Dooley: Gators now in survival mode

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Florida guard Chris Chiozza goes against Georgia during the first half Wednesday in the O'Connell Center. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

When it was over, Georgia’s Juwan Parker stood in the middle of the floor and waved goodbye to the Rowdy Reptiles. Soon, he may be waving goodbye to his coach as well, but for this night, Georgia basketball was celebrating and Florida basketball was trying to come to grips with a brutal loss.

And make no mistake about it, for all of the losses this Florida basketball team has suffered in an uneven season, this was the hardest one to take.

You’d rather get blown out than watch one slip away like this one.

When Chris Chiozza missed the final, desperation 3-point shot to finish off a stunning 2-for-14 night of shooting, he went into the squat-of-despair position.

That pretty much summed it up for everyone wearing orange and blue very late on Wednesday night.

A crowd that was as hoarse from booing the men in striped shirts as it was from cheering fell silent and traipsed off into the night without the cherry on their Valentine’s sundaes.

This game seemed so won.

How could it have been lost so suddenly?

This is what we have in college basketball and it’s why we watch sports, because it’s not an episode of the Real Housewives where everything is scripted.

Weird things happen and weird results are the result. Georgia, which can’t beat anybody in the SEC, has now beaten Florida twice.

Coupled with Auburn’s win over Kentucky, the Gators are pretty much done when it comes to any chance to win the SEC. It was a bit of a pipedream anyway with the schedule the Gators have in the last two weeks.

Now, the survival instinct has to kick in.

Again.

The Gators are four games into the February grind, and it is a grind, as illustrated by their 2-2 record in this month. February may be the shortest month, but it’s the longest month for a basketball team.

November brings the excitement of the start of a season. December usually means you’re traveling to exotic places like Maui or the Bahamas or Newark.

In January, the conference games are still fresh. But in February, you face the combination of playing teams sometimes for a second time in the season and the knowledge that March is out there.

We all know that teams are defined by what they do in tournament play and teams sometimes struggle when they can smell the Madness, but it still seems a long way off.

It’s in February where you find out a lot about basketball teams. It’s one of the reasons we see upsets on a nightly basis, as players start thinking about seeding and begin to check bracketologists.

But you have to grind through it like a waiter with a pepper mill because March is set up by the work you do in February.

And this was the ultimate grind-it-out game. Florida was grinding all night. But the Gators didn’t grind it out all the way.

Instead, a team that had made two 3-point shots the entire game made three in a row in desperation to force overtime.

And then in overtime … well, don’t ask. You miss five free throws in overtime, you get what you deserve.

The Gators had been fighting through everything from the subpar performance from its best player to as bizarrely an officiated game as we’ve seen this year.

But every time it looked like Florida might be ready to pull away and breathe, Georgia and its coach on the hottest seat in the league (now that Andy Kennedy is done) put its fight mode into high gear.

It’s not that Georgia is a bad team. It just has had a lot of bad results. It also is 2-0 against Florida.

Because nobody grinds like Georgia. Florida found that out again Wednesday night.

You guard like madmen for three straight possessions and they score on the fourth. You hit a couple of shots and feel good about yourselves and they tighten up the defense like thumbscrews.

And when it gets right down to it, if you haven’t done enough, a late turnover and a couple of crazy 3s can doom you.

But here’s the thing a heartbroken team has to realize.

There’s a lot more grinding left to do.

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

51 COMMENTS

  1. Why this coach thinks a 9-10 point lead in a game with 9 minutes means it’s time to take the air out of the ball is beyond comprehension. That might have worked well from the place he came from, but it won’t work in the SEC.

  2. Pat – You hit it on the head – this team has zero “grind’ – another frustrating and truly hard to get your head around loss…except this – for the ninth time this year, yet again, the other team simply wanted it more.

  3. Pat, you described the nature of a College season and the plight of this Florida team excellently. As for our coach, we’re we still in the no- shot clock era he would have gone to a Four Corners spread with almost 11 minutes to play. Waiting until under ten seconds remain on each possession before seeking a shot only leads to shot clock violations or forced attempts. It’s a frustrating team to watch, a bit like listening to fingernails on a chalkboard. Have you kept a tally on how many games our guys have lost after building double digit second half leads? Can’t wait for baseball, seeing the softball team play, and spring football.

  4. When teams can cut off Chiozza’s drive and dish game the Gators have a hard time getting easy shots. When Chiozza is out of the game the Gators have a hard time getting easy shots. The uncharacteristic poor free throw shooting was the difference in this game.

  5. Coach lulled our team to sleep for 10 minutes. If you let a team go cold, you’ll pay heck trying to get them back. They never came back. Prior to that, they had Ga whipped. Why he did this is so troubling but hopefully a lessoned learned. He has players on the beach that can play. Grind it inside and stop shooting so many 3s. We have the best shooting guards in the league from the charity stripe. This was perhaps was the most frustrating game I‘ve watched this season. The winning formula was set with the South Carolina game. Why we went back to putting up 3s as our main scoring strategy is beyond words to explain. Coach was taken to the wood shed. Post game comments put the blame on the players. I don’t think so. I like our coach, but he has to learn to capture a team’s spirit and make that his strategy for winning. Don’t hold them back! If you can get them rolling keep fueling the fire. Go Gators!

