Stall ball dooms Gators in Georgia loss

Florida Gators center Gorjok Gak (12) grabs a rebound during first half action as the Gators took on the Georgia Bulldogs in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

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.

Up next

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


  1. I don’t believe Egor when he said “we didn’t purposefully slow it down”. This is Coach White’s philosophy…..try not to lose instead of keeping the foot on the pedal and not giving the opponent a breath of life. When Georgia, BAMA and TN start beating you in basketball, you have a problem.

  2. You can count on it. The Cheeze walk it up the court and start the offense with 12 seconds on the clock. Even when we are down a bucket! A recipe for disaster. We have been consistently baked. And don’t you love it in FB and BB when our players are forced to discuss the need for improvement with 20 percent of the season left.

  3. Gak and Okauru didn’t play at all in the last 10 minutes. Okauru should of played more since Hudson wasn’t himself. The coach need to use Gak on post more so he can pass the balls to the guards so they can shoot instead of having them drive to the basket. The BB it’s like the football team, everybody knows the play. Allen needs to shoot at least 25 times or more rather passing when he has an open shots. Every BB teams always have someone to go to and right now Allen is not stepping up to be the leader like he should. Go Gators!!!!

  4. Number of LOSSES this season when his team was FAVORED:

    Howland, Miss St 0 Pearl, Aub 3
    Barnes, Tenn 2 Drew, Van 3
    Martin, Mo 2 Wade, LSU 3
    Johnson, Ala 3 Kennedy, TexA&M 4
    Fox, Ga 3 Calipari, Ky 4
    Martin, S Car 3 Kennedy, Miss 4
    Anderson, Ark 3 White, Fla 8

    Wow, how surprising! Can that be right?! Our guy on the bottom?! For the doubters, you can verify by going to

    Chuckle for the day: Fox at Georgia is in trouble for losing games where his team was an UNDERDOG!! Our coach is in good graces for LOSING games in which is team was FAVORED!

  5. Playing not to lose is for losers. I know many fans are starting to see it as “The Florida Fade” near the end of games. Being tired is not the problem. The other team is tired too. You have to “put the game away” by doing what gave you the lead in the first place. This reminds me of football’s “Prevent Defense” that typically results in grabbing “defeat from the jaws of victory”.

  6. I really like Mike White. He will give us championships in the future I feel sure, but this predictable fading at the end of games is on the coach, not the players. The philosophy of “protecting your lead” has to change.

  7. Two areas of concern with Coach White now are ability to recruit and develop bigs, and ability to finish close games well.
    I do think it’s his nature to play up tempo, so puzzling why they try to take the air out of games.

  8. Coach White Really needs to rethink his approach to officials as well. We all know how bad the basketball officiating is in the SEC so your only chance at a fair shake is to stay all over them when they are missing a good game. The UGA game was the worst performance by the refs that I have seen in a couple of years yet White sat there and did or said nothing until the very end of the game, and the incompetence continued. Don’t let the apologists fool you, jumping the refs during the game DOES impact how they call the game. I have witnessed this myself in my 36 years as a season ticket holder. Not suggesting that he become a Bruce Pearl-like lunatic, just be willing to stand up for his team when they are clearly getting jobbed. On multiple occasions Wednesday night, the players looked to the bench hoping that their coach would stand up for them but he did not and nothing changed. Billy figured this out after a couple of years and we rarely got jobbed to any level close to what we saw Wednesday. Or, he can continue his Athletic Director approach to game management and continue to get jobbed by incompetent if not biased officiating. Just my two cents.

  9. It doesn’t take a basketball genius to see the Gators score & lead in the game when they play up-tempo and a little helter skelter…..the Gators do not score, lose leads, and lose games when they go into Mike White’s version of a prevent defense! The coaching is a sure detriment to success….time to get someone who knows how to win with talent!

  10. Mystery!
    This team had the potential to be the best team in ten years.

    I wish i could see the practices & locker room.
    Something is wrong.

    Egbunu should have admitted last year that he was not playing this year.
    UF could have recruited a real center.

    Playing w/o a center all year has reduced this team to being a team that has hard time beating any team with big men and scoring 6-8 guys.
    Bottom line w/o center this team makes NCAA but loses to team with big men in 1st round or two of tournament.

    At this point i would prefer to have them play all out fast. (and win or lose on out scoring other team). Play the 10 guys. Forget the 3 who have been out injured.

    I would dismiss Egbunu unless he fully commit to return to UF (requesting 6st yr).
    He has teased this team and fans that he was going to play.
    One year and not recovered is BS.

    Remaining schedule is hard. I do not expect to win half of them.

  11. Here’s an idea. Since we need an inside game how about playing two big guys at the same time Hayes and Gak or Bassett etc.! This isn’t rocket science. To not even try it for a minute or two is beyond common sense! And we hardly ever play zone either – again at least try it! Makes no sense! It’s not fair to compare but Billy D. would have experimented with these ideas a long time ago! If they don’t work what have you lost – nothing. We’re getting killed inside anyway!

  12. If you have the talent and are not playing to the potential that is expected, then it’s on the coach. Question is do we have the talent to compete? I thought so at the beginning of the season but something happened and they aren’t playing up to it now. It’s coach White’s job to fix the problem by coaching up the players that he has and recruiting players that fit his system. I have said many times that he doesn’t use timeouts in crucial situations during games. We cannot lose games that we are favored in by going cold for the last ten minutes. This happened far to often and I understand it happens to everyone but to be the worst in the league at finishing games that’s on the coach. Another problem could be the youthful age of our coach. If the players don’t look at him with the respect and attention that he deserves being the coach then you could also get this kind of basketball play from individuals that don’t listen to what he’s teaching. I hope this is not the issue but either way changers are going to be needed if this stays the norm.

  13. Once again the pile on to fire Mike White has begun. I don’t like the “stall-ball” that they’ve done in recent games, which have all ended in losses, unless they’re up by so much that 15-18 points in the final 10 min. doesn’t hurt. Can’t recruit or coach the bigs. Heard it all before, as these are all of the same rants that were thrown at Billy Donovan for years….even after taking Florida to only their second final four and first ever NC game, and then eventually winning two NCs.

    • Corey, agree completely. I don’t think you can blame “stall ball” or Mike White for this one. When you have a 7 point lead with 1:29 left, all you really need to do is guard the 3 point line and hit FT’s. The Gators gave up 3 3-pointers in that time and only took 2 FT’s, because they couldn’t get the ball in bounds to their best FT shooters. The ball can’t be in Hudson’s hands in that situation. It has to go to Allen or Koulechov without exception. Mike White can’t be blamed for that poor execution, although it might have been better to put a screener in the back court to help free up those two guys.

  14. Very disappointed in Coach White this season. So much bad coaching. How did we not foul UGA, when we had a 3 point lead, before they got off the game tying 3 pointer? The overall second half philosophy seems to be playing not to lose. That is not a recipe for success.