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Thursday, February 02, 2023
<p>UF guard Chris Chiozza drives the lane during Florida's&nbsp;93-54 win over Missouri on Feb. 2, 2017, in the O'Connell Center.&nbsp;</p>
<p>93-54</p>

UF guard Chris Chiozza drives the lane during Florida's 93-54 win over Missouri on Feb. 2, 2017, in the O'Connell Center. 

93-54

It was the end of a long film session.

After a harrowing loss at home to Vanderbilt a few days earlier, the Gators were enduring the low point of their season.

Then Mike White spoke up.

“Guys, let’s pull up a chair and let’s just talk,” he said. “I’m going to give you some of my thoughts, and I want you to give some of your thoughts.

“We’re not going to leave this room until we get some stuff figured out.”

The players took turns.

John Egbunu, Devin Robinson, Canyon Barry and Kasey Hill all shared what was on their hearts and minds.

Missed defensive assignments, a lack of communication and poor rebounding.

“It was just a meeting where things needed to be said,” Hill remarked. “And we said them.”

That sobering meeting was just over two weeks ago.

What it’s produced: a four-game win streak, three 30-point wins and a beatdown of then-No. 8 Kentucky for the signature win of the Mike White era at Florida.

“They just recommitted to each other, to play for each other,” White said. “(They) recommitted to rebound and defend at the highest level possible.”

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Against the Wildcats, the No. 17 Gators (18-5, 8-2 SEC) turned a weakness into a strength.

Florida, ranked eighth in the conference in rebounding, dominated the SEC’s top rebounding team, 54-29, on the glass, including 17 offensive boards.

Devin Robinson used his 6-foot-8 frame and athletic ability to snatch nine rebounds. Kevarrius Hayes and Egbunu combined for 12 boards and kept UK’s glass-cleaner Bam Adebayo boxed out.

Most surprising, though, was the play of 6-foot guard Chris Chiozza, who had nine rebounds and nine assists. Chiozza also had 12 rebounds during his triple-double performance against Missouri on Thursday.

“He’s a starter who’s coming off the bench,” White said of Chiozza. “For him to be rebounding the ball the way he’s rebounding it with his size shows you the toughness that he’s playing with, the tenacity that he’s playing with.

“He’s making really good decisions.”

However, with the Gators’ first meeting with Kentucky now behind them, it’s time to shift their attention to the next obstacle in their path — a tough Georgia team led by forward Yante Maten and guard J.J. Frazier.

There’s no time to celebrate the Kentucky win anymore.

“This game is going to be very, very difficult,” said White, whose team scraped out a narrow overtime victory against the Bulldogs on Jan. 14.

“We were so fortunate to beat Georgia at home …. The fact that you just beat Kentucky has absolutely nothing to do with moving forward.”

White added that tonight’s game in Athens at 7 will be a test to the Gators’ maturity and culture. And with the added pressure of a tight SEC race in mind (UF is tied for second with the Wildcats behind South Carolina), every remaining game has major conference and national implications.

“We just have to keep in mind that they almost beat us here at home, and (now) we have to go to their place,” Hill said of the Bulldogs. “We’ll be ready to play.”

Contact Ray Boone at rboone@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @rboone1994.

UF guard Chris Chiozza drives the lane during Florida's 93-54 win over Missouri on Feb. 2, 2017, in the O'Connell Center. 

93-54

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