Gators squander another lead, fall at Vanderbilt

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Vanderbilt guard Riley LaChance defends against Florida guard Egor Koulechov in the first half Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The collapse was complete. Another winnable game went by the wayside as Florida was unable to hold another double-digit, second-half lead in a disheartening 71-68 loss to Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym.

Yet Florida redshirt sophomore forward Keith Stone maintained belief that fortunes will turn for UF soon.

“We’ll bounce back,” Stone said Saturday. “I know this team. We’re resilient. I got faith in my team.”

Faith from Gator Nation is in short supply. Florida (17-10, 8-6 SEC) has lost four of its last six overall and five of its last seven SEC games. If the Gators are to turn around their woes, it must happen quickly, against the toughest stretch of their conference schedule. Florida will continue its Tennessee two-step on Wednesday at the No. 18 Vols, then host No. 10 Auburn on Saturday. From there, Florida closes the regular season with a game at Alabama and a home game against Kentucky.

Blowing a six-point lead in the final 20 seconds at home against Georgia earlier in the week was painful, but this was a lost opportunity to regain some confidence heading into the stretch run.

“I hope it affects us mentally,” Florida coach Mike White said. “Maybe it will make us better. We’ve got, what, four games left. If we don’t figure it out, it’s not going to end well. I don’t think we need confidence to play defense. I think we need some accountability and some discipline and some leadership and some communication. I think we need to do our jobs.”

The Gators went up 45-34 on an Egor Koulechov 3-pointer with 15 minutes remaining. But as has been the case all season, Florida couldn’t put an opponent away.

Vanderbilt chipped away at UF’s lead with a flurry of wide-open 3-pointers, the biggest one coming from Riley LaChance to tie the score at 62 with 5:04 left. From there, Florida and Vanderbilt traded baskets and free throws until arguably the biggest play of the game with 2:04 left.

Vanderbilt had made 20 of its first 21 free throws when LaChance made the first of two free throws to cut UF’s lead to 68-67. Then came a rare LaChance miss and the chance for Florida to retain possession with the lead. But Koulechov, normally reliable on the boards, was unable to come up with the rebound off the miss. In the loose ball scramble, Vanderbilt junior guard Joe Toye came up with the ball. With the second chance opportunity, LaChance made the Gators pay with a driving layup to give Vanderbilt a 69-68 lead with 1:53 remaining

“That’s on me,” Koulechov said. “I got to block out better, jump. I was hoping for the over the back call. I got pushed in the back. Didn’t get that. We were on the road. Not supposed to get that. Again, I gotta be more accountable than that, get that rebound, put my body on the line.”

Koulechov had a chance to atone for the mistake on the offensive end, but missed a short jumper on the baseline that was set up by point guard Chris Chiozza with 1:22 left. Then, after forcing a missed 3-pointer from Vanderbilt point guard Saben Lee, Florida had another opportunity to take the lead. The Gators had numbers in transition and junior guard Jalen Hudson just had to take it to the basket himself, but missed a makeable layup with 36 seconds left.

With 10.6 seconds left, Toye was fouled and made a pair of free throws to put Vanderbilt up 71-68. Florida had two chances to tie the game and send it to overtime. But Koulechov missed a turn-around 3-pointer with five seconds left. Kevarrius Hayes fought for an offensive rebound and dished it out to an open KeVaughn Allen, but Allen’s attempt rimmed out with one second left.

Florida was unable to hit a number of short shots in the final 10 minutes, including a missed runner in the lane by Stone and a missed wide-open layup under the basket by freshman Mike Okauru.

“Our inefficiencies at the rim continue to haunt us,” White said. “We had a bunch of looks in the paint. If you’re gonna steal one on the road, you’ve got to make a layup. You’ve got to make the five-footers with a little bit of contact.”

Stone led three UF players in double figures with 20 points. Koulechov added 14 points and Hudson scored 10 points off the bench.

The Gators led 34-28 at the half behind 15 points from Stone, who went 5 for 7 from the floor, 1 of 2 from 3-point range and 4 of 4 from the free throw line in the first 20 minutes.

“He carried us in that first half,” Koulechov said. “Thought we played really good defense, led to some easy shots for him. Guys were sharing the ball.”

Senior forward Jeff Roberson led Vanderbilt (11-16, 5-9 SEC) with 26 points, with LaChance adding 21 points. Roberson single-handedly kept Vanderbilt in the game early in the second half, scoring VU’s first 13 points of the second half as the Gators tried to pull away.

Vanderbilt won its fifth straight home game and has won four straight against the Gators at Memorial Gym.

