BASKETBALL

Florida basketball: 3 questions for the Gators heading into Saturday's matchup with Georgia

Kevin Brockway
The Gainesville Sun
Jan 4, 2023; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Texas A&M Aggies forward Julius Marble (34) and guard Dexter Dennis (0) defend Florida Gators forward Colin Castleton (12)  during the second half at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida basketball is in search of a spark to snap a three-game losing streak heading into Saturday's game against Georgia at the O'Connell Center (1 p.m., SEC Network).

The Gators (7-7, 0-2 SEC) have fixed some defensive issues, but they have struggled offensively, averaging just 58 points during their three-game skid.

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Florida's first two league losses, against Auburn and Texas A&M, have come by an average margin of 3 points.

Asked about late-game execution, first year Florida coach Todd Golden said: "You can do different things to give yourself a better chance to win, but it's not always going to equate to winning. The best way to win close games is to stay out of them because there's certain things that you can't control down the stretch."

Here are three questions for Florida heading into its matchup with the Bulldogs

Can the Gators cut down on turnovers?

Florida turned the ball over 20 times in its last loss when it fell 66-63 to Texas A&M on Wednesday night. Texas A&M converted the 21 turnovers into 20 points.

"We just weren’t ourselves in the first half and didn’t handle the double team very well," Golden said. "And in the second half, even though Trey (Bonham) played a really good game in terms of scoring, I think six of his seven turnovers came in the second half. Against a team like A&M, which is pretty good, you can’t do that and give yourself a chance to win the game.”

Bonham, who was suffering with a twisted ankle and cramps in the second half, said being hobbled effected some of his passes and decision-making on the court.

"When I got hurt. I feel like I was just rushing it," Bonham said. "It wasn't the same me. I should've just gotten subbed but just making better plays and being smarter with the ball."

Can the Gators get off to a better start?

Florida shot 37.5 percent from the field in the first half against Texas A&M and was 2 of 10 from 3-point range to start the game. That put the Gators in a 34-23 hole at halftime and increased the pressure of playing uphill the entire second half.

"We have to throw the first punch tomorrow," Golden said.

Golden admitted the Gators were thrown off a bit by the 15-minute delay in the Texas A&M game due to the Aggies forgetting their game jerseys. Hopefully, Florida won't face that kind of situation on Saturday afternoon.

"That’s definitely gonna be big for us," Bonham said. "Just starting off strong and then finishing strong.”

How will Gators handle emotions of facing former coach Mike White

White has the Bulldogs (11-3, 0-1 SEC) off to a strong start after leaving Florida last March to take over at a rival school.

Six players on Florida's roster were recruited and coached by White, including senior preseason All-SEC center Colin Castleton.

"They're pretty excited," said Bonham, who played last year at VMI. "Definitely the ones that were here last year. So it's gonna be fun to see Colin and these guys go against their old coach.”

It's the first time a former Florida basketball coach will face his former school at the O'Connell Center. Former Gator coach Lon Kruger, who coincidentally will be honored by Florida before the game for his College Basketball Hall of Fame induction, faced Florida three times, twice as head coach at Oklahoma and once as head coach at Illinois in the 2000 NCAA Tournament.

"You don’t want to make too much of a big deal out of it where that’s what we’re thinking about," Golden said. "We’ve got to worry about ourselves and make sure we’re doing what we’re capable of to win the game. Obviously, there might a little extra motivation for some of our guys, but it definitely won’t be a point of emphasis from my perspective. For us, I want to make sure we’re focusing on ourselves and what we’re doing to put our best foot forward tomorrow.”