Florida falls to UConn, 62-59

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Florida's Kerry Blackshear Jr. shoots against Connecticut's Josh Carlton during the first half Sunday in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

By PAT EATON-ROBB, AP Sports Writer

STORRS, Conn. — Florida coach Mike White says the early part of this season has been a lot of trial and error as his young players try to find some answers on offense.

They did not have many Sunday.

Christian Vital scored 15 points and made a key steal at the end of the game as UConn upset the No. 15 Gators 62-59.

Tyler Polley also scored 15 points and Josh Carlton added 13 for the Huskies (2-1) who led by five points at halftime and never trailed after intermission.

“Anytime you play on the road, you’re dealing with the stage and 10,000 (fans) screaming at you and you’ve got to step up with poise and confidence and mental toughness and make a shot at this level,” White said. “As a staff we’ve got to do a better job of finding a way to get these guys going, continue to go through that trial-and-error process.”

Keyontae Johnson’s layup with just over a minute to go cut UConn’s lead to 60-59, but those would be the last points the Gators scored.

Florida had a chance to tie after Vital hit two free throws with 17 seconds left. But Alterique Gilbert tipped a pass from Johnson and Vital grabbed it and dribbled away, securing the win.

“A think a year ago, we would have folded, easily,” said Gilbert. “These are the games you come to UConn to play and I think we have a great group of guys now who just want to win.”

Kerry Blackshear Jr. had 15 points and eight rebounds for Florida (2-2), falling two boards shy of a fourth straight double-double. But he fouled out with 4:37 left in the game and his team trailing 53-49. Andrew Nembhard added 14 points, including a 3-pointer that brought the Gators within a point at 54-53.

Blackshear scored the game’s first two baskets, but the Gators made just four of their first 13 attempts from the floor.

UConn also had a tough start, going without a basket for the first six minutes.

Vital got the UConn crowd into the game with a 3-pointer, a dunk and a jumper on consecutive trips down the court that gave the Huskies an 11-6 lead.

Connecticut held Florida to two Blackshear free throws over the final 4:17 of the first half and led 25-20 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

The loss ends a rough seven days for the Gators. Florida was No. 6 in the Top 25 poll coming into the season but lost to Florida State a week ago and beat Towson by just six points on Thursday. The Gators came into the game averaging just 63.7 points per game, while giving up 60.7.

UConn: This was UConn’s first win against a ranked team at home since February 2016. Highly touted freshman guard James Bouknight has finished serving his three-game suspension following his arrest on charges including evading police in a September car accident. Bouknight, who is due in court on Monday, is expected to suit up for the Huskies in this week’s Charleston Classic, where it’s possible the Huskies could again face either Saint Joseph’s or Florida, depending on how the early rounds pan out.

STATS OF THE GAME

Both offenses struggled from distance. Florida shot 40 percent from the floor but made just five of its 20 shots from 3-point range. UConn was just 4 of 22 from behind the arc.

“We’ve got two, high, high level shooters in Noah Locke and Tre Mann,” White said. “And they shoot it way better than they’ve shot it and I’ve got to figure something out. We’ve got to get them better looks.”

Mann finished with two points, missing both his 3-point attempts. Locke had six points, but was 2 of 8 from the floor, including 2 of 6 from long range.

INJURY

Mann hit the floor with eight minutes left in the game and lay motionless for some time. White said Mann was knocked unconscious and likely suffered a concussion.

HE SAID IT

UConn coach Dan Hurley, when asked what the difference was in the locker room when compared to Wednesday, when the Huskies lost by nine points at home to Saint Joseph’s:

“There was water, liquid in both locker rooms,” he said. “On Wednesday, it was tears and today it was Gatorade in cups on my head.”

UP NEXT

Florida: The Gators face Saint Joseph’s in the Charleston Classic at 2 p.m. Thursday.

UConn: The Huskies also travel to Charleston and face Buffalo in the first round of the tournament on Thursday.

