After falling at home to Florida State last Tuesday, Florida got something it desperately needed on Saturday: a win over Georgia to open Southeastern Conference play.
Gators' coach Mike White was happy with Florida's offensive outing in the 77-63 victory, but he knows the offense won’t be clicking every night, a weakness he has already witnessed through much of the first two months of the regular season.
"Very pleased with a quality win for us over Georgia," White said on Monday’s SEC coaches teleconference.
"We had one of our better performances, especially offensively, to give ourselves a chance."
White mentioned that freshman KeVaughn Allen and redshirt sophomore John Egbunu have continued to get better on offense.
The two have blossomed in Florida’s last two games against the Seminoles and the Bulldogs.
Allen scored 32 points against FSU and 18 against UGA, both team highs. Part of his point total was due to an impressive performance at the charity stripe, where Allen went 14-of-15 over the two games.
Egbunu grabbed 18 rebounds combined in those two matchups and recorded a double-double against the Bulldogs, scoring 12 points to accompany 12 boards.
However, offense isn’t a team strength, as White noted on Monday. He says focusing on playing solid defense makes the team better.
"I think defensively we’ve been pretty good. Our defensive numbers are very good," White said.
"When we approach games where that’s our mindset, to be as good as we can be defensively and on the glass, we’ve played better.
"When we’ve approached games where we spent too much emphasis on offense …when we’re thinking about scoring and we’re thinking about ‘I wonder how many shots I can get tonight?’ or ‘how many I can score?' Certain things like that with an inexperienced team, it has set us up for poor performances in the past."
Unlike its offense, Florida’s defense has been impressive.
The Gators are holding opponents to 62 points per game, 19th best in the country, and have a scoring margin of +11.5.
Florida held then-No. 1 Michigan State to 58 points on Dec. 12, still a season low for the Spartans.
The Gators also limited then-No. 17 Miami to 66 points on Dec. 8, a season low for the Hurricanes.
So the defense has been strong through the Gators' non-conference schedule, and White knows it’s been the most consistent component of this young team.
Florida also ranks 16th in the country with 42.6 total rebounds per game and is forcing 13.7 turnovers per game with a +3.2 turnover margin so far this year.
White said it would be foolish for the team to depend on its field goal and three point percentages, and that a consistently strong defense will be needed as Florida treads into SEC waters and, perhaps, into tournament play later in they year.
"We have good guys. Are we a great team? No. But we feel like we have a pretty good team that’s continuing to improve," White said.
"We think that we have a chance, with continued development, to be pretty good."
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