Gators’ season again ends in Round of 32 of NCAA Tournament

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Florida's Andrew Nembhard, left, and Michigan's Zavier Simpson go for a loose ball during the first half Saturday of a second-round game at the NCAA Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

By Eric Olson, Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — Michigan’s biggest concern against Florida was facing the Gators’ lockdown defense.

The solution? Beat Florida at its own game.

Michigan is back in the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive year after pulling away for a 64-49 win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday. The Wolverines held Florida to its lowest point total of the season.

“Holding this team to 49 points is incredible,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “That’s how we won the game.”

The 10th-seeded Gators (20-16) shot just 29 percent in the second half and 34.5 percent for the game as Michigan, the No. 2 seed in the West Region, advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the last seven years. The Wolverines are the 2018 national runner-up.

Jordan Poole scored 19 points and the Wolverines took charge in the final minutes as Florida became the eighth Michigan opponent to fail to crack 50 points. Charles Matthews said the emphasis on defense began last summer.

“Guys playing one-on-one sun-up to sundown,” he said. “Nobody wanted to get embarrassed and get talked about the next day.”

The matchup of two of the nation’s highest-ranked defenses often produced rag-tag play. Florida played its usual combination defenses and caused confusion — Ignas Brazdeikis had an entry pass intended for him sail right past him out of bounds, and the 7-foot-1 Jon Teske fumbled the ball down low repeatedly as the Gators swatted at it.

Even so, the Gators couldn’t slow Poole, who made four 3-pointers, or overcome their poor shooting.

“I thought they were super disruptive on the defensive end,” said Jalen Hudson, who led the Gators with 11 points. “It was pretty hard for us to get into the lane and really shake them.”

Zavier Simpson had nine points, nine rebounds and nine assists, while Teske had eight points to go with 10 rebounds.

Florida kept it close with its 3-point shooting in the first half, but Brazdeikis’ 3-pointer started an 11-0 run to open the second that put Michigan up 43-28.

“We made some adjustments at halftime,” Matthews said. “We wanted to shut off the water. The coaching staff did a great job and we just followed the plan.”

Florida wasn’t done, though. The Gators scored nine straight points to close the gap before Poole was fouled shooting a 3 and made all three free throws.

The Michigan lead was back to double digits when Livers took a bounce pass from Brazdeikis, drove on Kevarrius Hayes, got fouled and made the free throw with 7 ½ minutes left.

The Gators kept it close in the first half by making 6 of 12 3-pointers. But they missed eight of their first nine from distance in the second half and eventually tired against the bigger Wolverines.

Michigan outscored the Gators 13-5 to end the game and finished with authority as Isaiah Livers and Poole thrilled their cheering section with thunderous dunks.

“Second half it got away from us,” Florida coach Mike White said. “We didn’t make the best decisions offensively. I thought we played really hard in th e second half and left it on the floor. Playing behind the second half, we expended a lot of energy.”

BIG PICTURE

Florida: The Gators played one of the toughest schedules in the country and turned it up at the end of the season after finishing eighth in the Southeastern Conference. Florida upset LSU to make the NCAA Tournament for a third year in a row under White. The Gators beat Nevada in the first round but met their match against a Michigan team that mixes a lockdown defense with an offense with multiple threats.

Michigan: Michigan’s only three losses since mid-February were to Michigan State. The Wolverines are 30-3 against everybody else this season.

IGGY’S TOUGH DAY

Brazdeikis, the Big Ten freshman of the year, never quite got going. He missed five of his first six shots and went to the bench with his second foul with 3:50 left in the first half.

Michigan went right to him to start the second half. He launched a 3 from the top of the key that popped up out of the basket and dropped straight through, with the big freshman running backward down the court with both arms raised. He never scored another point, but his bucket started an 11-0 run that put the Wolverines up 43-28.

UP NEXT

Florida: Season over.

Michigan: The Wolverines play a West Region semifinal in Anaheim, California, Thursday against the winner of Sunday’s game between Buffalo and Texas Tech.

MICHIGAN 64, FLORIDA 49
FLORIDA (20-16)

Johnson 2-6 0-0 5, Hayes 4-7 0-0 8, Hudson 4-15 0-0 11, Nembhard 2-7 2-2 7, Allen 3-7 0-0 8, Bassett 1-2 0-0 2, Okauru 0-0 0-0 0, Locke 3-11 0-0 8. Totals 19-55 2-2 49.

