At its best, the Florida men’s basketball team’s offense is an explosive, high-scoring machine capable of hitting shots from anywhere on the court.
At its worst, it goes colder than the Gatorade stored in the orange coolers next to its bench.
In Tuesday’s 72-60 loss to SEC rival Georgia, the Gators offense took the latter form.
“We really struggled,” UF coach Mike White said after the game. “It seemed like there was a lid on the basket at times.”
It was easily one of the team’s worst offensive games of the year.
A meaningless layup from guard Chris Chiozza with 37 seconds remaining made it Florida’s second-lowest scoring output of the season, and its 36.5-percent field goal percentage was worse than every game other than New Hampshire, Kentucky and Florida State. The team’s six trips to the foul line would also be far and away the fewest attempts it has recorded this year if not for a unique 0-for-1 night from the line against Texas A&M on Jan. 2.
There are a number of reasons why Florida (15-7, 6-3 SEC) became so stagnant against the Bulldogs. White credited Georgia’s defense, one of the SEC’s leaders in fewest points allowed per game this season.
“They were tougher, more physical, more aggressive… they played with more edge than we did,” White said. “They wore us down defensively.”
He also questioned the team’s shot selection at times and acknowledged that missing nearly half of his frontcourt rotation due to injuries takes its toll on the team.
Against the Bulldogs, though, there were four players in particular whose struggles can shed some light on what went wrong.
The obvious one is junior guard Jalen Hudson, who finished the game one basket shy of a season-low in scoring. Hudson registered nine points on the night, all from beyond the arc. He missed all eight of his shots inside the three-point line, finishing the game with a season-worst 3-for-14 from the field.
Luckily for the Gators, this was a rare off-night for the usually consistent Hudson, who leads the team in scoring with 16.2 points per game.
Then there’s KeVaughn Allen, a dynamic athlete who led the team in scoring with 14.0 points per game last season.
He has struggled to find his place in the Gators’ system this year, often deferring — to the chagrin of his coaches and teammates, who frequently lament Allen’s lack of aggressiveness — to new arrivals Hudson and graduate transfer Egor Koulechov.
Koulechov is second on the team in scoring at 14.5 points per game, and is also averaging a team-high 7.2 rebounds per game.
Allen had showed improvements in his play recently, recording a 28-point outburst against Arkansas on Jan. 17, but scored only nine points on 4-of-11 shooting against the Bulldogs, the 11th time in 22 games this season he has scored in single digits.
In the frontcourt, the spotlight falls on center Kevarrius Hayes and forward Keith Stone, who have done an impressive job leading a thin and undersized rotation during the extended absences of big men John Egbunu, Isaiah Stokes and Chase Johnson.
However, Stone’s production has slipped over the past two weeks. In his first five games of SEC play, the sophomore averaged 14.0 points per game, scoring a career-high 23 against Ole Miss while bringing down 6.6 rebounds per game. In the five games since, his averages have dropped to 7.4 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, including just five points against Georgia.
Hayes, on the other hand, is not depended on as a scorer, but plays an important role as a high-energy defender. He is a top-five shot blocker in the SEC, averaging 2.1 rejections per game.
When Hayes isn’t playing well, however, it doesn’t fare well for Florida. In fact, all four games in which Hayes did not record a block have been losses for the Gators, including on Tuesday. Against Georgia Hayes was on par with his season scoring average with five points, but only grabbed two boards.
White said that Florida’s inability to rebound against the Bulldogs — Georgia held a 44-35 edge in that department, including 15 offensive rebounds — was frustrating. And on a night when Florida missed 15 straight shots in the second half, Hayes inability to create extra possessions on the boards hurt.
“They were destroying us on the glass,” White said. “We didn’t come close to matching their physicality.”
A video from FloridaGators.com contributed to this report.
Follow Andrew Huang on Twitter @AndrewJHuang and contact him at email@example.com.
UF coach Mike White didn't mince words after the Gators put up 60 points - their second-lowest mark on the season - in a loss to UGA. “They were tougher, more physical, more aggressive… they played with more edge than we did,” White said.