Soft Gators no match for top-ranked Bears

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Florida freshman guard Scottie Lewis looks to pass the ball Saturday while guarded by Baylor forward Freddie Gillespie during the Big 12/EC Challenge game at Exactech Arena. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

After the game, I checked the box score of Florida’s double-digit loss to No. 1 Baylor. It turns out that some of you were wrong.

Baylor did not get every rebound in the game.

OK, so it may have seemed like it.

The Gators were physically manhandled by a team that came to Gainesville and showed us what a No. 1 team looks like. In a season where college basketball teams have treated the top spot like it was musical chairs, Baylor looks the most comfortable at the top.

And the Bears showed just how big a gap there is from number one to number whatever.

Baylor is as tough a team as you’ll see this year.

Florida is, well, something else.

“We’re soft at times,” said Florida coach Mike White, who wore an exasperated expression after seeing his team handled. “From a mental toughness standpoint, where nowhere near where we need to be to be a championship team.”

I’m not sure anyone is thinking about a championship of anything around the Gator Nation. Florida fans packed the O-Dome only to find out that they could not make a difference against a team that made its noise on the court and seemed oblivious to anything coming from the stands.

That’s what tough teams do.

Baylor looked like a bunch of linebackers out there, physical and bruising. It was like it cloned a bunch of Keyontae Johnson in Waco.

Baylor looked like a bunch of grown men playing a bunch of youngsters, which wasn’t far from the truth.

The Bears moved Florida wherever they wanted the Gators to go. On one rebound, two Baylor players boxed out UF freshman Scottie Lewis from each side so that he looked like Gumby with the top half of his body twisting one way and the bottom half the other.

“They just moved us out of the way,” said Johnson, who fought for 20 points to lead the Gators.

The bottom line is this — Baylor does most things well most of the time while Florida does some things well some of the time.

Take free throws, please.

The Bears made 15-of-16.

Florida, on the other hand, missed the front end of three straight one-and-ones while the game was still competitive. Three straight gut punches.

“To beat a No. 1 team,” said White, “you gotta make some of them.”

And when you do finally get stops, you can’t have guys trying to make 8-point shots. They don’t exist. Still, there were times the Gators looked like they were shooting for degree of difficulty bonus points.

But mostly, this game was about defense. The No. 1 team played as if every possession was its last.

“They’ve got a few guys out there playing like maniacs,” White said. “The last 30 minutes, they are in the argument for being the best defensive team in the country.”

On the other hand, Florida played and has been playing defense in spots (and even when it got stops the rebound too often ended up in the hands of a Baylor player).

This Gator team had lost its defensive edge. I’d say UF is at a crossroads as far as this season goes, but it feels like there have been so many already.

This was the end of Florida’s three-game run through resume builders without the resume getting a big boost. The Gators now turn to the softer part of their schedule, but the way this team plays so inconsistently from game to game, from possession to possession, from second to second, are there really any soft opponents?

Saturday night certainly wasn’t one.

Baylor was as tough as the nails they used to hammer closed one corner of the orange and blue coffin for this season.

“I wanted to start early and get the crowd out of it, but just the opposite happened,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “That’s where experience comes in. We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been through battles and they don’t get rattled as easily as someone that hasn’t.”

A lot of tough guys.

Certainly, a lot more than Florida has right now.

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

 

11 COMMENTS

  1. Defensively, the Gators don’t have enough bulk. Offensively, the Gators have only one player who can shoot off the dribble, Nembhard, and he won’t most of the time. They are a good, but not great, team and will never be ranked this season. They still don’t move without the ball enough so they wind up playing one-on-one most of the time. Also, they don’t have the 3 pt shooters they have had in other years. There is not one player on the team who the other teams really fear, no one who can break down a defense and then pass the ball to an open man and even if he could, no one will be open because they will all be standing around watching instead of moving to open places where they can do some damage. Except for the lack of bulk, the Gators could solve the other problems and maybe they will get it before the end of the season. In that case, they might win 2 rounds of the NCAA, or with luck, 3. Let’s face it: in the SEC they are 7th in scoring, 8th in Rebounding and 7th in free throw shooting (where they are only 7th in attempts). They are hard to get excited about. Maybe next year, but that may be difficult if they can’t find a guy to replace Blackshear.

  2. Had a long day and quit watching after first half…same as the MO game, Baylor seemingly was making all three’s and boxing out for many rebounds (Gators stayed out of the middle)…I noted several times on offense guys were just standing around like they didn’t know what to do (IE. like White)…one time Blackshear got doubled team with no place to go and NOBODY came to his rescue? I’m not an anti Coach White guy, but is he a tactician?

  3. This is what I get for finally tuning into a basketball game — it’s me, folks, apologies, every time I watch one, we get hammered.
    We were overmatched but to to BSCE’s point about bailing out Blackshear, our offense at times seemed lost. White has four complete years at UF behind him, so I checked his record vs Donovan’s. Both are roughly the same (low 60%’s winning percentage) but boy, the trend with Donovan was distinctly different. His first two years were mediocre and then he took off on what would be an extended great run. Maybe things are just different today in terms of one-and-done? I don’t know. Still a long way to go this season, let’s hope things gel.

  4. The Gators just do not go after rebounds aggressively on either end of the court which has caused losses in several games this year. If the three point shots are not going down no one seems to care; very little crashing the board or blocking out so the three point plays usually result in just one shot per possession. LSU was a team UF should have beat but a lack of aggressiveness in rebounding by the Gators was a major factor in that loss. Simply put, if you can not out shoot the other team then you have to out rebound them, Great teams do both.

  5. P.S. It has been said and I find it to be true in a lot of cases that a team will take on the personality of their coach. The Gator’s rebounding and White’s demeanor are both “milk toast” at best, there is no fire in the boiler, no junk dog attitude. Man shall live by offense alone, get the damn ball!

  6. Pat’s podcast guest, Frank Frangie, the radio play-by-play voice of the Jacksonville Jaguars said the Gators will go 12-6 in SEC play, and be a 4 or 5 seed in the Big Dance. I can see now why he’s a play-by-play guy for ”the NFL,” and not college basketball. But it could still can happen, ‘IF’ this team learns how to play with an ”edge” or ”some nastiness.” #11, K. Johnson is the ONLY 1 on the team (to date) that does play with ”an edge,” and he was Florida’s leading scorer yesterday. So with only 12 reg. season games left in this ”journey,” it’s now heading back to the docks. And the 2019-’20 Gator Men’s Basketball team is the captain, and it’s totally on them now. Go Gators!

  7. The Gators had two things against them against Baylor.

    1. Baylor’s shots were falling while Gators’ shots were not. The Gators were pushing the pace and driving to the basket which is what they needed to do to be successful. Not sure if there’s anything that a coach can do on nights like this. There were a couple of bad shot selections by the Gators but they didn’t stick out as inordinately high. I’m too lazy to check the stats to compare this game to season averages so I may be way off. My guess is Baylor shot better and Gators shot worse than their season averages. Maybe Baylor is just that much better than the Gators.

    2. Pat and Coach white called the team soft. That wasn’t the word I was thinking while watching the game but we are on the same wavelength. With KJ as the only exception, the words that came to mind for the rest of the team are they don’t have the eye of the tiger, the killer instinct, and they carry themselves with a lack of confidence. The look in their eyes, their posture, and their gait says it all. There was a distinct difference been the facial expressions and demeanor of the two teams. Just take a look at the picture above. I would recommend Coach White call in a team psychologist to figure it out. Another thought is the off season strength and conditioning wasn’t tough enough but that’s hard to prove without being there.