Gators’ lack of depth on display late in loss of UK

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Florida freshman guard Andrew Nembhard (2) and senior center Kevarrius Hayes (13) walk off the court after losing Saturday against Kentucky at Exactech Arena in Gainesville, 65-54. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

After an emotional win over Ole Miss just three days prior, coach Mike White seemed concerned about his team’s energy level coming into Saturday’s battle against No. 7-ranked Kentucky, thanks in part to Florida’s noticeable lack of depth.

The decisive 10 minutes against the Wildcats seemingly confirmed White’s premonition.

Kentucky closed the game on a 34-12 run, as the Gators seemed overwhelmed and overmatched.

But that was hardly the case through the first 30 minutes at the O’Connell Center.

After holding a 42-31 lead in the second half, the Gators experienced a complete drop-off in offensive production, especially from the three freshmen, who provided 47 of UF’s 90 points against the Rebels on Wednesday night.

“It just seemed like we couldn’t score for a couple days there. We couldn’t find a way. Tried a couple different ways to generate it, and it didn’t work,” White said. “I thought it affected our defensive energy a little bit.

“We have to be more accountable defensively when we are struggling offensively.”

Andrew Nembhard, who led Florida with 10 points in the first half, couldn’t find his shot in the second half and managed a lone basket as a result. Noah Locke, averaging 2.9 three-point field goals per game, didn’t score in the final 17:20 after making his second 3-pointer. And Keyontae Johnson may have hauled in 10 rebounds, five coming on the offensive end, but four fouls kept the high-rising forward from contributing offensively over the final 18 minutes of action.

Call it the “freshman wall” or simply tired legs: the truth is, with an opportunity to pick up a statement win, the Gators ran out of gas before the finish line.

“Yeah, we were fatigued down the stretch, of course,” White said. “I thought we played with a lot of energy and motion, and the place was rocking. And I rode those guys. We’re not the deepest team, as we know. And I probably rode those guys too many minutes.”

Johnson concurred with the frank assessment of his head coach.

“At the end, it showed that (we were tired). We just stopped communicating at the last part of the game and were missing rotations,” Johnson said. “No excuses at all. We run a lot in practice, we just weren’t getting stops while trying to catch our breath.”

One could also attribute the late decline to the differences in the each team’s preceding showing. The Wildcats dominated from the opening tip Tuesday in claiming an 87-52 win at Vanderbilt — a far cry from Florida’s overtime outcome against Ole Miss a night later.

But Nembhard, unwilling to make excuses for a UF team that led by double digits in the second half against a top-10 team, kiboshed that notion.

“That’s just the SEC,” Nembhard. “That’s not one of the excuses I wanted to make for this game, for sure. We just need to push harder the last 10 minutes of the game or so. We have it in us, we just need to do it.”


Up next

Who: Florida (12-9, 4-4 SEC) vs. Auburn (15-6, 4-4)

When: 9 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala.

TV: ESPNU

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

17 COMMENTS

    • We need big, physical style players in the paint, at least one big athletic center and forward, and we’d be a better team for it. Look at how fsu’s huge frontcourt manhandled us under the boards in game #1.

      Secondly, White does not develop these players nowhere near the level that Donovan did, and does not have a grasp of how to develop them to fully take advantage of each players’ individual strengths, nor how to use them in crucial offensive or defensive situations in a game.

      Hate to say it Gator Nation, but White is a La. Tech level coach, and that’s about all we’re going to get out of him too.

  1. Forget the depth thing the Gators seem to flip a switch and for 5 to 10 minutes at a time they are the most uncoached undisciplined team you ever saw. It’s like five guys playing one on one with no common sense, nobody even runs a set play, not even the coach. I watched the Gators play good basketball for most of the game and then the lightbulb went out.

  2. Has depth been an issue for the entire 4 years that White has been the coach? I’m just sick of Mike White’s trademark as a coach being painfully long scoring droughts. Not even “Gators have only scored 4 points over the last 5 minutes”, but “0 points for the last 7:46….7:47…7:48”, the clock keeps ticking. If that’s what lack of depth looks like, then so be it, but when you can lead a team by 11 in the 2nd half, you need to win the game. Simple as that. If you can’t, then you don’t need to be the coach. Simple as that.

  3. The Gators have a Top 10 ranked recruiting class coming in for next year, including 2 McDonalds All-Americans and a 6’9″ front court player. Still, I think they will need more help, especially in the front court. CMW needs to find a center / power forward with the offensive skills needed to complement their perimeter shooters. Otherwise, next year could be a repeat of this year, where every game will be a hit or miss proposition on the offensive side.

      • Todd, I understand your frustration but do not agree with your call to fire him after this season. Two major reasons to not “cut the cord” at this point. First off, you have a young coach who has had his team in the Big Dance in 2 out of his first 3 years, including an Elite8 spot 2 years ago. Granted, this year will change the ratio to 2 out of 4, but the point is the replacement challenge. What high level successful coach would want to come to Gainesville knowing the trigger is so quick. Maybe Rick Petino (Heaven help us!) but that’s about it. Second is the potential defections of the incoming recruits as well as the current good crop of freshman on the team. The only thing quicker than an AD’s trigger finger these days seems to be the door to the transfer portal. Patience is a tough thing in the sports world these days, but I think a coach should get at least 5 years to build his program and believe that White should get this time. No doubt you will not agree with me, but that is one Gator’s view point.

        • DanF, I posted recently on my thoughts on changing coaches. Most of the top basketball players have their relationships built with the college coaches before their JR year in high school. Coach White didn’t truly get to start getting “his guys” until the current class of freshman. If things don’t start to look better next year, we can all start talking about the hot seat. Mark Wise was talking on the radio today about how some of our fans were ready to run Donovan off prior to the ’06 season. We fans can be pretty blinded by our wanting to win it all sometimes.

