Dooley: Doing work and getting job done


Published: Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 7:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 7:09 p.m.

It was the kind of game that left the departing fans feeling like they had been banging bodies. It was the kind of game that required a deep exhale when it was over.

It was a game with 71 more missed shots than made, with 34 ugly turnovers, with as many groans as cheers.

In other words, this was a “professional” win for Florida's basketball team.

This was going to work and the guy in the next cubicle never stops talking about his fantasy team and your computer freezes with a spinning rainbow circle and none of your passwords work and there's another birthday party in the break room for someone you've never met and you GET THE JOB DONE.

“We'll take it,” Florida coach Mike White said after a closer-than-the-score 71-62 win over Texas A&M. “You learn from every game. We're very fortunate.”

Florida looked as if it was about to wield the hammer for another butt-kicking when it jumped out to an 11-point lead. The Gators were in a good place, which is where they have spent most of the last three weeks.

But for a stretch that lasted about 15 minutes and stretched from late in the first half to early in the second, the mighty Gators looked just awful. They were outscored 27-12 and had no answers for questions that kept coming at them from different directions.

They had missed 11 of 12 shots during one inglorious stretch before a media timeout and it wasn't just missed shots that were the problem. There were enough bad decisions to fill a teenager's timeline, as the Gators went brain dead offensively.

“Brain dead is a kind word,” White said.

Texas A&M kept throwing different looks at Florida and each one seemed as unfamiliar as the next. Florida looked confused, tentative and anemic.

“Changing defenses really gave their guards problems,” said Aggies coach Billy Kennedy.

And then there was a TV timeout. Down four, White needed to give his team an antidote to its offensive malaise. So he laid it on them.

Keep playing defense.

The offense will come.

And it did.

The Gators made their next six shots, pulling away at the end for their sixth straight win even if it was the first by single digits during this remarkable run.

“We knew there would be games like this sometimes,” said center John Egbunu. “We just had to step it up, especially on the defensive end.”

Egbunu was a force in a game that was WWE physical, recording a double-double. He needed to have that kind of game because Kevarrius Hayes was not.

Hayes might be the most improved player on this team, but it didn't show up Saturday, which is why he played only eight minutes.

But that's the real strength of this Florida basketball team.

We talk all the time about how you never know who will step up for the Gators. Saturday, it was Justin Leon shaking off his 5.5 scoring average in the last four games to knock down 18.

But it also says something that this team is now sitting here with a 20-5 record, 10-2 in the SEC, and it is equally mysterious as to which player will not show up positively in the box score.

And that UF is able to overcome it.

On Saturday, one week removed from his stellar performance against Kentucky, Kasey Hill had a bad day. He finished with three points, five turnovers and zero made baskets. Hayes had one rebound and didn't guard anybody. Devin Robinson went 2-for-9.

But it didn't matter.

“Our depth always seems to step up when need be,” White said. “We have pretty good timing. When we need someone to step up, they do.”

As a result, Saturday was a special day for this basketball team even if it was not a special performance.

The Gators reached the 20-win mark with six regular-season games to play, as White became the first second-year Florida coach to win that many games.

Florida also found out somewhere in the middle of that Texas A&M run that the NCAA Selection Committee thinks a lot of the UF resume, declaring the Gators a three seed (11th overall) if the season had ended Friday.

You may want to pooh-pooh that and the ranking certainly doesn't guarantee anything. But it says that the same committee that will be making the decisions at the end of the season is impressed now.

There's still a long way to go for this team, especially with four of the last six games on the road.

But think about where you were with this team six games ago.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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