Gators look to regroup at Charleston Classic

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Florida coach Mike White talks with guards Andrew Nembhard (2) and Noah Locke (10) during the second half last Thursday against Towson in Gainesville. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)
Today
Who: Florida (2-2) vs. Saint Joseph’s (2-2)
When: 2 p.m.
What: Charleston Classic
Where: TD Arena, Charleston, S.C.
TV: ESPN2
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

The first road trip of the year didn’t go according to plan for the Florida men’s basketball team.
The Gators suffered a 62-59 loss Sunday at UConn, with the defeat both emphasizing a young UF team’s flaws and highlighting multiple areas in which coach Mike White and the Gators could improve over the course of the season.
While the postseason tournament is hardly a given considering the way Florida has played in the early going, the Gators will experience a tournament-like atmosphere when they take the court against St. Joseph’s University at 2 p.m. today in Charleston, South Carolina, in the opening game of the three-day Charleston Classic.
The tournament will feature eight teams, including two opponents the Gators have already faced this season in Towson and UConn. If Florida advances to Sunday’s championship round, a rematch with either team could be in store — yet White and his players have more pressing matters at hand.
Rather than look ahead to potential opponents, the Gators are focused on internal reflection after a 2-2 start mired by a lack of flow and subpar shooting on the offensive end.
“We are just very dysfunctional offensively right now. Obviously, we all know that. We push when we probably should walk. We walk it when we got guys open ahead of us. Especially at UConn, we passed up shots we should’ve shot and took shots maybe we shouldn’t have shot,” White said.
“How much do you talk about shot selection before it becomes too mental for the guys? I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve talked about it more this fall, probably, than I’ve done it in the past. Maybe with all the new guys, all the youth, and with our ceiling offensively — which I still think is very high, and I’ve obviously missed the target. So I’m trying to infuse some confidence in these guys.”
With UF’s most skilled shooters — Noah Locke and Tre Mann — combining to start 7 for 34 from the 3-point line, the Gators have struggled to score from outside consistently through four games this season.
UF managed just 20 points on 8-for-26 shooting in the first half, with graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. accounting for half of Florida’s makes from the field at the midpoint.
Blackshear’s ability to provide inside scoring with UF struggling to hit outside shots highlighted the Orlando native’s potential impact this season, but it was the way in which he finished the game that stressed the flip side of the equation.
Blackshear picked up his fourth foul early in the second half, yet with Florida’s frontcourt still on the mend White had little choice but to manage his minutes rather than sit him for an extended time.
He would eventually foul out with just under five minutes remaining — although UF would have an opportunity to send the contest into overtime despite his absence — and UConn would soon grab a critical offensive rebound and convert the second-chance opportunity to extend the lead with Florida’s leading scorer and rebounder sidelined.
Although junior center Gorjok Gak did make his return to the court for Florida, he was held scoreless in five minutes of action, and the loss to the Huskies further stressed UF’s lack of depth in the frontcourt.
When combined with UF’s ongoing shooting slump, it’s clear as to why the Gators are in an early rut; in spite of all the apparent issues, however, it’s too early for Florida and White to overreact.
“I don’t think it’s in our best interest to hit the panic button. We’re doing a lot of good things. We’ve got really good kids, and I thought they were extremely acceptive and communicate during film yesterday,” White said. “It’ll fall at some point. We’ve got too good of shooters. We’ve just got to figure it out.”

