Gators looking to recover during home stretch

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Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) drives the ball around Florida forward Kevarrius Hayes (13) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Crystal LoGiudice)

It’s come down to this — a three-game season for the Florida Gators to determine if they are NCAA Tournament worthy or NIT bound.

Florida completed its two-game swing to the Volunteer State with a pair of losses at Vanderbilt and at No. 19 Tennessee. The Gators (17-11, 8-7 SEC) will play two of their final three regular-season games at home, beginning Saturday night against SEC-leading No. 12 Auburn.

After Auburn. Florida plays Tuesday at Alabama, then closes the regular season on March 2 at home against Kentucky.

In many recent seasons, playing two of the final three games at home would serve as an advantage for UF. But the O’Connell Center has been far from a house of horrors for  Gator foes this season. Florida is 10-5 at home this season, which has included losses to Georgia, South Carolina and Loyola Chicago.

Effort-wise, Florida played well enough to pull off an upset Wednesday at Tennessee, but lost 62-57 to the Vols despite outrebounding them 38-36 and outscoring them 16-4 in second-chance points. UF has lost six of its last eight SEC games.

“I just talked to our guys about the fact that I don’t think we’ve played that hard in one home game this season,” Florida coach Mike White said. “And that boggles my mind. I have no idea why. But I told them on Saturday if we play hard and we clean up some mistakes, we’ll have a chance. If not we’ll keep seeing a very inconsistent team.

“I don’t know why we’re different when we’re away from home. I don’t understand it.”

A new issue that has popped up during UF’s three-game losing streak is free-throw shooting. The Gators led the SEC in free-throw percentage in mid-January, but are shooting just 59.3 percent from the foul line (32-54) over their last three games.

“In practice, we’re pretty good about making them,” Florida junior center Kevarrius Hayes said. “When it comes to game time, we’ve got to learn to translate that. I feel like once we get all parts figured out, we’ll be back to being a great team.”

Senior point guard Chris Chiozza, an 82.7 percent free throw shooter, missed the front end of a one-and-one with Florida down 21-17 in the first half, then missed a free throw on a potential three-point play with Florida down 60-57 and 23 seconds left.

“I missed two tonight and I think I missed my last four free throws,” Chiozza said. “I don’t know, we work on them every day. We shoot them well in practice. I know I had two go in and out today. They feel good, but it’s just something we’ve got to take more time at the line, maybe, focusing the same way we do in practice.”

FREE THROWS: With nine assists against Tennessee, Chiozza passed Kasey Hill for second on UF’s all-time assist list. At 531 career assists, Chiozza is 16 shy of passing Erving Walker to become UF’s assist king. … The loss to Tennessee dropped Florida to 4-2 on the season against ranked teams. It also dropped Florida to 2-6 in games decided by five points this season. White is 11-17 in his UF tenure in games decided by five points or less. … Freshman center Isaiah Stokes and freshman forward Chase Johnson both traveled to Tennessee with the UF squad but did not play.


Up next

Who: No. 12 Auburn (24-4, 12-3 SEC) vs. Florida (17-11, 8-7)

When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: O’Connell Center

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


45 COMMENTS

  1. ”There’s potential impermissible benefits and preferential treatment for players and families of players at Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan State, USC, Alabama and a host of other schools.”
    -Pat Forde & Pete Thamel of Yahoo News.
    When all else fails, throw around the word ”investigation” at our competition!

  2. Mike White said. “And that boggles my mind. I have no idea why”. $2 mill a year folks and he hasn’t a clue. Lets just embrace our mediocrity and start slashing some sports budget and plowing that money into where it will do the most good, baseball and football facilities.

  3. Thinking that the Gators have a chance to recover in the remaining games of this season, or in the playoffs or will get far in the NIT (because that is the best place that they can get, admit it) is fooling yourself. For all of their natural ability to shoot, none of the Gators is a team leader. There is no one out there (including Chiozza) who screams at the others when they screw up, who exhibits great emotion when something goes well or who really believes in himself. Just look at Allen for an example of the opposite, a guy who has no confidence unless the ball is falling for him every night. For all of his lack of ability to score points except on little tip-ins and tiny layups, Patrick Young always pushed himself and pushed his team with his examples. There is no one on this year’s team like him and there is no one on this team who will push, annoy and scream at his teammates like Scotty Wilbekin. That is why, even though they were the least talented Gator team that I ever saw, Young and Wilbekin’s team went to the Final Four. No coach can make heroes of guys who don’t believe in themselves and have no one in their midst who really does. It ain’t White’s fault that his guys are timid and hesitant and have no real basketball instincts, who don’t see their open teammate until it is too late, who don’t see the space to drive until that space closes, and who don’t see their way to pull up in time to hit the jumper. That is not something that can be easily evaluated in high school prospects. That’s why some preseason favorites turn out to be duds and some low-ranked schools show up for the dance. It would be nice if you, Kevin, might discuss this issue a little and not just be a cheerleader.

