BASKETBALL

Florida basketball: Yikes, Texas Southern picks up first win by routing No. 16 Florida

Graham Hall
UF basketball writer
Texas Southern guard PJ Henry dribbles upcourt after coming up with the ball Monday against Florida guard Tyree Appleby during the first half at the O'Connell Center.

No. 16-ranked Florida’s 69-54 loss to previously winless Texas Southern University came as a shock to the college basketball world Monday.

It marked the first victory for a Southwestern Athletic Conference program over a ranked Southeastern Conference team in the history of the Associated Press rankings, and it snapped an 0-7 start to the 2021-22 season for TSU. 

Those privy to UF’s preparation, however, weren’t surprised. 

Florida coach Mike White admitted the Gators (6-2) experienced their worst practice sessions of the season in the build-up to the contest, resulting in some pregame concern that ultimately was validated by contest's end. 

“A couple days ago we weren’t very good in practice, and yesterday we were really bad, and it was the first time that we had a lengthy meeting after practice about how we perform in practice,” White said. “It was the first just tough, tough practice, in terms of completely out of character. So obviously as a staff, we had some concern going into this one. That was not who this team was, that was not who this program is. We were thoroughly outplayed and outcoached.”

Rather than shy away from their coach’s assessment, the Gators tasked with executing on the court concurred with White’s sentiment that UF was out of sorts in practice prior to taking on the Tigers. 

“We didn’t have a good practice yesterday. That’s what we just talked about, we let it carry over,” UF forward Colin Castleton said. “We got a lot of veteran guys, so we’ve got to figure something out. We just didn’t do what we were supposed to, we didn’t have a good practice, so the coaches said that they weren’t surprised with the effort we gave, but we just did a terrible job in every aspect.”

TSU length causes problems

Unlike the loss at Oklahoma last week, it wasn’t missed shots or turnovers that led to Florida’s downfall at home.

The Gators were outrebounded, 43-26, with Texas Southern winning the battle on both ends en route to scoring 42 points in the paint.

TSU hauled in 14 offensive rebounds to UF’s eight, resulting in 17 second-chance points. The visitors repeatedly found a way to out-position and outwork Florida on the glass, and UF’s man in the middle — Castleton — shouldered the blame, saying the coaching staff stressed the importance of limiting extra opportunities but the Gators just didn’t execute.

“Every single thing we did bad, the coaches told us to focus on, so, that’s on everybody on the team,” Castleton said. “Whoever played did a terrible job at it, and we’ve just got to take this one and move on from it. But it had nothing to do with what the coaches told us — they told us everything that we were supposed to work on and what we’re supposed to do, and we just didn’t do what we were supposed to.” 

White has stressed the importance of approaching rebounding as a collective responsibility rather than a job that falls on the shoulders of the frontcourt, so guard Brandon McKissic agreed with Castleton’s assessment, saying getting exposed on the boards is a team-wide failure. 

“Rebounding was part of the issue, they outrebounded us by a lot, so it takes a team effort,” McKissic said. “Again, it’s back to the team, we’ve got to get back to being us. So we’ll get back to that.” 

And that identity is?

Anyone who thought they had Florida figured out through seven games was in for a rude awakening Monday night, but there’s little doubt when it comes to Florida’s ideal identity.

Having added two former Defensive Player of the Year award recipients, the re-worked Gators have established an impression in the early going as a defensive-minded team. Though there’s little doubt there’s much to work on — namely, having a fleeting memory reminiscent of a goldfish after a missed shot or turnover. 

Florida guard Tyree Appleby goes up for a layup between Texas Southern guard PJ Henry (3) and forward John Walker III (24) during the second half Monday at the O'Connell Center.

McKissic said the team has shown a tendency to experience a drop-off when it comes to their defensive intensity after an empty possession. It’s been identified as an area in need of correction before conference play begins Dec. 29. 

“I think us missing shots correlates with our defense. I feel like when we are not hitting our shots lately, it’s led to defensive mishaps and the burns and the missed defensive rebounds — the things that we talk about that we’re lacking on defense — and the mistakes I feel like they come from us missing shots,” McKissic said. “And early in the season, you’ve seen us so gritty on defense because we didn’t care about that.

“We’ve just got to get back to the gym, get back to being us.”

After one of the most disappointing losses in memory, White expects the Gators to be keen on implementing the corrections in the team’s first practice session following the defeat.

“All of these games are so important, this game was really important. We needed to win this one, and we needed to grow tonight, and we did neither,” White said. “What went into it, ’me looking forward to a lengthy conversation with our team as a whole tomorrow.”

Texas Southern 69, No. 16 Florida 54

TEXAS SOUTHERN (1-7)

Hopkins 4-6 0-0 8, Walker 5-9 2-4 13, Gresham 4-7 0-0 8, Gilliam 3-9 0-0 8, J.Jones 0-3 0-0 0, Henry 7-14 0-1 16, Nicholas 7-7 0-0 14, Barnes 1-2 0-0 2, Etienne 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-57 2-5 69.

FLORIDA (6-12)

Castleton 5-12 2-4 12, Duruji 4-6 0-0 9, Fleming 2-8 1-2 5, M.Jones 2-8 0-0 4, McKissic 4-6 3-6 15, Appleby 1-7 1-2 3, Felder 2-5 0-1 4, Kennedy 1-3 0-0 2, Gatkek 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 21-55 7-16 54.

Halftime_Texas Southern 35-25. 3-Point Goals_Texas Southern 5-11 (Gilliam 2-3, Henry 2-4, Walker 1-2, Barnes 0-1, Hopkins 0-1), Florida 5-24 (McKissic 4-6, Duruji 1-1, Felder 0-1, Kennedy 0-1, Castleton 0-2, Fleming 0-3, M.Jones 0-4, Appleby 0-6). Rebounds_Texas Southern 36 (Gresham 13), Florida 20 (Castleton 5). Assists_Texas Southern 15 (Walker 7), Florida 10 (Fleming, M.Jones 3). Total Fouls_Texas Southern 18, Florida 14.

Up next

Who: North Florida (2-8) vs. No. 16 Florida (6-2)

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: O'Connell Center

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 98.1-FM, AM-850