    • Nice post. I hope so Nassau, but he has kinda done that all season, starting with the Duke game. That’s my issue with him. This season is just a weird one all around. I don’t think he is that bad as well, but he has to see that particular strategy is not working.

    • Good post. The winning formula was set at SC and then we revert to shooting too many threes etc again and it’s all on Coach White! And not playing two big men at once like Gak and Hayes or Bassett or go to a zone when we are getting torched inside makes no sense and to not even try it for a few minutes and if no help go back to one big man inside! Just try it! Again, on Coach White! He’s very slow to make adjustments. At this point, he’s not an elite coach!

  6. Among the five losses the Gators have suffered in the conference are defeats by the 11th (twice), 12th and 13th place teams in the 14 team SEC – that really isn’t acceptable under any circumstances is it?

  7. How do you write that article and not mention the fact that, with two timeouts remaining, they simply couldn’t inbound the ball? They inbound the ball and they likely win. Why did they not just call timeout again on the second attempt? How does White not have a go-to play for situations like that? Love Mike White but that is friggin’ amateur hour.

  8. I have generally been supportive of Mike White. But, he is turning out to be the Ron Zook of Florida basketball. He plays to not lose rather than playing to win, then loses anyway. He better recruit some Jessies and Joes because he will not win with this coaching.

  9. Sorry, poor coaching, poor foul throw shooting. I have also noticed in several games when a timeout is called most of thE coaches, including Mike are huddled together talking and the team is over talking with someone else, don’t get that

  10. How can even the most passionate of Gator fans trust this team? Am I mistaken with my observations that Kev, Igor and Young Mike were consistent offensively all game? Cheese looked to take too many poor shots, he kept missing (Is he hurt?), instead of feeding the ball to those three. Young Mike barely played the 2nd half and finally got time in OT. Cheese is very good but when he is off he must look for these other offensive options. Coach White, maybe it’s something in practice, but please play your younguns!

  11. By season’s end, White will have lost a dozen games as a favorite — twelve losses as a FAVORITE!
    Many posting here apparently don’t realize how meaningful that it is. Simply, he’s losing games he should win. It’s reflective of his being an inadequate, overmatched coach. To put that number in perspective: Only a handful of Div. 1 coaches (Bob Huggins is one) will have HALF that many losses at the end of the season. Did you get that? HALF! We avid Gator fans can only hope that White’s wife says, “Honey, let’s gather up the kids and get the hell out of Dodge!” And, let us not forget Jeremy Foley and thank him so much for bringing us the McElwain/White hijacking duo!

  12. I’m just an armchair observer, but to me it seems like the inability to grab a rebound in the last 6-7 minutes of regulation really killed us. Georgia gave themselves SO many second and third chances down the stretch. What is the best way to give a poor shooting team a fighter’s chance? Give them more opportunities to take a shot. Hayes is literally the only rebounder on this team. When he is not on the floor (and he can’t always be on the floor, because his offense is not strong), this team can’t get a board except for the ones that drop right in their arms. All this other stuff about inbounding the ball, killing the shot clock and forcing yourself to take ill-advised shots as it expires – sure, all of that matters. But all of that, I think, was a consequence of a Georgia team that really clamped down and played nice defense. The failure to grab defensive boards, however? That’s on the Gators. They just don’t have the personnel to get it done.

    • Yeah they definitely clamped down and he did get out coached down the stretch. They went to their strength, and we did not. PLUS, they are a bad match up. I just stop short of firing a guy who just went to the Elite 8. Mike White didn’t miss free throws and turn the ball over down the stretch

  13. Live by the three and die by the three. Its that simple. If the Gators hit a high percentage of threes they win and if they don’t they lose. They just don’t have any low post game. In fairness to Coach White, things might be different if they had Egbunu, Stokes and Chase Johnson. But in reality its not like Egbunu has any great offensive game either. Cant say if Stokes does or not because he has not played. Chase Johnson must have had a really bad concussion because he has been out for two months. I think its time to just cut their losses and redshirt Stokes and Johnson for the year. If Egbunu has any hope to get to the NBA he better apply for a medical redshirt and come back next year too. I also agree I am not sure why they insist on slowing down the game when they are up by 6-8 points with 10-12 minutes left unless the lack of depth has just led to fatigue. And you got to have a play to get the ball in bounds with 15 seconds left. As far as I’m concerned that was the game when Hudson travelled with the ball, all he had to do was catch it and wait to get fouled (oh hold on he cant shoot free throws anyway) Oh well I can see another NIT appearance coming.

  14. Yeah, I like Mike White but he is ultimately responsible here. It’s a very consistent pattern with his team. First half gang-busters and then in the second half he tightens up and plays not to lose, like an NFL Defensive Coordinator. He stops substituting to keep everyone fresh and overplays his best guys until in the last 10 min, they’re exhausted and can’t hang on. He’s got to figure that out and now!