MICHIGAN (30-6)

Brazdeikis 2-8 0-0 5, Teske 4-7 0-0 8, Poole 5-15 5-5 19, Matthews 4-10 1-3 9, Simpson 3-7 2-3 9, Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Johns 0-0 0-0 0, Livers 4-8 1-1 10, Castleton 0-0 0-0 0, Brooks 2-2 0-0 4, Nunez 0-0 0-0 0, DeJulius 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-57 9-12 64.

Halftime_Michigan 32-28. 3-Point Goals_Florida 9-26 (Hudson 3-10, Allen 2-5, Locke 2-7, Nembhard 1-2, Johnson 1-2), Michigan 7-21 (Poole 4-9, Simpson 1-2, Livers 1-4, Brazdeikis 1-4, Teske 0-1, Matthews 0-1). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Florida 28 (Johnson 9), Michigan 39 (Teske 10). Assists_Florida 11 (Nembhard 8), Michigan 13 (Simpson 9). Total Fouls_Florida 13, Michigan 10.

45 COMMENTS

  1. To the Seniors I say, much thanks and best wishes in the next level. To Coach White I say, man, your “1 and done offense” (1 shot no offensive rebounds) is getting real old (but Coach I got back on ‘D’!). And Will Muschamp’s defense 1st mentality got real old, real fast here in Hogtown.
    So, what happened to the Coach Mike White that made the NIT Final Four and Elite 8 in his 1st 2 years at U.F.? I know, he had big men on the team! HINT!
    4 guards and a 6′ 9″ forward with a big heart will get you knocked out of 2nd round of the NCAA’s everytime, Coach White. So here’s hoping Mike White isn’t as stubborn as Coach Will Muschamp was at U.F.
    Go Gators! “Next year or bust!”

    • i just dont see the wil muschamp comparison. Either way, we are losing some good players, i am not as sure about a big improvement next year as people are implying due to the recruitment of a couple more highly rated guards, but once we get some big guys that develop, we should be really good. we played hard and lost to a lot of tough teams, this was not as bad of a year as people seemed to believe, a couple less injuries and we could have been even better.

  2. A fiesta of empty possessions in the second half. I am a supporter of Coach White, but it looks like he got outcoached in the second frame. It went a bit worse than I expected, but same result. Best of luck to our seniors, who almost always worked hard and had heart. Can’t wait to see next year’s team in action.

  3. Once again, Kevaughan Allen went into the witness protection program right when his team needed him most. Never could figure this guy out. Looks like a world beater for 2 or 3 games then disappears for a month. With a true big man under the basket Hayes could have been a huge factor for this team.

    • Yep. I am not sure why this is difficult to comprehend for most Gator fans. I think it’s just that there’s a lot of talk here but most people didn’t actually watch most of the games these past couple seasons. I have said this time and again … this team was only ever going to be as good as Allen’s effort. He’s a freaking enigma. When he decides to show up and play, they can beat anyone. When he inexplicably disappears? Well … here you go. This isn’t a coaching issue. It’s not a “big man” issue. It’s an Allen issue. Allen and Hudson are the true scorers in this lineup. And when one of them decides to simply disappear, this team just isn’t competitive.

  4. Pathetic. The Gators got destroyed in the paint and on the glass. It was such a flush fest for Michigan I thought the game was a plumbing convention. With their size we were not going to out rebound them or out score them in the paint and we did not by a mile. So what was the game plan Coach White? Stand there and watch them destroy you. The only way we could have won is if we out shot them, and out ran them. But we did neither. Coach White was out coached from the start. He did not have any idea of what to do and it showed. Its time to more on from this mistake and get a real coach.

    • Interesting take, Joel. I didn’t see Beilein hit a single shot or Mike White miss one. The Gators lost because they didn’t shoot well. When you’re using a seven man rotation, it’s hard to run. Who would you put in the game for that purpose? Stokes won’t help you there, and you can’t count on Ballard or Okauru. It’s risky enough bringing Bassett in for a couple of minutes, much less the number of minutes needed if you asked Hayes to constantly run the floor. White was between a rock and hard place with this team. Hard to fire a coach who won 20 games, made the Dance, and advanced to the round of 32. Nobody, including Mike White is satisfied with that result, but he’s not getting fired until it becomes apparent that he can’t produce with the talent coming in next season. I personally don’t think that time will come.