“We’re thankful,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. “They had some really good looks, they had some late ones in that stretch. Two 3s at the end and they missed.”

VANDERBILT 71, FLORIDA 68
FLORIDA (17-10)

Stone 7-11 4-4 20, Hayes 2-5 1-2 5, Koulechov 5-11 0-0 14, Allen 3-8 0-0 7, Chiozza 3-10 0-0 6, Bassett 1-1 0-0 2, Ballard 0-1 0-0 0, Hudson 4-12 2-4 10, Okauru 2-4 0-1 4. Totals 27-63 7-11 68.

VANDERBILT (11-16)

Roberson 6-11 12-12 26, Obinna 1-2 0-0 2, Evans 2-2 2-2 8, LaChance 7-12 5-6 21, Lee 0-4 1-2 1, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Baptiste 0-0 0-0 0, Willis 0-3 0-0 0, Toye 4-7 2-2 13. Totals 20-41 22-24 71.

Halftime_Florida 34-28. 3-Point Goals_Florida 7-19 (Koulechov 4-6, Stone 2-3, Allen 1-3, Okauru 0-1, Chiozza 0-2, Hudson 0-4), Vanderbilt 9-22 (Toye 3-6, Evans 2-2, Roberson 2-4, LaChance 2-5, Lee 0-2, Willis 0-3). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Florida 28 (Koulechov 7), Vanderbilt 30 (Roberson 8). Assists_Florida 14 (Chiozza 6), Vanderbilt 11 (LaChance 5). Total Fouls_Florida 16, Vanderbilt 16. A_10,346 (14,316).

112 COMMENTS

  1. Another late game collapse. Another blown lead. Another loss to an inferior opponent. Another game of inexcusable missed baskets, poor decisions and failures on defense. I have never seen a team fall apart so many times, time after time, late in game with a lead. This is inexcusable. The coach needs to be fired.

    • I’ve watched this team several times and they play decent in the first half but the second half they play like they are playing not to lose. It looks almost like the old North Caroline four corners offense. Let’s try to run out the clock before they catch up. This is the WORST second half team I have ever witnessed. I thought in the DUKE game they lost their nerve and couldn’t finish. but this has happened all year to MUCH lesser teams. I guess that makes us a LESSER TEAM! I guess last year was a FLUKE Mike White!

    • Joel Roth. Mike White is an outstanding coach. He does not make players miss layups and 3 foot shots in front of the basket, some that are not ever close to being good. I think Florida missed four layups in the second half alone. And Chiozza and Hudson picked a bad time to play so poorly, and Allen continues to puzzle everyone with his play. And Ballard, who started off the season playing like a future NBA star, suddenly looks like a player who has no clue what he is doing now. But the biggest issue is and has been all year. No Egbunu, Stokes, and Johnson. No inside game at all.

      • We all know that the coach is not playing, and he is not the one missing the open shot or the free throw or the easy layup. However, he selects who does play and when. He also is supposed to teach this team how to play defense, how to move the ball, how to move without the ball, as well as mental toughness and decision making. They are his players, his choices, his team and right now the suck and so does he.

    • Joel Roth: Since the start of last season, UF before this game was tied with Kentucky for the best conference record in the SEC at 22-10. Is the current slump painful? Absolutely. But don’t overreact (as you always seem to do).

      • And in 2006 and 2007 we won back to back national titles. I remember, I was there. Maybe if this team had Noah and Horford they could win another one. But we know that is not happening, Just like last year was last year. We don’t live in the past, we live in the now. And now this team sucks.

        • And despite the current slump, UF is still in the top half of the conference despite missing they starting center. Firing a coach who just took you to the Elite Eight because he’s going through a seven game slump is ridiculously shortsighted.
          There is no current coach who hasn’t had similar struggles.

          • Enough of the “he took us to the elite 8 talk”, a miracle shot by Cheese got them to the elite 8, it’s beginning to look more and more like Mike White is not up to the task of big time college coaching; he shows no fire, would rather be your friend instead of putting a boot up your butt when needed, and this team needs a boot up their butt and a coach who knows how to get the most out of his teams talent

          • Kevin Patrick: Let’s say Cheese misses that shot. Is it suddenly not a very good season for a coach in his second year who took over a team that didn’t even make the NIT in Billy’s last seasob? Without that shot, they finish 26-9, and second place in the conference at 14-4 with a Sweet Sixteen appearance. You would be certifiably insane to fire a coach the year after that when he has a winnign record in the conference and a decent chance of winning 20 games.
            Speaking of miracle shots: If it wasn’t for Mike Miller’s miracle last-second layup in 2000 vs. Butler, the Gators wouldn’t have made it past the Sweet Sixteen until Billy Donovan’s TENTH season. Of course, this crazy impatient fanbase would have been screaming for his head on a platter long before that!