  15. Man, some of the comments. If Maten doesn’t make two wild threes and Hudson doesn’t walk, Florida wins. There are things Mike does that I to call him the worst coach in the SEC is simply mean-spirited. He’s made some mistakes.
    I guess the good thing is that people care enough to be angry.

    • I think you’re better than to use “if” and “and’ in your argument. Any team that loses can come up with fifty of those “if” excuses. Things that happened in the first five minutes are just as important as those in the last five. Hope you and Brockway don’t hide or delay any information you receive if Ole Miss has called to get permission to talk to White. My guess is, that unless he wins two games (has to be invited first) in the NCAA tourney, he’s doomed in Gainesville. I would bet two of three avid fans want White out at the end of this season.

        • been following the posts of bf all year, typical of someone who has no friends, can’t critique himself, sees himself as perfect and everyone else as the problem, never played or coached basketball, wife divorced him for obvious reasons, lonely, lives alone, strokes the negative as a way of life, a hoarder of guns, food, ammo because he feels the government is out to get him, hates his life, steals the neighbors morning paper, still has his Christmas lights hanging on his house from 10 years ago

    • Yes I agree Pat it is unfair to pin this on Coach White. I mean he did lead an under achieving team to the Elite Eight last year after inheriting a mess. Gator fans like me have a short memory because we were spoiled in the glory days when the basketball team won back to back championships and the football team won two in three years. Like I said in my prior post, he has basically been forced to change the nature of the team to a small perimeter offense based team as he has no experienced low post players. Stats don’t lie. Last night the post players (Hayes, Stone, Basset and Gak) took a total of 11 shots. The way I read Coach White’s comments, he slowed the game down as they were getting fatigued. Its tough to win when you are allowed a total of 12 scholarship players (I think) and three of them are out all year and in this case the effects are exacerbated because all three are 4-5 guys. Even Gak has been playing hurt too. I would like to send cudos for Koulechov for his rebounding efforts the last few games. He is 6’5″ and has been going up against guys that are 6’8″ and 6″9″ in some cases. Kid plays hard. Gators just have to keep playing hard and stick with each other and hopefully they can win some more conference games.

    • The meanness and irrationality of the comments for whatever reason has definitely ratcheted up in the last week or so. Maybe frustration with the inconsistent play of this team. I don’t know! But it takes the enjoyment out of posting that’s for sure!

    • Mr. Dooley. You appear to see our resident Seminole troll posting under different screen names as a group of angry fans. Would you guys just ban this mentally unstable jackwagon’s IP address(es)?

      Otherwise, I have to make him unheeded Psychiatrist referrals and describe my every meal in these forums.

    • Pat, many are part of the base that are unrealistic in all sports. On one of the first articles about the baseball team, a guy moaned about lack of hitting and would we go through that again, paraphrasing. I guess success brings expectation, but I would like to think there are just as many reasonable fans out there that maybe just don’t comment. I don’t recall the angst last year at Mike White.

      bf is a troll and all around loser who has predicated a loss on every game. He is a nutjob.

  16. Little to no inside game with no inside depth, half of our big men have been injured almost the whole season with little hope of them returning this year. The length of the season is now catching up to the healthy ones who are left. You combine this with the fact we do not have a single player whose quality of play has been consistent game after game offensively or defensively. If the team could have been at least more consistent on defense for the whole game, they would have lost fewer games. Defense is effort and execution and something each player can do whether or not his shot is falling. Now it is up to the players to determine by their focus and effort whether or not they are a NCAA or a NIT team, it is not a given either way at this time!

  17. Lots of factors: slow down, rebounding, coaching, lucky shots, Crump avgs 5.8 pts per game and LIGHTS up Gators with 3s? But give the Dogs their credit, they completely shut down Cheez and stopped the little engine that can. We should beat GA 4 out of 5, yet they win 2 in a row! We can’t go anywhere whether we make the Dance or not.

  18. We are a below average bb team and do not deserve a spot in the NCAA March Madness Party. Coach is paid millions$ to coach them up and put a winner on the court. He has not done this! You don’t lose games in Exactech the way he has and keep the Rowdies coming. Trouble brewing!

  19. Okay, everything has been said about the game. My question is, how is so many people that claim to be UF grads can neither spell nor use correct punctuation? Plus, all this talk about firing Mike White is ludicrous. He certainly isn’t the con man that our previous football coach was. He isn’t even in the same league.

  20. I watched the last 7:45 minutes of the Vandy game (as appose to continuing yard work) and sure enough Doors make two wide open threes and we missed at least 3 easy layups. This team has a “glass jaw”…when we continue to play good enough for 30 minutes and loss double digit leads for three games in a row, White does bare some responsibility.

    Pat: Played gold today in a group that had me riding with a 82 year old guy who has had a left knee replacement and is about to have the right knee replaced….granted he has been around the planet several times and knows pain, BUT he said he followed the rehab and has NO left knee pain with FULL movement and looks forward to fixing his hurting right knee! He did say weigh loss helps a bunch….hope this gives some hope.