White hoping Gators’ bench steps up at Alabama

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Florida forward Isaiah Stokes shoots Wednesday against Vanderbilt at the O'Connell Center. Stokes scored a career-high 8 points vs. the Commodores. [Lauren Bacho/Staff photographer]

As the Florida men’s basketball team enters the final three weeks of the regular season, coach Mike White faces the unenviable task of managing the players’ health while putting the Gators in prime position to succeed.

With UF’s freshmen, especially shooting guard Noah Locke, nursing various injuries and fatigue, the truth is there isn’t a perfect solution when it comes to staying fresh in February. If there is, White would like to hear it before Florida takes the court in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to take on the Crimson Tide (15-9, 6-5 SEC) at 2 p.m. today.

“That’s difficult. I don’t think there’s an exact science to it,” White said. “We want (Locke) to be productive and drilled and prepared, but at the same time we’re trying to manage his exertion in practice on a daily basis. Andrew (Nembhard) too. It’s a balancing act. They’ve got to do something today, otherwise I don’t know how they can be really productive tomorrow. But they can’t do too much because then they can’t play too many minutes.”

Nembhard, whose 31.3 minutes per game this season leads all Gators, in particular has looked noticeably fatigued in recent contests, although he got a bit of a reprieve in Wednesday’s 66-57 win over Vanderbilt. The freshman point guard tallied just 16 minutes after battling through foul trouble for much of the night. Nembhard admitted his inaugural collegiate campaign has lived up to the hype — when it comes to the heightened daily intensity, that is.

“I’ve never gone through such a hard season in my life, playing so much basketball. It’s just trying to get used to it. I think we’ve adjusted pretty well,” Nembhard said. “I think practice is just focused on the main things we need. Not trying to overrun us or overdo our bodies. Trying to just get to the point.”

With the starters ailing, Florida’s bench stepped up against the Commodores, providing 29 points as senior KeVaughn Allen and Locke combined to go 2-for-19 from the field. If Florida hopes to keep its hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament alive, White and the Gators (13-11, 5-6 SEC) acknowledge the bench will have to take things one step further and step up during Saturday’s tough road contest.

“We haven’t gotten a lot of bench production this year, but we’re coming off a game where our bench probably as productive as it has been all season,” White said. ‘So there was a definite positive there. Hopefully we can build on that.

“I think the guys, more so than anything, had the correct mindset and approach when their name was called. Just go in there and play a game. Do their job. Help their teammates. Not everybody can start. This isn’t bitty basketball. This is the SEC. When minutes are divvied up and starting roles are earned, everybody has to be mature about it. It’s not coach playing favorites. We’re trying to win. We’re trying to compete at the highest level. I like, more so than any other time this season, where the mentality is on the bench.”


Today

Who: Florida (13-11, 5-6 SEC) vs. Alabama (15-9, 6-5)

When: 2 p.m.

Where: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

TV: ESPNU

Radio: 103.7-FM, 98.1-FM, AM-850

PROJECTED STARTERS

Florida

Keyontae Johnson; F; 6-5; Fr.; 7.1 ppg; 5.7 rpg

Kevarrius Hayes; C; 6-9; Sr.; 6.9 ppg; 6.1 rpg

Andrew Nembhard; G; 6-5; Fr.; 7.3 ppg; 5.4 apg

KeVaughn Allen; G; 6-2; Sr.; 12.5 ppg; 2.9 rpg

Noah Locke; G; 6-3; Fr.; 11.3 ppg; 2.8 3FG

Alabama

Donta Hall; F; 6-9; Sr.; 11.0 ppg; 8.6 rpg

Tevin Mack; F; 6-6; Jr.; 9.1 ppg ;3.8 rpg

Kira Lewis; Jr.; G ;6-3 ;Fr.; 14.4 ppg; 2.4 rpg

Herbert Jones; G; 6-7; So.; 6.3 ppg; 4.0 rpg

Dazon Ingram; G; 6-5; Jr.; 7.8 ppg; 4.0 rpg

Notes: Florida comes in looking to build off Wednesday’s win vs. Vanderbilt, which featured Keyontae Johnson leading the Gators with a career-high-tying 15 points and 9 rebounds. … The Gators have won seven in a row in Tuscaloosa. In four meetings between Florida and Alabama since Mike White and Avery Johnson were hired in 2015, the road team has won each time. … Jalen Hudson has shown flashes of his old self recently, averaging 10.0 points over the past four games, scoring in double figures three times. Hudson scored 27 in the Gators’ visit to Alabama last season. … UF leads the SEC in scoring defense (63.5; 19th nationally) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (.316), and the Gators rank 2nd in in turnover margin (+4.0) and 3-pointers made (8.8).

— Graham Hall

11 COMMENTS

    • Looked it up on wiki ;

      The first recorded use appeared in the Dallas Morning News on 10 March 1976:[3]

      Despite his obvious allegiance to the Red Raiders, Texas Tech sports information director Ralph Carpenter was the picture of professional objectivity when the Aggies rallied for a 72–72 tie late in the SWC tournament finals. “Hey, Ralph,” said Bill Morgan, “this… is going to be a tight one after all.” “Right”, said Ralph, “the opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”

  1. Yawn. Alabama game on at the same time as Mayberry RFD. Can’t decide which will be more exciting. Watch Gators struggle from the floor with 7-31 shooting or watch Opie catch a large-mouth minnow. Gators still my team but so many disappointments from certain players this year. It’s apparent (Captain Obvious again) that White is starting 3 freshmen in anticipation for 2019-20 when 2 mcdonald’s all-americans arrive. Maybe Gak will get off the Injured Reserve list by October and there will be an inside presence. He’s had a permanent seat there for 2 years but it seems like freakin’ forever.

  2. PS: I have noticed that Gator players appear to be growing. Hayes was 6-8 two weeks ago and now he’s 6-9 in the program. Nembs started the year at 6-3 and he’s now listed at 6-5. All sports information directors fudge on height and weight it seems. Interviewed Chris Leak in 2006. He was listed at 6 feet even and I am 6 feet and I was looking DOWN at him. He was about 5-10. Just sayin that it seems PR guys will try to boost everyone higher and heavier. Well, it doesn’t mean spit if they win, as Leak proved against Ohio State.

  3. If Allen and Locke go 2 – 19 we aren’t going to win this game. Maybe Hudson is truly finding himself, getting his game back, and scores a dozen or so off the bench. Hopefully he likes playing at Bama, what with dropping 27 there. By the way, the correct expression is that; “the opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” It is said that this expression was first used by a sports writer, Dan Cook, writing for the San Antonio News-Express, Texas, round about the year 1976. Still, I like the Kate Smith reference cattrick.