Florida faces Ole Miss in battle of teams coming off double-digit losses
The back-to-back double-digit losses the Florida men’s basketball team suffered over the last week didn’t deter the Gators from approaching Sunday’s practice session with the right mindset, UF coach Mike White said Monday.
Who: Ole Miss (6-4, 1-2) at Florida (5-3, 2-2)
When: 7 p.m.
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850
Without the team’s centerpiece, junior Keyontae Johnson, for the foreseeable future, it remains to be seen how that motivation translates on the court on a night-in, night-out basis — regardless, the Gators aren’t throwing in the towel on the 2020-21 season, and will look to get back in the win column when Florida tips off at 7 p.m. today against Ole Miss in the Exactech Arena.
“Our guys are competitive as well, and they’re not very pleased with the way we’ve played the last couple, with the outcomes, of course. I thought we were really locked in yesterday. How that translates, I’m not sure,” White said. “You never know, but I do think if you prepare better, your chances increase. Hopefully, we’re just as locked in today. And with shoot around tomorrow, hopefully our focus continues to improve.”
Although the margin of defeat grew by three points, White said the Gators looked better Saturday against Kentucky than they did Tuesday in Tuscaloosa against Alabama.
The Wildcats, winners of three consecutive SEC contests after starting the season with a 1-6 record, were just that much better.
“Kentucky played really, really well, of course. They’re a team that’s much, much improved. But I didn’t think we prepared well for our game in Tuscaloosa,” White said. “We had some stuff going on there where we weren’t nearly as sharp going into Tuscaloosa, and we got, really, the result that we deserved. In my guys’ defense, I thought we prepared really well for Kentucky. We were really sharp in those couple practices, and as lively at shoot around as I’ve seen in a long, long time. So, that outcome was a little bit disappointing and surprising, but again, I think a lot of that had to do with how well those guys played.”
The Wildcats built a six-point lead in the first half, thanks to 15 points coming off of nine turnovers by the Gators.
Rather than simply attribute the empty possessions and shortcomings to his team, White praised Kentucky coach John Calipari’s team for its tenacity on the defensive end.
But he also criticized the Gators for failing to capitalize when a chance to exploit the Wildcats’ protection presented itself.
“I thought Kentucky was fantastic defensively. I thought we did have five or six opportunities, whether it was an errant pass to a drive that was open, or a post-drive to the rim that we just didn’t see, some opportunities in the paint that we didn’t convert, an open shooter as we’re taking a contested one in the paint,” said White. “We had some missed opportunities that we’ve got to capitalize (on).”
Post-game Saturday, White believed the Gators also looked to have improved on the defensive end and from an effort standpoint, yet neither seemed to matter against Kentucky.
“Defensively I thought our urgency in press was pretty good, we extended and played with a lot of physical effort. Unfortunately it wasn’t a big factor in turning those guys over a lot, so again credit those guys offensively. And I just thought that they just made some very good decisions with the basketball, especially on the interior. We had a couple of missed rotations,” White said. “We got a few loose balls, but they got too many, especially on your homecourt. But the physical effort was something I thought was pretty good. I thought we played pretty hard, we just didn’t execute offensively and defensively as well as they did. I thought we played significantly harder than we did in Tuscaloosa.”
Against the Rebels, who arrive in Gainesville having suffered a 14-point defeat at home to LSU, White now hopes the Gators return to their prior offensive form when they face his alma mater while maintaining the intensity and defensive form shown Saturday.
Although the long-term hope for Florida is to re-tool the offense when given the chance, which White said hasn’t happened yet, primarily because the Gators returned to competition quickly after nearly three weeks away from the court, giving the coaching staff little time, if any, to alter the game-plan after it was clear Johnson wouldn’t be available.
“Everything we’re doing, basically you spend the entire offseason planning for when your guys get back to play to your strengths. We had a preseason All-American (go down in Johnson) who happens to be as good as anyone in college basketball attacking close-outs, scoring off the bounce, creating for others off the bounce, as quick and explosive as anyone in the country getting it to the rim,” White said. “We’re not given another preseason. So we’ve got to pick our spots when we can focus on us and revamp some stuff.
"But we just haven’t had that opportunity yet to spend more than a few minutes on it. I’m sure every team in our league could benefit from a week or two off before the next one — us as much as anyone. But we also can’t sit here and make excuses and feel sorry for ourselves. We got stuff in, we got to get better at it. If an opportunity presents itself at some point where we can revamp some stuff, we’ll take that opportunity.”
04 Anthony Duruji F 6-7 220 Jr. 6.9 ppg 3.9 rpg
22 Tyree Appleby G 6-1 170 Jr. 9.0 ppg 2.4 rpg
23 Scottie Lewis G 6-5 189 So. 11.0 ppg 4.4 rpg
1 Tre Mann G 6-5 190 So. 13.6 ppg 5.6 rpg
0 Colin Castleton F 6-11 231 Jr. 11.1 ppg 5.0 rpg
00 Romello White F 6-8 235 Gr. 11.6 ppg 6.4 rpg
05 KJ Buffen F 6-7 230 Jr. 10.1 ppg 4.4 rpg
02 Devontae Shuler G 6-2 185 Sr. 12.6 ppg 2.2 rpg
11 Matthew Murrell G 6-4 200 Fr. 4.9 ppg 1.9 rpg
15 Luis Rodriguez G 6-6 210 So. 9.0 ppg 7.4 rpg
Notes: Florida and Ole Miss split a pair of contests last season, with the home team winning both showdowns. ...The Gators rank No. 2 in the SEC in field goal percentage (.474) and 3-point field goal percentage (.385) and No. 3 in blocked shots (5.4). ... UF’s 83-79 win vs. LSU marked the fifth time in six meetings between the teams that the outcome was decided by five points or fewer.
— Graham Hall