  5. Disappointing second half, but poor shooting bit the Gators again. I thought the critical moment came after Allen hit his first 3 and the Gators got a turnover and had a chance to cut the lead to 5 or 4. Nembhard threw the ball away, the Gators didn’t get a shot, and Michigan methodically extended the lead from there.

    Coming into the season, the Gators were counting on getting Gak, Stokes, and Chase Johnson healthy, and having Stone, as well. With only Stokes left of the four, and him still struggling with conditioning, the Gators inside game was obviously extremely limited. Given that and their streaky shooting, getting to the Round of 32 is a reasonable outcome for this team.

    Hopefully, Gak and Stone return from injury, Stokes gets in shape, Mike White finds a transfer big, and Omar Payne proves to be an offensive threat next season. With the returning experienced freshmen and the incoming 5 stars, Mann and Lewis, next season looks promising.

    • Agree. A made shot or two from striking distance in the final five, instead of being down double digits. Hard to win when you only get two FT chances too. Certainly no consolation in seeing FSU win by a country mile, but if the front line can get back to health, UF will put a hard beat down on them next year.

    • Gak is not the answer. He has no game. Stone at times looked OK, but again inconsistent. Stokes is a refrigerator with sneakers. He needs to lose 30 lbs. and get in shape they we can see what he can do. The team needs scoring. They need an offensive identity, something they did not have this year. The team also needs a real coach.

      • Agree that Gak isn’t the answer offensively, but you can’t teach 6′ 11″. He can provide some rim protection and get some put backs simply because of his size. The team clearly needs scoring, and if Stokes can get in shape, I think he can help. If the incoming freshman class can develop as quickly as this year’s has, and there’s no reason to think it won’t, then the Gators should have some offensive weapons next season.

      • Dude, who kicked your dog in the head? Coach White is doing just fine. Put 3 of 6 front court players out if action completely (and that’s PF and C), and you would see any team in the country struggle. And that includes the blue bloods with HOF coaches in the sidelines. Unfortunately we had to play undersized, and against a team that had two solid 7-footers, of one the Gators pretty much handled, and the second best scoring defense in the NCAA, open shots are going to be hard to come by, and when they don’t fall, it becomes that much harder. Like it was said, first team to 60 wins, and they did that. Getting through the first round was all anyone could expect from this year’s team as the personnel panned out. Wish it went like I know I was hoping for with Gak hopefully being a defensive presence, and the expected potential of Chase Johnson and Stokes helping with this same issue as last season….no solid frontcourt. They always had the players on the roster, they just couldn’t get them on the floor for one reason or another. Did you even congratulate the team for the first round win, or were you just waiting for them to lose so that you could dump your word trash on it? If so, then just keep your super basketball IQ to yourself.

          • Right on Corey. White did an great job, after losing so many bigs, taking the Gators to the dance and to the second round. His team played tough and hard and you’d think most fans would have felt proud of them for going as far as they did without a full compliment position wise.

        • I love the team. That’s why I am passionate about them. I accept that they are not going win all their games. I accept that there will be games where they play well and still lose. What I can’t accept are players who don’t give the effort and a coach who does not put his players in position to at least have a shot a winning. And if you don’t like my comments. Tough. Don’t read them.

          • I have no problems with your comments! Your passionate and get upset when we lose and so do I. Coach White is an excellent defensive coach and whether he is an excellent offensive coach is a question mark still I think. We definitely needed to push the ball and shoot 3’s since we basically had little inside scoring in this game. Next year, if we get enough big men and he continues to play the slow down game with this perimeter guard favored offense with very little inside scoring even when we have big men well then that’s a problem an a sign his offense isn’t working!

          • I am just hard pressed to believe, based on your comments, that you actually watch the team you profess to love. The fact that you think this is a coaching issue reflects an extremely low basketball IQ. Coach White can’t shoot for these guys. His offense is one of pace. The idea is to make all teams play at your select pace, create open shots with patient ball movement, and play great defense. Where were you to praise Coach White when they beat a Nevada team who was averaging like 82 points a game, holding them to 61 and slowing pace of play to their style? That is his game plan in a nutshell. It didn’t work out against Michigan because Allen, as usual, inexplicably forgot how to shoot. This has been the Gators’ albatross for two years. You DO need a scorer, and you can’t rely on freshmen to consistently score. So when Allen isn’t hitting (and, in many instances, not even shooting), that’s a huge liability to overcome.