PROJECTED STARTERS

FLORIDA

Keyontae Johnson F 6-5  231 So. 10.5 ppg 5.5 rpg

Kerry Blackshear Jr. F 6-10 241 Gr. 14.3 ppg 12.0 rpg 

Andrew Nembhard G 6-5  193 So. 8.3 ppg 5.8 apg

Scottie Lewis G 6-5  185 Fr. 9.0 ppg 2.8 rpg

Noah Locke G 6-3  207 So. 6.3 ppg 2.3 rpg

ST. JOSEPH’S

Myles Douglas F 6-7 215 RSo. 10.0 ppg 2.3 rpg

Lorenzo Edwards F 6-8 215 Jr.    12.3 ppg 6.3 rpg

Taylor Funk F 6-8 230 Jr.   10.0 ppg 5.5 rpg

Ryan Daly G 6-5 225 RJr.  19.3 ppg 9.0 rpg

Cameron Brown G 6-5 210 Fr.  9.0 ppg 4.8 rpg

Notes: For the second time in the past five seasons, Florida and Saint Joseph’s will link up in holiday tournament action. UF and SJU last battled at the 2015 Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic in Uncasville, Conn., which was the Gators’ third game of Mike White’s tenure … The Gators look to get back in the win column after a road setback at UConn on Sunday, where the Gators came up short despite another solid defensive effort. Kerry Blackshear led the way with 15 points and 8 rebounds — his first UF game without a double-double — while Andrew Nembhard scored all 14 of his points in the second half … Florida has been outstanding defensively, holding all four opponents this season to 63 or fewer points. The Gators rank 23rd nationally in KenPom defensive efficiency, and it’s that defensive effort that is keeping them competitive, as the team’s outside shooting has not hit its stride yet, shooting .241 from 3-point range and making just 4.8 3-pointers per game.

— Graham Hall

13 COMMENTS

  1. With White as coach, Florida will never get back to the elite they were under Donovan. His offense is run and gun and hope the 3’s are dropping. They’re not when guards run down the court and shoot and don’t move the ball around and look for the player with a clear shot or start feeding the guys in the paint more often to open the outside shots. One can’t argue that Florida has been to March Madness a few times under White and they performed well in one….but that was a very lucky shot by Chiozza after White’s coaching almost lost the game. One can’t argue that his coaching career at Florida is positive at 89-53…but look at all the weak teams Florida has played. Florida pads their games each year with numerous weak teams to reach a winning record of 20+, which is typical of most teams. But Florida’s history under Donovan with 2 national championships helps Florida to play in March Madness. Shame on Stricklin to award White with monetary bonuses with, which has jumped his annual pay to over 3 million a year. It appears that Florida has the players this year to go to the Final 4 and the sport’s writers thought so too putting them at #6 at the beginning of the season. Where are they now? Not even in the top 25. The sport’s writers now understand what a coaching disaster White is at Florida. Stricklin will eventually recognize that too. The Towson coach is head’s above white in coaching.

    • Your point about the Gators schedule is just blatantly wrong. The Gators have had a tough nonconference schedule each year under White, significantly more difficult than most of the Donovan years. You point to a “lucky” shot by Chiozza in the Sweet Sixteen, but don’t forget, the 2000 Gators needed a relatively lucky shot by Mike Miller just to get by Butler in the first round.

      The sports writers saw potential in Florida, based on the addition of three highly rated freshmen and the best grad transfer in the nation. That’s four new players that have to blend and find chemistry with the three sophomores and Bassett. Finding that chemistry and learning to play together isn’t necessarily easy. Duke and UK are accustomed to welcoming new players every year, but sometimes there’s growing pains, like UK’s loss to Evansville at Rupp.

      The preseason ranking was based on potential. The current, unranked situation is based on performance. Are Lewis and Mann slightly overrated? Has White mishandled them? Is it growing pains? Maybe, but at least give them until the end of the nonconference schedule to make that judgment.

  2. So, this game does not matter but this weekend does. We have three games in four days. This team MUST get an effective offense installed or the season will slip away. Mike White needs to earn his pay this weekend and get this team pointed in the right direction.

    And please, please, Keyontae, take the shot. You are the most consistent good player on the team and that makes you the guy. Come to play and don’t shy away from taking over. I love what Blackshear and the other bigs can bring to the floor, but Keyontae you are the man.

  3. In Game ….

    First half, Gators are showing some semblance of offense. Drive and dish. Threes are falling. midway through though, we revert to form and start playing schoolyard ball. Blackshear is not playing smart and spends most of the 1st half on the bench in foul trouble. After a TO, Gators get back on track. My man Keyontae is not being shy and is playing well. I think everyone but Blackshear is playing well today for the most part. D is missing some key blockouts so St. Jos is getting second chance points. Why? Easy to see we are way more athletic that the Hawks. Best half of ball we have put together this season.

    The second half, we need to concentrate on continuing good D and play smart.