          • Greg C…thank you for some perspective. Joel Roth seems pretty knowledgeable but we have to win titles or the coach sucks in his book. Kev Patrick…Villanova would not have been national champs 2 years ago if he doesn’t make that buzzer beater. The 2000 Team doesn’t not make it the title game had Mike Miller not made his shot against Butler. The 2006 Football team doesn’t win the title w/o a block kick against South Cack. I am glad you guys are not in charge. Coaches have to win the conf EVERY year.

      • No. Missing from this team is a heart and fire and a will to win and a refusal to lose. This team has no heart. No desire. They are soft and have no mental toughness. On top of that we have a coach who obviously does not know what he is doing. He keeps losing late game leads to inferior teams. He can’t close out games. He needs to go as well. Bring in a “real” coach. Someone who knows how to win. I know we are missing some players and that we would be a lot better with them. However, how we consistently collapse late in games and lose winnable games is inexcusable.

          • No, I agree. They should be winning without him. Especially games like this, where they have a lead going into the final minutes of a game. We have Cheese, Egor and Hudson, all seniors who should be able to close out games. I continue to says its the type of offense they are running (or lack thereof), and their failure to defend the 3.

            Defense is knowing where to be and heart to execute. No excuse for poor defense. Good defense creates turnovers. You score points off turnovers. If the other team’s players make contested shots then they are playing good and you are doing what you are supposed to. You will lose some games when that happens. That’s OK, because you are playing well.

            Now on offense, we have no real low post presence. We have no consistent inside scorers. As a result, the ball rarely goes inside, and when it does, they do not score much. The offensive does not run through the post. This hurts us because when the ball never goes inside and the defense is not force to move or double the inside post player. Outside shooters are not left open, forcing them to take contested shots, making it harder to score.

            Adding to the problem is the fact that the guards themselves do not drive the ball to the basket, enough and do not finish and score when they do get to the rim. More missed baskets and empty possessions.

            What we do run most of the time is a high ball screen where the big comes out and sets a screen and the guard rubs off it. The guard then has the choice of shooting a 3 when he comes off the screen, driving to the basket or passing it back to the big who should be rolling to the basket with the smaller man on him. Most of the time we are shooting 3’s. Rarely are we getting clean, open looks. Most of the time we are dribbling the ball or passing it around the outside and put up a contested 3 at the end of the shot clock. Poor choices.

            First, we need to push the ball up the court every possession to put pressure on the defense. Second, we need to feed the post and force teams to move on defense and then kick the ball out. Hayes, Stone and Ballard need to and can score more inside. We need Stone inside on this team right now, not outside shooting 3’s.

            When the guards do drive to the basket off the high ball screen they need to finish and score. At the same time the big should be moving to the weak side of the basket for an easy dump off or rebound put back.

            We have enough good players to win these close games. I am not expecting to win everything, but they should have 3=5 more wins right now.

  2. Totally pathetic. We can’t make a shot near or under the basket. UB! I am sure our Coach will have a coachspeak explanation of why you take out a hot shooter with about 4 minutes left and watch the dismal offense disappear. Stupid, even though the kid had 4 fouls. Totally reversed the momentum. Not ready to say he should be fired, but he needs a crash session in “How To Coach In The SEC”.UB!

    • I didn’t see the game but i’m sure it was a replay of all of their second half collapse. This is Mike Whites terrible coaching, with 4 minutes to go if that is the only player producing offense, let him play until he files out. At-least at that point he’s hot and PRODUCING, when he comes back in in two minutes, he either files in the first 30 seconds or he can’t hit a basket. leave him in and get as much production (scores) out of him as you can. Of course, you know I’m second guessing!

    • I know! Terrible coaching move taking out Koulechov when he’s on fire 4 fouls or not. A momentum killer. And continually posting up Chiozza over and over again so we have no ball movement. Gak didn’t play probably because of “matchups”. How many times when Billy D. coached could you question his coaching moves. It was rare. With White it’s many times in a single game. Ridiculous!

    • Troll’s wishful thinking. Decommitments rarely happens in MBB. Unlike CFB, once a player commits, other coaches stop recruiting him. Players may transfer if younger players pass over him but that’s not the case with this team this year.