UCONN 62, No. 15 FLORIDA 59
FLORIDA (2-2)

Johnson 4-5 0-0 8, Blackshear 6-8 2-2 15, Mann 1-4 0-0 2, Lewis 2-7 3-4 8, Nembhard 4-14 5-6 14, Payne 1-2 0-0 2, Gak 0-2 0-0 0, Jitoboh 1-1 0-0 2, Glover 1-4 0-0 2, Locke 2-8 0-1 6. Totals 22-55 10-13 59.

UCONN (2-1)

Polley 6-13 0-0 15, Akok 0-3 0-0 0, Carlton 5-10 3-5 13, Gilbert 3-13 4-7 10, Vital 4-9 6-6 15, Whaley 3-4 1-2 7, Adams 0-3 0-0 0, Gaffney 0-2 0-0 0, Wilson 0-2 2-2 2. Totals 21-59 16-22 62.

Halftime_UConn 25-20. 3-Point Goals_Florida 5-20 (Locke 2-6, Blackshear 1-2, Lewis 1-4, Nembhard 1-4, Mann 0-2, Glover 0-2), UConn 4-22 (Polley 3-8, Vital 1-3, Adams 0-1, Gaffney 0-1, Wilson 0-1, Akok 0-2, Gilbert 0-6). Fouled Out_Blackshear. Rebounds_Florida 34 (Blackshear 8), UConn 36 (Akok, Carlton 8). Assists_Florida 9 (Nembhard 7), UConn 11 (Vital 5). Total Fouls_Florida 21, UConn 14.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Didn’t watch but sure getting tired of coach White saying he has to coach better and get these guys going. Seems like the same problems we had last year, cant shoot and turn ball over. I know its early but dang it other teams don’t seem to have our problems!

  2. The two fouls at the end on Blackshear were not valid. Backed away from the driver on the call that fouled him out. How can the Gators only have 20 points at halftime on that St Joeseph scored 96 on Wednesday in the same building? 5 and 4 star talents plus the number one transfer in the country. The offense opened up in the 2nd half with Nembhard penetraing. Micromanager Mike has to call the plays instead of letting his players attack. This let the oppenent set up their defense. I have been a defender of White in the past, but no longer. Hard to watch. Stats were showed on tv before the game and identified that UF possessions were one of the slowest in the country. Why? Elite talent not being utilized because of a control coach. White needs to do what Billy D did in hiring a Larry Shyatt whom helped turn the program around. Larry knew more about defense than Billy did. White is controlling to hire a coach that might be smarter than him to help assist.

  3. I’ve seen 3 of the 4 games and it is painful to watch a team play 1on 1 basketball at this level and expect to win against any good team. 9 assists of which 7 are from Nembhard ain’t going to cut it and they aren’t going to get more assists and more points until they start to move without the ball. You never see anyone cutting across the key without the ball and you never see anyone running along the baseline without the ball. Every time down they put one guy in each corner, one guy at each wing and Nembhard at the top and then they play on on one basketball. How is Nembhard going to find an open man when all of them stand still. Then he gives the ball to one guy who comes toward him and that guy tries to play by himself and then he gives it to another guy who comes towards him (or back to Nembhard) who then tries to play one on one. Now I understand why Allen couldn’t score more last year and the year before. You can only blame inexperience for so long. A player can’t get open standing still. Just watch the other teams while they run around and across the floor. Just watch their big men going outside and then after giving up the ball streaking into the lane without it and getting free under the basket. Mike White may be a great recruiter and he may coach defense great, but I cannot admire his standing-still offense. It’s really tough to shoot an accurate 3 pointer when you always have your opponent right in your face.

    • Excellent post! Our offense has been nicknamed stall ball – snail ball – zombie ball etc. and it’s not funny. We have a one on one NBA offense with one guy down low and the rest outside the 3 point line then drive or drive and kick it to another or through it down low but we are not an NBA team. Guys just stand around and like you said no one is moving and neither is the ball just the player with the ball most of the time. Our offense is not working! It’s not about shooting better it’s about creating movement so players can get open and take a good shot! Basketball is a game of movement!