    • I agree but screaming is not essential. Last year we had a few individuals who provided leadership and desire. I don’t really blame the coach I bet no other coach could do much better. Yes we are NIT bound at best and won’t be winning against decent teams. The idea that we don’t have resources to support all of our teams at a competitive level is something I greatly disagree with.

  4. Very funny, Brockway.
    They have been “looking to recover” for a month!
    Saturday night we’ll clearly see the difference between a “live” team and a “dead” team.
    And, most importantly, we’ll see the difference between a real coach and a fake coach!
    For White to have frittered away the NCAA tourney this season, it’s a disgrace, an absolute disgrace!

  5. “I feel like once we get all parts figured out, we’ll be back to being a great team.” As we’re 28 games into the season, that’s a comment I don’t understand. Losers of 6 of the last 8 games, the Gators have figured out how not to score and by result, not to win.

    I’ve cancelled my trip to Gainesville on Saturday to watch the Auburn game in person. It’s too long a drive and I’d be getting home too late to see a team that is this totally lost and confused.

    I’m glad Kevarrius and some of his other teammates think the season isn’t over. And I hope they can turn it around, but I can also see us losing the last three SEC games, the first game of the SEC tournament and then the first game in the NIT.

  6. Congrats to the following in-state schools for being invited to play in the NCAA tournament:

    FLORIDA STATE
    MIAMI
    FLORIDA GULF COAST

    P.S. Unfortunately, the University of Florida, although scrappy and well-coached, was viewed as being unfit to be in this elite event.

  7. Although I believe White will be given more time to fix this mess, I will not criticize the people calling for his firing now.
    I cringe when I hear others say that you can’t fire a coach that went to the elite eight last year…………Isn’t this kinda the same crap we heard about not getting rid of a football coach with consecutive SEC East crowns? How did that turn out?

  8. Pre-season, consensus Top Ten. Understand that?! Top Ten! (Oh, I guess these experts don’t know anything, right?!)

    When November ended, many basketball experts, coaches, writers etc. thought Florida was a Final Four contender and so did you!! Get that?! People like Bilas, Williams, Greenburg, Rothstein know just a little bit more than us, right? Oh, or perhaps, maybe some reading this think they know more! Important to add that these opinions came when Egbunu, Stokes and Johnson weren’t playing so don’t give the bulls**t injury excuse!

    Those giving White a pass now are, at best, phony blowhards with little basketball knowledge.
    At worst, they are downright pathetic!
    Until White is gone, this is a bottom-tier SEC team and one that will not be fun to watch!

    P.S. It’s not a big deal but I was the head bb coach at a large Texas high school for 17 years. I know a little.

  9. Referring to the number of major schools that may well be looking for coaches, based on the article referred to in the earlier posts, a coach like Mike White is probably going to be approached by these other big name schools, and hopefully we will feel better about him, and feel better about the fact that were it not for losses in games to some of the teams on the list, we would be on the ncaa list. What is now 17 wins may actually be 20 once the true extent of the Scandal is aired out.

  10. Okay, you poor “woe is me” Mike White suck ups. Here you go.

    Florida, right now (Vegas), is a 2.5-pt favorite tomorrow night.
    I love it because Michelle will have the opportunity to lose her TENTH game of the season when Florida is favored. Think about that, Gator fans. NO OTHER DIV. 1 COACH IS EVEN CLOSE TO THAT — NO ONE!

    Can you dig, it?!

  11. bf, I could accept your criticism of Coach White if you were honest. There is absolutely no way a sane “ex basketball coach for 17 years” would talk bad about possibly the best ever SEC basketball coach that didn’t coach at KY. Coach White still has a lot to prove, but when you talk bad about a hall of fame coach you lose all credibility.

  12. Just think, not long ago, we had a team that was scoring at a 80-100 clip and giving up 70-80 points and winning. For some reason coach White decided that our defense was bad, so he started harping the players that defense was bad and had to improve. Guess what, we are sill giving up 70-80 points a game but we forgot how to score points ourselves. So now the other teams still scoring 70-80 per game but we only score 50-60 per game, of course we are not going win to many games if you do the math. What Happened? I would say Coach White ruined the chemistry of this team. So IMO no matter how I look at it, Coach White is the culprit

  13. White said, “If we play hard and clean up some mistakes, we’ll have a chance.” What?! “Have a chance”?! Does this damned candy KNOW that his team is FAVORED in this game?! Just answered my own question. Now, we might know one of the reasons he loses so many games like this. He imparts this underdog horses**t to his players!