Florida (14-8, 6-3) vs. Mississippi (11-11, 2-7), The Pavilion at Ole Miss, Oxford, Mississippi; 2 p.m. EST today, ESPN2, 103.7-FM, AM-850
Wednesday’s second-half comeback, which saw the Gators climb out of a 22-point hole in the second half to down Georgia, was full of atypical aspects.
Florida shot 7-for-11 from three-point land, switched to its seldom-used 3-2 zone defense and scored 17 points off the Dawgs’ mistakes while committing just three turnovers of its own in claiming an 81-75 victory.
Simply put, the win seemed incomprehensible until it wasn’t.
Now, with UF bound for Oxford, Mississippi, looking to sweep the season series against the Rebels (11-11, 2-7 SEC), coach Mike White is hoping the team is less temperamental when they take The Pavilion court at 2 p.m.
“We’re a unique team, to say the least,” White said. “I haven’t been a part of a team like this. I think that the makeup of our team, the personality of our team is that we can be emotional, the way that we react to each other at times. The way that we react to adversity, to the other team making a run, to officials. You name it.”
While that emotional personality did propel the Gators (14-8, 6-3 SEC) to go on a 37-5 run in the second half, it led to the deficit, too. It’s an issue White and the team’s veteran leaders have certainly lambasted throughout the season, yet one that has seen improvement as of late.
“Last week more than anything, I think. We had a big meeting and talked about kind of regulating each other and regulating our emotions and stuff like that so I think it’s been better the last week,” point guard Andrew Nembhard said. “We can still improve though.”
After Wednesday’s win, White revealed the existence of a “peer regulatory committee” in his postgame address, saying the team took it upon itself – after a push from the coaching staff, that is – to create an open feedback system from teammate to teammate, with the goal of becoming more of a “peer-coached” team.
But that was all White would disclose about the committee, saying it was for the players to discuss if they wanted.
Although they didn’t dive into details, Nembhard and graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. acknowledged the need for increased accountability – something the committee is already addressing.
“We just want to be a locker room team, for sure. We feel as though we got a lot of guys who are helpful pieces to us and who are still growing as players and as people in general. We just want to be able to hold each other accountable and it doesn’t always have to be the coaching staff and everything like that,” Blackshear said. “Just being able to be your brother’s keeper, that’s important. That’s what we’ve been trying to do and that’s been helping us, and I think it’ll help us get better down the road.”
Now, the Gators are hoping that accountability translates to consistency when they take the court against the SEC’s scoring leader in Breein Tyree.
“I think we just got to be better from start to finish. Consistency is hard to maintain. Momentum is something that’s hard to gain, so it’s something that we have to do better from start to finish,” Nembhard said. “There are some games that we’ve started really well and then the other team goes on a run and then we don’t respond in the same way. So we just want to be able to figure out ways that we can maintain an entire 40 minutes, and I think the sky’s the limit for this team.”
Keyontae Johnson;F;6-5;231;So.;13.4 ppg;6.6 rpg
Kerry Blackshear Jr.;F;6-10;241;Gr.;13.9 ppg;8.2 rpg
Andrew Nembhard;G;6-5;193;So.;11.7 ppg;5.8 apg
Noah Locke;G;6-3;207;So.;10.0 ppg;2.7 rpg
Scottie Lewis;G;6-5;185;Fr.;8.0 ppg;4.2 rpg
Blake Hinson;F;6-7;229;So.;10.7 ppg;5.2 rpg
Khadim Sy;F;6-10;240;Jr.;9.2 ppg;5.3 rpg
KJ Buffen;F;6-7;225;So.;9.8 ppg;5.9 rpg
Devontae Shuler;G;6-2;190;Jr.;11.3 ppg;4.6 rpg
Breein Tyree;G;6-2;195;Sr.;18.9ppg;3.6 rpg
Notes: Florida travels to Ole Miss for its first repeat opponent of the season. The Gators beat a shorthanded Rebels team in Gainesville on Jan. 14, as Ole Miss was without the services of leading scorer Breein Tyree and starting big man Khadim Sy … Florida is coming off a 22-point comeback win vs. Georgia, tied for the largest in school history (1993 at South Carolina) … Florida trailed 52-30 with under 17 minutes to play in the game then reeled off a 39-7 run. It marked UF’s second comeback of 20+ points this season, as UF also rallied from 21 down to win their SEC opener vs. Alabama in double overtime … During conference play, the Gators are shooting .462 from the field and .381 from 3-point range, both tops in the league rankings.