Florida has taken a slow-it-down approach in the final 10 minutes of games in an effort to work for quality shots and keep its defense fresh to protect leads.
But the end result wasn’t pretty in UF’s 72-69 overtime loss to Georgia on Wednesday night at the O’Connell Center. Florida managed to score just nine points in the final 10:03 of regulation, which allowed the Bulldogs to rally from down 11 points and tie the score at 59 on a Yante Maten 3-pointer with five seconds left.
The inability to execute halfcourt offense down the stretch has been a recent, troubling trend. Florida has scored 10 or less points in the final 10 minutes in four of its last five games, including twice against Georgia. Florida is 2-3 during that stretch. Considering Florida scored 100 or more points in four of its first five games, it’s a sign the Gators aren’t maximizing their offensive potential.
Florida senior guard Egor Koulechov said the Gators didn’t purposely slow down in the final 10 minutes against Georgia, but nonetheless were caught taking a number of tough shots late in the shot clock. Florida went through a 7:27 stretch in the final 10 minutes when it failed to make a basket, which included a shot-clock violation, a rare turnover by senior point guard Chris Chiozza, two turnovers by Kevarrius Hayes on offensive fouls and a turnover by redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett on a cylinder violation.
“We just played with a little more poise, tried to share the ball a little more, tried to avoid those early tough shots,” Koulechov said. “For the most part, it’s been working. We’ll hopefully get better as we move on.”
Florida coach Mike White used the stall-ball tactic in its 65-41 win at South Carolina, a game in which the Gators scored just seven points in the final 10:38 and were whistled for three shot-clock violations during that stretch. Without a legitimate low post scoring threat, Florida has been forced to rely on either 3-point shots, ball movement or drives to the basket in late-game situations.
“We just have to do a better job of paying attention to details,” Florida junior guard KeVaughn Allen said. “When fatigue sets in, we seem to lose sight of our goals.”
For the second straight game, White extended his bench, getting valuable minutes from Mike Okauru (14 points and 14 minutes) and Allen (19 points in 39 minutes). But the Gators still ran out of gas and took a handful of bad shots in crunch time.
“If we can’t stay focused for the full 40, then we’re going to have the outcomes like that,” Okauru said.
As a result, Florida suffered its fifth home loss of the season. The last time Florida lost five games at home was in 2014-15, in then-coach Billy Donovan’s final season. The Gators went 16-17 overall and failed to make the postseason.
The Gators (17-9, 8-5 SEC) will try to regroup on the road against a Vanderbilt team coming off a dramatic 81-80 win over Mississippi State on Wednesday night. The Commodores won on a 3-pointer by guard Riley LaChance with one second remaining. Florida has lost three straight at Memorial Gym, with its last win there coming on Feb. 25, 2014.
“We’ve got to flush this one mentally, so we can really focus on the scouting report of the Commodores, or we’re not going to have much success,” White said.
FREE THROWS: White opened his news conference late Wednesday night offering thoughts and prayers to victims of the school shooting in Parkland. Florida also held a moment of silence for victims of the school shooting before the game. … Okauru’s 14 points were his most since scoring a career-high 15 points against Stanford in the PK80 Tournament on Nov. 23. Okauru is averaging 10.3 points off the bench over his last three games. … White dropped to 11-15 in games decided by 5 points or less in his UF tenure and 3-3 in overtime games.
Who: Florida (17-9, 8-5 SEC) vs. Vanderbilt (10-16, 4-9)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Memorial Gym, Nashville, Tenn.
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850