  4. We all know the Gators need help in the front court, no doubt! Didn’t the U.F. coaches see this scenario coming? They shoulda! I did! I wondered about the U.F. front court all summer. I even called Steve Russell’s legendary, local sports talk show at noon on 98.1 F.M. and brought the topic up. So ”Gatorsports.com,” I love y’all, but please quit throwing this team ”excuses.” Because as of Monday, Feb. 4th, 2019, this is it. This is the hand their dealt (Gator Basketball), so what are you all going to do Tuesday in Auburn, and then Saturday against the U.T. Vols in Tennessee? Those games could easily get the Gators an NIT bid (1 outta’ 4 thru ”the gauntlet”, or help generate the momentum towards an NCAA Tourney bid (with 3 outta’ 4). Excuses won’t get the committee’s attention, nope, only W’s will now!
    ”The cream rose to the top” against Carolina, U.T., Miss. St., U.K., etc… (and it was not U.F.).
    Still, Florida played with all those teams early on. But only for the other teams to punch it like a Bugatti Veyron and leave U.F. behind in the 2nd half, as if Florida was driving an electric Prius. Time isn’t on the Gators’ side. Now it’s do or die! Play in the NCAA’s, the NIT, or worse still, no tourney for the U.F. Men’s Basketball Team in 2018-2019, and U.F. Coach Mike White’s 4th year. And oh Gatorsports.com, we already know ”THE EXCUSE” why… So, ”Just do it, Gators!”

  5. Gator’s starting 5 Saturday were just as big as Kentucky. KY like UF, is playing a 3 guard, 2 forward lineup. Coaching only gets you so far, and sometimes talent just wins. During the 06-07 magical run, the Gators were down in the 2nd half numerous times, only to close with a flurry and win the game. If next season looks as bad as this, the Gators will have a reason to look for a new coach. Right now they need better players.

    • Something we should have tried a long time ago due to our lack of big men. Worth it for parts of the game! If it doesn’t work at least we made an adjustment. You have to! Stokes has quickness issues but it’s up to our coach to make adjustments and figure out how to counter our severe lack of height and use our big men to help us as best as we can which he is not doing now!

      • I totally agree Stevob, and RSGATOR! But here’s why it won’t likely ever happen:
        (1) Coach White has been force-feeding Jalen Hudson and praying (like all of us Gators who ”believe”) that Hudson will miraculously ”wake up” from his funk and score 30+ points in a game. So Coach White ends up giving Jalen way too much time, in my opinion. (2) Hayes is a non-factor on the offensive side, we all know it! But he is, however, worth having on the ”starting 5” for his effort, rebounding, and ‘D’. So Florida only has 2-3 consistent scorers (as it is). So Bassett and Stokes presently avg. 2-4 p.p.g. (3.) Coach White, i.m.o., truly believes as a former guard at Ole Miss, and running a ”guard heavy system” most of his coaching life, that guards are your ”scorers” and bigs are for rebounding and ‘D’. See above!
        (Coach White must not know who Corey , Joakim, and Al are?!?! Who knows?)
        And lastly, I think Coach White sincerely believes that his ”bigs” would get into foul trouble in a scenario like: Hayes, Stokes, and Bassett on the front court at the same time. And yet, K.J. is the only to have gotten in ”foul trouble” lately.
        But truthfully, playing all 3 U.F. bigs at the same time could only help slow down a bigger team (like U.T.), and give the guards more space (and o2 breath) to play the 3, and outside shots.
        But that is ONLY IF Coach White’s ‘D’ played a simple man to man, or reg. zone. But they don’t, watch tonight, they get burnt (a lot) when they ”switch, rotate” and ”help out” in Mike White’s system. And then a Bassett, or a Hayes is now guarding a shooting guard (who then drains a 3 over them, as they half heartedly reach out to block it).
        Still, it would be cool to see SOMETHING DIFFERENT! Either way, Go Gators!

  6. well, I have been wondering what “fake news” looks like…….now I know. lack of depth cost us the Kentucky game….???? Give me a break. How about lack of player development ? When the starters are on the court…..The bench has Hudson, Stokes. Bassett, Ballard, Okauru and could have included Stone and Gak but for injury. Forget Hudson…. I for one don’t blame CMW for his demise but lets review. Stone, Ballard and Stokes( who weighed 280 in HS) were recruited as 4 starts. Bassett and Okauru..3 . None start (even Stone had been taken out the starting lineup). Tenn’s #1 ranked team is entirely made up of 3 stars recruited by Barnes in the EXACT SAME TIME FRAME as CMW’s tenure. Yes, although he was already there…Schofield was a 3 and so was Williams, Bone and all other main Tenn. players. Tenn recruiting classes were 60th, 49th and 59th while CMW had
    2 out of 3 in the top 20 during the same cycles.
    In the meantime rising programs in the SEC like: Ala., Auburn, LSU, and USC…along with Tenn have all hired coaches within the same time frame as CMW’s tenure (except Martin) and doing much better. Is it because they hired (except LSU) experienced and proven coaches? maybe.
    Regardless, in my view, White has one more year to prove he can coach. No more excuses and certainly not that our bench lacks depth!!!!

    sU

    • How are Alabama and Auburn doing much better than UF? Same conference records and Bama fans want their coach fired. Some of it is about perspective. If UF finishes 9-9 in conference, there is a great chance they make the dance. If not, next year will become a proving year for Coach White.