  3. The coach is a momentum killer. He controls every possession to the detriment of the teams aggression. The team lacks poise and grit. The team plays scared to lose rather than disciplined effort. It’s coach Whites fault totally in losing big leads instituting NO adjustments. Play the scrubs. Maybe they will at least defend the three. Labse on defense at the most critical time. Abysmal.

  4. Hmm. Another lost in the 2nd half. No offense discipline. Run and shoot. Let the clock get down to 5 seconds and throw up a shot. Same old poor defense when it is needed. Let their best-point shooter alone and watch him make it. A lot of missing fundamentals to the game. White and his puppet assistants need to go.

  5. This isn’t a very good team. I predicted in early January that we wouldn’t make the tournament. Coach just doesn’t have a bunch of talent. Live and die by the three. I predicted teams would defend the three. We have no inside presence to allow a three point opening. I’m still a proud Gator alum. Go Gators!

    Boyfriend: your mental condition is deteriorating. Get medication. Mods: ban this clown.

    • White was beside himself on that…how is that on him? Everyone else did their job, but Hayes pooped his pants. He doesn’t have the technology to to get inside of his head and control instinctual biting of the head fake. These guys have played hoops and AAU ball for years and are told what to do, and know better. Who would you replace him with them Brett? Hayes is a junior…and probably is an off the bench guy on most teams but a starter on our team due to injury

      It’s easy to sit on the sidelines (ie your couch drinking beers) and say what could have been down. They were undoubtedly advised what to do but Hayes made an error.

  6. Hayes should not be on the floor late in any game that’s still in question. That was the coaching error.

    Coach White will get it done sooner or later. This ain’t the year and next year probably won’t be much either. If any of these Whiter haters are actually Gator fans, they should give it a rest. He just doesn’t have the horses.

    • Your certainly entitled to your opinion. Many of these “haters” are just fans expressing their opinion – not all though. Bad coaching is bad coaching no matter who your players are. Taking Koulechov out when he was hot was a huge mistake. I think we have plenty of talent it’s the coaching strategy at times that is really hurting us. Gak didn’t play the whole game and the players are playing at times like they are waiting to win games versus winning the game. That’s all a direct reflection of the head coach with the stall ball mentality being used too much!

  7. Where do you even begin to explain this dumpster fire of a team? I’d start with coaching. Absolutely no game plan headed down the stretch. How do you lose to a team with 10 wins on the year? This team is hard to watch. NIT….here we come!

  8. Thank God we have Florida Baseball, Gym, Tennis, Lacrosse, Track & field, Swimming, Golf, Track and field and other teams that I am sorry I did not Mention, but thank God we have them to watch, root for, and be proud of, Because the FOOTBALL and BASKETBALL PROGRAMS are in the TOILET. Hey, AD STRICKLIN, do something about it, or you should be fired along with the others responsible for this disaster.

  9. At least the Gators have found some consistency, they are consistently bad, especially down the stretch. It must suck at this point in the season being on this team, I don’t see them coming away from Knoxville or Tuscaloosa with a win, home to Auburn and KY will also be very difficult, especially with the mental attitude these players must have and display every game, no heart, no toughness, no leadership. They are now squarely on the bubble, and will soon be accepting an invitation to the losers tournament, the NIT.

  10. I know i have stated many times how this team was undersized. then i got to thinking,Auburn is the most undersized team in the SEC! how are they playing? their key to success is what undersized teams have to do to win.1. speed 2. aggressive play 3.drive to the basket 4.swarming defense 5.good shooting 6.coaching. if you have watched them this year,you see an extremely fast team,they NEVER let up the entire game! they wear their opponents down running them to death. they constantly attack the rim,allowing kick outs to open shooters or drawing fouls. they lead the SEC in several categories and among them i believe is rebounding! not bad for an undersized team. and yes,whether you like the guy or not they have one hell of a coach. all these things the gators used to do.time to start doing it again! GO GATORS!

  11. Cheese looks lost man when he pulled Egor out I said to myself that’s it and Hayes gotta be the softest big man I ever seen 5 ppg is ridiculous for a 5 man I would like to see two big men playing at the same time coach I would love to see okura at pg,Egor sg,stone sf, Ballard pf,Gak at c then bring the rest off the bench mybe it will light a fire under Allen cheese Hudson there’s no hope for Hayes he just downright bad he would only

    • Okauru gave up 2 consecutive uncontested 3’s and missed a layup with no one within an arm’s length today. Ballard is a guard. You might mean Bassett at PF. In any case, they both foul too much and all the freshmen look lost on defense.

