Gators will need their A game against Bonnies

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Florida guard Chris Chiozza is surrounded by St. Bonaventure's Courtney Stockard, left, and Idris Taqqee, right, during their Nov. 17, 2016 game at the Lakeland Center in Lakeland. The Gators were on a barnstorming tour while their arena was being renovated. [ERNST PETERS/GATEHOUSE MEDIA SERVICES]

DALLAS — In discussing the senior starting backcourt of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt likes to use a football analogy.

“Jay and Matt have been tremendous for us,” Schmidt said Wednesday. “I’m a big Patriots fan, and Jay, he’s our Tom Brady. He runs the show. And Matt plays off him. They both can score at all three levels. They have a really good feel. They don’t get sped up.”

Containing Adams and Mobley will be one of the keys for six-seed Florida in its NCAA Tournament East Region matchup with 11-seed St. Bonaventure on Thursday night at the American Airlines Center. The Gators know first-hand the high-scoring ability of the backcourt combo. Adams and Mobley combined for 48 points last season when Florida faced the Bonnies in Lakeland. The Gators won, 73-66, on Nov. 17, 2016, in a game that was tied at 67 before UF scored seven straight points in the final minute to close out the win.

“We know those are their two main scorers, and they’re great players,” Florida senior point guard Chris Chiozza said. “So we’re going to try to contain them as much as we can and play how we do, try not to let them get any open shots early and get going.”

The 6-foot-2 Adams averages 19.4 points and 5.4 assists per game, while shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range. The 6-foot-3 Mobley is almost as productive at 18.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Adams was named Atlantic 10 co-player of the year, while Mobley was named to the all A-10 first team. Together, they help lead a St. Bonaventure offense that ranks second in the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 77.5 points per game.

The duo weren’t at their best in St. Bonaventure’s 65-58 win in Tuesday night’s play-in game in Dayton against UCLA. But both hit shots when it mattered, Mobley went 4 of 12 from the floor, finishing with 14 points. Adams was just 2 of 16, but hit the big shot when it mattered, a challenged go-ahead 17-foot jumper that put the Bonnies ahead to stay 60-58.

“They are not afraid to take the big shot,” Schmidt said. “They are not afraid to have the ball in their hands.”

St. Bonaventure was able to overcome the off night from both guards by scoring 30 points off 20 turnovers and getting a big game from 6-foot-5 swingman Courtney Stockard, who had 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting.

“Those two guys, they’re complemented by Stockard, who is really an underrated guy in my opinion and a mismatch nightmare,” Florida coach Mike White said. “How do you guard him? Who do you guard him with? He was terrific last night and was the difference in the game.”

St. Bonaventure is riding a wave of momentum into Dallas, having won 14 of its last 15 games. The Bonnies (26-7) picked up their program-record 26th win in a season, surpassing the 25 wins of the 1969-70 team, which reached the Final Four behind Basketball Hall of Fame center Bob Lanier.

The Bonnies left Dayton at 2 a.m. after beating UCLA and arrived in Dallas in the pre-dawn hours before practicing Wednesday.

“The best flight I’ve ever had at 2 a.m.,” Schmidt said. “But it’s been great and really looking forward to the challenge of facing Florida.”

Fatigue, Schmidt said, is not a concern.

“As I told our team, when you’re 18 to 22 years old, you better not be tired,” Schmidt said. “When you’re dead, that’s when you can rest.”

Florida has played the waiting game through an up-and-down 2017-18 season. The No. 23 Gators are 20-12 with a record of 6-2 against ranked teams and 10 losses as favorites. Florida returns five players from last season’s team that made an Elite Eight run in the tournament, including Chiozza and starting shooting guard KeVaughn Allen. But White said he doesn’t view that experience as an overwhelming positive.

“We’ve got to play really, really well to win tomorrow,” White said. “Our focus can’t be on how far we can make it in the tournament, or it’s going to be short-lived.”

That begins on the defensive end of the floor, where Florida is coming off one of its worst performances of the season. The Gators allowed Arkansas to shoot 53.6 percent from the field in the second half and 46.7 percent from the field for the game in an 80-72 loss to the Razorbacks last Friday in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.

“If we defend the way we did against Arkansas, we’ll be one and done in this tournament,” White said. “And that’s been explained to our guys several times.”

