Florida’s loss to No. 1 Baylor on Saturday shouldn't have surprised most people. UF was an unranked team coming off of a loss, while the Bears came into Gainesville touting a 15-game winning streak.
After a double-digit defeat, it was clear that UF coach Mike White was disappointed in his team’s performance while praising Baylor’s talent.
It was a sullen and frank post-game press conference when White took the stage, and he had some eye-opening comments on his team’s performance.
“They got to be in the argument to be the best defense in the country.”
That’s certainly up for debate. Baylor put on a clinic Saturday night on the defensive side of the ball and limited Florida to just 61 points, the lowest its scored since a game against UConn on Nov. 17 (59).
The Bears’ defensive dominance was led by forwards Mark Vital and Freddie Gillespie, who combined for 17 rebounds, 11 of which were on the offensive glass, two blocks and two steals.
“Vital and Gillespie, to me, they’re both really strong and both have tremendous motors. They just go, go, go, go, go.”
White praised Baylor’s frontcourt earlier in the week, saying they had an argument to be the best in the country.
The fifth-year UF coach would eventually move on from praise and began to question his team in more ways than one.
Florida started off the season struggling on the offensive side of the ball, but its defense was its calling card and carried them to a respectable record.
UF only reached 80 points once in its first 10 games and has reached that mark five times in its last 10 contests.
In those first 10 games, Florida only allowed opponents to score 70 points twice and have allowed teams to reach that clip four times in its last 10 games.
Now, Florida’s main strength and primary weakness has become inverted and White articulated his frustration.
“There’s something to that for sure and I’ve always preached that, as long as I’ve really been in coaching, that there’s a tendency…we’re all human, when a ball is going in for us at a high level in basketball there’s a tendency to take a deep breath and relax and have the feeling that it’s all good. We’re in a good place.”
Baylor was not known for its offensive prowess, but for the Bears to shoot 9 for 19 from behind the arc is becoming a trend for Florida’s opponents.
On Jan. 11, Mizzou made 12 of its 19 three-point attempts and if that loss is included, Florida has allowed 69.8 points per game while its offense has improved to 71.6 points per contest in its last five games.
“Early in the season…our defensive numbers were a lot better than they are now. Our offensive numbers are much better right now than they were a month ago, we all know that. We’ve gotten a lot better offensively.”
White didn’t harp too long on his team’s scoring improvements or any positives for that matter.
He didn’t hold back when he began to criticize his team’s overall mentality up to this point in the season.
“We’re an immature team right now and from a mental toughness standpoint we’re nowhere near what it takes to be a championship-level team.”
Again, this came on the heels of an unranked team losing by 11 points to the top team in the nation. White’s assessment of the team is harsh but fair given the expectation of this team, a team that held Baylor to shoot 29.6 percent in the second half and still lost.
“I hope everyone in our locker room is dissatisfied where we are.”
The Gators now find themselves with a 12-7 record after losing their second home game of the season. The team that was ranked No. 6 in the preseason still has more questions than answers right now.
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Coach Mike White