      • That was the game…and didn’t agree with White pulling Koulechov with 4 fouls. Poor fouls as well especially Hayes in the corner….that is not on White. Hayes goes up very soft for his size. No way he should get the ball knocked out going to the rack. Who else will he put in though? Koulechov…he was the offense. We try to hold on to leagues instead of finishing games and it hurts us. That philosophy has to change.
        Right now Hudson is playing extremely poor. Not a good look. Still ball to play and in this year of zany fresults…I am not counting us out yet of the NCAA feild

    • 941…agree with you and that’s a main problem…he is having to play him significantly when normally he would be a 10-15 minute guy on the team. He would be decent off the bench, but as a starter, he has poor hands, and plays smaller when attacking the rim. He also makes some bad fouls, but he has really no one else to go with. He had Okauro (who I really like) in crunch time like many of these cats, including me called for, but the young kid collapsed hard twice and let two big 3s go down.

  12. We’re screwed. Probably even before the Vandy lay down today, the White Stench has made its way to Oxford, Ms. Even Ole Miss wants nothing to do with Mike White! Lord, we ask for your help. Amen.

  13. It does seem that this team has taken on the disposition of the coach which is being laid back. There appears to be no fire in this team, no grit, no leader, it’s like they are playing school yard ball, win or lose no big deal. This team continues to struggle with a sizable lead and that hasn’t got fixed. It makes me wonder if White is more of a friend to these players and doesn’t demand excellence and so basically nothing changes. It’s almost as if he’s afraid to jump on them or hold them accountable thus they might like Mike but don’t respect him. Mike is still young, and hopefully he can learn from failure. My concern is next year won’t be much different, we will continue to lack inside presence and no scoring in the paint. Ugh.

    • The 2008 & 2009 teams Has 2 McDonald All Americans per team that went to the NIT..after winning Back to Back chips. 2010 barely made it and got bounced first round to Jimmere Fredette and BYU. The 1989 team fell apart when Schintzius and Chatman left the team after winning the SEC title…Norm Sloan was let go.

  14. Can’t explain why Stone disappeared the last 4 minutes of the game did he foul out? Or coach’s decision. That said our bigs are soft they can’t finish at the basket they always get the balls knocked out of there hands when contested.
    This team is missing a Vocal leader no passion no heart besides The freshman 00

    • All this negativity was brought on by the coach and players. They should get a solid dose of pain or they will never climb out of this pit of their own making. White, you are paid huge money to win games. This year you haven’t gotten it done. Players, you are not executing down the stretch in any of these games. Watching you is as painful as enduring a root canal, because Gator Nation can predict the late collapse in any close, or even not-so-close game. White, write all this down. Quit playing pussy-ball with a lead in the 2nd half. Play like men. Go for the damn jugular and put outmatched teams away. White, you are not being paid millions by UF to be a pansy.

      • The guys are playing hard man….you sound like Bill Flowers Dummy Buckets. THIS year is not over for one…2…he just went to the Elite 8 last year. Do we fire guys after one subpar year ( in which we still have a winning conf record in one of the better leagues)?

  15. Look, we’re all frustrated cause it looks like we should be winning these games where we’re leading going into the latter minutes only to collapse. I do believe Coach White has a lot to figure out in order to become a great coach. That said, we only further hurt our program by publicly disrespecting our players and coaches. Coach White is a good person, he is energized, he works hard, so have faith that he and his staff will turn this thing around. Be Gators and be classy! Go Gators!

  16. Kevin you nailed it. I am tired of everyone saying we are undersized! Just watch Auburn play. They are relentless in how they attack offensively and defensively. I think it is a combination of bad coaching and playing. These players have gotten used to losing second half leads. I stopped watching the games.

  17. No post presence. Hayes; with soft hands, is the ultimate liability. The Coach bear a large percentage of the blame for these collapses. The players are handcuffed every possession by the coach who stiffles their fluidity by slowing them down. He has no passion on the sideline and neither does the team. Soft and weak team.

  18. They have no heart, play great defense for moments, then stand around as players blow by them for layups and dunks, or shoot uncontested three’s. Then they go into a funk on offense, standing around while Chiozza tries to “post up”, like he’s Elvin Hayes(was that the game plan?). White’s comments give away what I am seeing, they don’t know how to win. When Vandy began to “chip away” at the lead, you KNEW we would lose again. Like a bad movie you’ve seen over and over. I wish our main two sports would take their cue from so many others at UF, like baseball and softball, who understand excellence. At least football is moving in the right direction. Basketball is not.

  19. Coach White is clueless. Does he really think this team is going to turn anything around over the final 4 games??? He just doesn’t get it. If UF wants to be relevant again in basketball, they need to get a different coach.