      • Great points!!! That has been my biggest criticism of Mike White’s offense. He relies on these guys to create their own shots ALOT! There is no flow. I get there is going to be a learning curve for these guys. They were studs in high school so they aren’t used to being part of the offense; they WERE the offense. They aren’t hitting their shots because they aren’t used to being spot up shooters.

        I get that 5* McDonald’s All Americans need time to adjust too. It happened under Billy Donovan too. I think Mike White’s biggest issues are his lack of player development and quality recruiting over his first 4 years. He keeps talking about being a young team and inexperienced, but he has no one to blame but himself. There is no experienced program player to provide leadership. There is no Brent Wright, Major Kenyan Weaks, Udonis Haslem, Adrian Moss or Patrick Young.

        I have been worried about this the past 4 seasons, when the major players were still Billy Donovan recruits….and not because White can’t coach or develop or whatever, but because he was not turning over the roster. By year 3, Donovan had turned over 75% the roster with his guys and Greg Stolt, Eddie Shannon and Kenyan Weaks had been in his program for 3 years. By year 4, the roster was completely his guys, besides Weaks.

        In year 4 under White, he was very much dependent on Allen, Stone and Hayes. They were all signed by Billy Donovan. So when you compare the rosters in Year 5, Billy Donovan had established a pipeline program where White had not.

        Basically, White’s year 5 is the equivalent of Billy D’s year 3, so the wasted years are showing.

        I’m not saying you fire Mike White. I’m just saying that you could see this type of scenario coming. He went to the tournament 3 straight years and people were comparing him to Billy Donovan, but if you really looked hard and took a deep dive into the roster, the program pipeline was not there and he is paying for it now.

        If given even more time, he could possibly get one going quickly but I guess it comes down to how much time are the fans and administration willing to give him.

  4. Looks like the same offense as last year and the year before and before that. We are playing one on one ball and shooting way to many 3 pointers. This has been the problem since CMW has been here. Watching the offense set up and execute is so painful it hurts. What’s even worse is knowing that you have good players and looking this bad. Hopefully we get some better leadership out there and start coming together as a team. I was surely expecting a better product on the floor this year than last and it’s looking all the same.

  5. With Mann concussed (knocked out cold) by a UConn elbow, the injuries for the Gator Basketball team are beginning to affect this season too (see football). Gak’s been on IR for his entire career at U.F. And Bassett must be hurt, too, I haven’t seen much of him so far. Payne and Blackshear are definitely bright spots for the bigs this season, but Florida will need more ”big man help” to win games. K.J. is the wildcard. He can ball inside and out, but he may need to become an ”in the paint monster” to help this team win close games (like UConn last night). Go Gators!

  6. Mike White Stat History UF

    Year. Offense PPG. Defense PPG

    2015-16. 74.4. 68.9

    2016-17. 77.9. 66.5

    2017-18. 75.8. 69.2

    2018-19. 67.8. 63.6

    2018-20(4 games). 62.5. 61.0

    First 3 years fairly consistent in offensive and defensive stats with a 6-8 pt difference in offense and defense PPG. Offensive production drops 8 points between year 3 and 4 and that was with quite a few experienced shooters on roster. Defensive points allowed drops 5.6 points which probably is the result of change in style of play(slower pace with less scoring opportunities for opponents). I couldn’t hope but notice this drop in offensive efficiency coincided with the departure of Dusty May assistant coach to head coach at FAU leading them to their first winning season in 8 years in his first year. There could be a myriad of reasons for the Gator’s offensive futility recently, schedule strength, team chemistry, player offensive talent etc. However, I surmise it could be offensive talent on the coaching staff. Just food for thought.

    • Good observations, Bama. I think the dropoff in scoring last season was primarily due to the departure of Chiozza and Egor coupled with the complete disappearance of Allen and Hudson. Locke started off well last season, then cooled off significantly trying to play through a nagging injury. Nembhard started shooting poorly, but finished with a decent 3-point percentage at 34.7%. KJ was the second best 3-point shooter at 36.5%, behind Locke’s 37.8%, if you don’t count Keith Stone, who shot 40.5% in only 17 games. There could be something to your Dusty May theory, but whatever it is, CMW needs to find an answer quickly.