Today

What: NCAA Tournament

Who: Sixth seed Florida (20-12) vs. 11th seed St. Bonaventure (26-7)

When: 10 p.m.

Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas

TV: TruTV, Gainesville Cox Cable channel 221

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

PROBABLE STARTERS

FLORIDA

G;KeVaughn Allen;6-2;Jr.;11.3 ppg; 2.4 rpg

G;Chris Chiozza;6-0; Sr.;11.2 ppg;6.1 apg

G;Jalen Hudson;6-6; RJr.;15.3 ppg;3.9 rpg

G;Egor Koulechov;6-5; GSr.;13.6 ppg;6.5 rpg

C;Kevarrius Hayes;6-9; Jr.;4.9 ppg;5.1 rpg

ST. BONAVENTURE

G;Matt Mobley;6-3;Sr.;18.4 ppg; 5.4 rpg

G;Jaylen Adams;6-2; Sr.;19.4 ppg;5.4 apg

C;Idris Taqqee;6-4; Sr.;5,4 ppg;5.0 rpg

F;Courtney Stockard;6-5; Jr.;13.3 ppg;6.3 rpg

C;Amadi Ikpeze;6-10; So.;4.5 ppg;3.1 rpg

Note: Florida is making its 21st NCAA Tournament appearance in school history (19 official, 2 vacated). … The Gators are 42-16 all-time in NCAA Tournament and 3-1 in the NCAA Tournament under Mike White. … Florida has reached at least the Elite Eight in its last five NCAA Tournament appearances, losing in the Elite Eight four times (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2017), while reaching the Final Four in 2014. … Coming off a 65-58 win over UCLA in Dayton, St. Bonaventure posted its first win in an NCAA Tournament game since the 1969-70 season, a year in which the Bonnies reached the Final Four.

— Kevin Brockway

11 COMMENTS

  1. St. Bonaventure made a second half run to close out a sloppy UCLA team. The second half has been our Achilles Heel all season. I hope Coach White can get our guys to play a solid 40 minutes and also hope he can manage the game properly.

  2. UF will win if they play the best that is possible.
    if team can play like only best effort can win, then they will win.

    My opinion is the reason the back to backs were so successful is that they always played with 100% effort.
    They never never mailed one in.
    They never assumed they could play less than 100% and still win the game.

    This team needs to learn that !

    This team could still run the table, but they have to play like every touch matters.

    It looks to me like they miss 3’s when they do not square up or do not shoot with timing and confidence.
    I do not remember a better 3 pt shooting UF team ever.

    Go Gators

    • If my research is correct the Gators are 2nd in the SEC and 12th overall in all time NCAA tournament wins. I hope this team knows this and comes to play tonight. Anything less than an all out effort won’t be good enough.
      I hope you don’t get torched as I did a few days ago about admitting that Florida mailed in a few games this year. They definitely didn’t show up for a few games against inferior teams.

      • oldman, I’m guessing you’re speaking of me as the one who torched you. I certainly agree the Gators played poorly against some inferior teams, especially UGA and SC, but I think it was more a case of bad match-ups (Maten and Silva) rather than poor effort. Regardless, I’m willing to back off and extend an olive branch to a fellow Gator. Go Gators!

    • I was thinking the same thing about FSU’s Mike Martin..what a loser. The Buffalo Bills of college baseball coaches. No one has ever done less with more talent in the history of college baseball than Martin.

  3. This gator team has an undeserved reputation for being fragile, due to the 12 losses I guess. of course just about all the losses were to other teams in the ncaa tournament. There were some losses to decent programs not in the tournament as well. The university thinks so little of them they don’t seem to have a plane available on a reliable basis, some of the fans seem to think that the 3 injured big men are no big deal, and the commenters here to this article, it seems to me they must have the very faults they seem to think the coach has. Anyway, the team deserves better than this type of so-called supporters. Id hate to lose coach white to any of the big programs that will be looking for a new coach soon enough, I encourage the Athletic Director to get these guys reliable support, not bus rides and airplanes that leave the team stranded for 2 days 1000 miles from home. we can do better, there are less deserving things for the money. make wil Muschamp wait for his next check or something instead.

  4. The comments about firing coach White is a big joke. He is a great coach and taking the Gators Basketball program back to being an Elite Program. It is a top 10 Program. I can see the program only getting better over next couple years.