,” White said. “He plays with an incredible approach. Nobody plays harder than he does.”

And everybody tends to play a little harder when conference play begins.

“As demanding as our non-conference schedule was, we had a few built-in inferior opponents,” White said. “We don’t have that anymore. We have 18 really tough games.”


Today

Who: South Carolina (5-7) vs. Florida (8-4)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: O’Connell Center

TV: ESPN2

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

PROBABLE STARTERS

FLORIDA (8-4)

KeVaughn Allen; G; 6-2; Sr.; 10.3 ppg; 2.6 rpg

Noah Locke; G; 6-3; Fr.; 9.4 ppg; 2.1 rpg

Andrew Nembhard; G; 6-5; Fr.; 7.3 ppg; 5.8 apg

Keith Stone; F; 6; 8; Jr.; 7.6 ppg; 4.8 rpg

Kevarrius Hayes; C; 6-9; Sr.; 7.3 ppg; 6.5 rpg

SOUTH CAROLINA (5-7)

Felipe Haase; F; 6-9; So.; 6.0 ppg; 3.4 rpg.

Keyshawn Bryant; F; 6-6; Fr.; 9.3 ppg; 3.7 rpg

Chris Silva; F; 6-9; Sr.; 12.5 ppg; 6.8 rpg

A.J. Lawson; G; 6-6; Fr.; 13.8 ppg; 4.8 rpg

Tre Campbell; G; 6-0; Sr.; 5.3; ppg; 1.8 apg

NOTES: Florida coach Mike White addressed on Thursday the decision by redshirt freshman forward Chase Johnson to transfer. “He wanted a fresh start,” White said. “It’s unfortunate. Yeah, just unfortunate for him. I know we were disappointed, but it’s part of it. It’s part of college basketball.” Johnson suffered three concussions during his time at UF, severely limiting his time on the court … Johnson’s decision opened the door for former manager Mak Krause to receive a scholarship. The walk-on grad student has played in six games and taken only one shot this season … Florida has won six straight SEC openers … The Gators split last year’s series with the Gamecocks and haven’t won two in a row against South Carolina since a seven-game win streak that ended in 2015.

— Pat Dooley

5 COMMENTS

  1. ”Florida is hoping last Saturday’s performance against Butler —a 77-43 win in what was Florida’s best performance of the season —was an indication of what is to come rather than a one-time fluke.”
    But then you tell us, Pat Dooley, ”Don’t expect a lot of scoring… Florida is 12th in the SEC in scoring.”
    So now it’s league play, expect the unexpected, I get it. But the Gators have to shine for 18 games starting now. That is if they wanna’ play in the NCAA’s in March. So, time to shine, Gators! Chomp-chomp!

  2. Hopefully Coach White is able to pull in another front court player to replace Johnson next year. Maybe he can lure in a solid grad transfer, allowing him to recruit another for the following 2020 class. I just hope Allen and Hudson build a little bit of groove off of the last couple of games into the conference schedule. Those two are the difference between 55-65 points a game and 65-75 points a game, and with their defensive play working at a high level, that’ll be the biggest diffference between 8-10 SEC wins and 12-14 SEC wins. Go Gators!!!