  6. It’s very easy to judge college athletes after they fail.Nobody remembers that we are talking about 18 to 20 year olds! Think about that, most of them are still teenagers! I think that this year’s BB team lacked a presence in the post and a true leader to rally the team. There was a lot of talent but not enough heart. It’s tough but that is CMW’s job. Michigan played a little bit better than Florida and that is why they won but they didn’t look great either. Go Gators and thanks to the seniors for all the effort they put in and making it to Mach Madness.

  7. I watched the last several games….they played hard with “what they had”…but all of us, including White, have to face the FACT, and this game showed it better than any other….this team was just too ittdy bitty! Will not and cannot compete with big boys. Both Nevada and Michigan proved it. I knew it was over in the first five minutes, just two three against those monster big guys. Overall a “B” season.

    • I think you nailed it right there, DeWayne…..my only question is, how did we arrive at this state of affairs? To say the least, it’s disappointing.

      Well, they made it to the party anyway, just didn’t last long. I don’t know if you rated the season a solid “B” or not……I want to say “C” myself, but I’m willing to go “B-” for at least getting as far as they did.

      • Making the dance was big accomplishment for this crew. I gave them the “B” at the end for a couple of nice efforts. The Refs did screw us at the end of the Auburn game…could have been OT, etc. The SEC Tournament wins was the -A that resulted in a “B” season, only at the end. It got us to Spring practice LOL. Baseball is our next mountain to climb toward summer and the next football season.

    • Except, of course, it isn’t accurate. This whole lack of a big man nonsense is exhausting. Teams win in different ways, and contrary to popular belief you don’t need a 7 foot center to compete. The Gator starting five averages 77.4 inches. How does that compare with other tourney teams? Syracuse was the tallest team, at 79.4, and Prairie View was the shortest at 74.2. That puts the Gators about in the middle. And if height alone was some kind of cure all … well then why did Syracuse come in as a 9 seed, and why have they been eliminated already?

      • Whatever. Against tall and long teams UF lost every rebounding match up. They also lost the games. Stone and Gak are not the answer. I agree a good scorer would help but without a skilled and tall, 6’10 or above front court player or two that can produce!!!!!!!!! So far Coach White has not had any success with big men. It also dosen’t mean he won’t. Lets see how many has he recruited for the future??????

        • I don’t necessarily disagree, but I don’t think you can draw a line at 6-10 and say a shorter player can’t help. The Gators’ 2014 Final Four team started a front line of Patric Young at 6-9, Will Yeguete at 6-8, and Casey Prather at 6-6. They also had 6-8 sixth man in Dorian Finney-Smith. It’s not necessarily the size, but the skill that matters. Florida has become a basketball school, imo, in the last twenty years under Billy Donovan. Unlike the blue bloods, though, players came to UF to play for Billy Donovan, not the Gators. When Billy Donovan left, he took the brand with him. Mike White wasn’t going to be able to recruit players to the school; he was going to have to recruit them to play for him, which meant he was going to have to establish himself. That’s why he had to bring juco transfer Justin Leon with him from LaTech, and get 3 stars like Bassett and Gak in his first class. He moved up to the 4 stars, Stokes and Chase Johnson, the following year, and has the 4 star Payne, 6-9 with a 7-5 wingspan and No. 35 in the ESPN Top 100, coming in next season. As White continues to establish himself, I expect his recruiting classes with get better. It’s now up to him to develop those players and win games, and hopefully championships, with them.

          • I agree Coach White is building a possible great team for the future. I am tired of short guys this year reaching up trying to get rebounds from the taller men. Say what you want but UF needs some productive guys offensively. That is coming. Sorry. but UF needs to win the rebounding battles too. I believe Coach White will get it done. Now he has two more roster spots. Lets see what he does with them. I agree skill is important but he needs size too. I believe its called balance!

