Three observations following Florida’s 71-54 win over Mississippi State at the O’Connell Center:
— Florida showed some good fight on the boards against Mississippi State, outrebounding the taller Bulldogs 38-31. The Gators grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and outscored Mississippi State 16-12 in second chance points. Sophomore center Gorjok Gak, junior center Kevarrius Hayes and redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett all had putback baskets under the basket. “We’re starting to be consistently a little bit scrappier,” Florida coach Mike White said. “We’re not the most physical team. Our mental toughness has definitely improved, but we’re getting hands on basketballs, we’re playing with some grit on the interior. We had to, to have a chance.
— A couple of factors played into another off night offensively for Florida junior guard KeVaughn Allen. One, Allen started at the point in place of senior point guard Chris Chiozza, who was dealing with strep throat this week. Two, Allen picked up two first half fouls for the second straight game and played just 9 minutes in the first half. Allen didn’t take his first shot attempt until the 10:45 mark in the second, a transition 3-pointer off a steal. Allen then had his second shot attempt, a 3-pointer, rim out. On his third shot and final shot attempt, Allen missed a make-able drive to the basket. “I think deep down KeVaughn knows he’s got some big games ahead of him,” Florida coach Mike White said. “He just does. There’s going to be bunch of different scouting reports coming, there’s going to be a bunch of different ways that teams are going to defend us and he’s going to get it going one game in a big way and hopefully that will carry over to him being a little more aggressive.” Allen had 2 assists to 1 turnover and should have had a third assist, but junior center Kevarrius Hayes missed a wide open dunk on a pretty inside pass from the 6-foot-2 North Little Rock, Ark., native.
— Freshman guard Mike Okauru provided another solid game off the bench for the Gators with 3 points, 1 assists and 0 turnovers in 18 minutes. Okauru is playing within himself and playing with maturity in important conference games.
Overall the team played well. Areas to improve: turn-overs and post defense. Way too many turnovers. Also, still not consistent on post defense. Too many easy baskets, through KH and KS are playing better. We also missed a lot of open shots, especially at the rim. Need to make those shots. Still waiting for KA to start lighting it up.
Post defense has improved immensely. They were giving up a lot of size last night, but still held their own. Didn’t help that the officials were letting a lot of banging take place down low when Miss. St. had the ball. There was a sequence early in the second half last night where Stone backed his way in for a lay-up and they called charge and Miss. St. came down the floor (I forget the big guy’s name). He hammered through Hayes on his way to a layup, no call. I’m okay with letting them play, but call it the same both ways. That’s my only beef with last night’s officials, though. They were okay.
Gritty win, and what a great performance by Cheese. Anyone who has ever had ”strep-throat” would know.
I love that they’re starting to get scrappier. But I would like to see them make those close shots at the basket more. Gak missing a lay-in, or Hudson trying to electrify the crow with a monster dunk, only to get (as we used to say) ”yoked!” Those ”small things” could help them win a close game down the road. Go Gators!
Chiozza is just amazing.
Overall, no complaints on the performance in this game. Miss State wanted to grind out a win using their size in the post and we didn’t let them. One of Hayes best games in many different unselfish ways.
Coach White is right to not have any concerns about Allen’s offense. He will be there when we really need him.