          • No argument here. Saw a tweet saying White may be after a 6’11” transfer from UNLV, Cheikh Mbacke Diong. He averaged 7 and 7 this season for the Rebs. He’d have to sit a year, though, and then have two years remaining. Need a grad transfer with some skill to help immediately. We had a 6’10” grad transfer recently (I won’t mention a name to avoid any possible embarrassment) who, among other things, had a shot blocked in the lane, taken by the defender who blocked it, and thrown the length of the court for a half-ending 3 pointer. That same player, in a different game, I think, took a pass all alone about 3 feet from the basket. Before he could get to the rim to lay it in, a 6’4″ guard, who was a least 4 feet outside the lane when our guy caught the ball, came flying in and blocked the shot. That kind of size doesn’t do much good.

  8. First of all, congrats to our seniors and thank you for being Gators and playing at UF. Their leadership will be sorely missed next season.

    As for the loss, I thought we’d lose by around 8 to 11 points, but it was worse than that.

    16 losses and numerous “moral victories”, poor clock management, bizarre personnel changes, under-developed players, no big physical frontcourt players and none in our up-coming class, one-dimensional offense, and the list goes on.

    Unfortunately, all this “it’ll be better next year” talk is just wishful thinking. I said going into this season we’d be lucky to make the NCAA’s, would have over 13 – 14 losses, and wouldn’t really be a factor in the SEC, and got laughed at. That said, I was hoping I was going to be wrong. Sadly, we’ll be stuck with White again next season because two things have saved his job for one more year… his top 3 recruiting class coming in and the two late-season wins against LSU and Nevada.

    We did what we did this year with three starting seniors and a 5* PG in Nemhard, and a highly ranked class of perimeter shooters next season isn’t going to change much of the result. Again, I hope I’m wrong about next season being another year of under-achieving Mike White basketball, but I won’t be.

    • I agree. Mike White is not a horrible coach, but he is not a great coach. We have some very good young players on the team (AN, KJ, NL) and some very good players coming in next year. Having a great defense is important, but its not enough. You also need to score points. This year there were too many scoring droughts and long stretches without scoring. Also, we had no inside scoring. Nothing from the front court and no dribble penetration. Outside shooting was inconsistent as well. That said, the questions for next year are what is the teams offensive identify going to be? Where are the points going to come from? The team needs to score points.

    • Todd, I don’t doubt you made your prediction, but I’m curious as to exactly when and on what basis. At some point coming into the season, it was expected that the team would have Gak, Hayes, Chase Johnson, Stone, Stokes, and Bassett all healthy and ready to go. Gak and Hayes were going to be limited offensively, but there was the possibility of a 6-11, 6-9, 6-8 front line with Stone being able to shoot the 3 from the small forward spot. Add in Stokes providing some inside scoring potential and Chase Johnson providing depth at the power forward spot and you had the makings of a decent front court. You had two 40% 3-point shooters returning in Allen and Hudson, a 6-5, five star point guard, and two four star recruits coming in. I just don’t see any reason there to predict 14 losses, unless you were foreseeing the struggles of Allen and Hudson, or you made the prediction after it became apparent that Gak wasn’t going to be ready to start the season and Stokes was still struggling with conditioning.

      I also don’t see optimism for next year being only wishful thinking. Another five star point guard, a five star wingman, and a four star center are plenty of reasons for optimism, especially given the progress of the current freshman class. In fact, it seems to me that not being optimistic defies logic.

  9. I think we will be better next year. We just have to recognize early on our strengths and play to them. We have not had a scoring big man in years. I hope that changes next year with an in shape Stokes . I hate to say this but I have no reason to believe Gak will be able to play more than a couple of minutes without injuring something. If our strength is our guards, then I hope the team watches N.Carolina play the rest of the tourney. They move. They run. And they do it even after the other team scores. They get the ball down court instead of looking like they are trying to run out the clock on every possession. You can’t score if you can’t shoot and we didn’t shoot enough this year because of pace or lack thereof. Still , I like Coach White and I think he is a coach who is not stubborn but who will adjust. He didn’t have much depth this year so he had to play to his weakness and slow the ball down–just too much in my humble opinion. We’ll see.

  10. I miss the good ole days when Gatorsports wrote their own articles on basketball rather than using a national news source. I hope this is a temporary fix, not a long term plan for covering Gators basketball. I really enjoy the local coverage, hope it returns again soon. I don’t mean to be cheeky, I sincerely enjoy the basketball articles written by the sports staff. I understand larger issues are at play, but here is a vote for gatorsports basketball coverage!