After three straight conference losses, senior guard Chris Chiozza — leader of the reeling Florida men’s basketball team — is ready to see some changes take place during the second half of SEC play.
“We went through this before where we bounced back pretty well,” Chiozza said, referring to the team's six-game winning streak in late December and early January that came after losing four of its previous five games.
When the Florida men’s basketball team isn’t hitting shots, things get ugly.
Chiozza is looking to help the Gators (15-8, 6-4 SEC) regain their form against LSU (13-9, 4-6 SEC) tonight at 6:30 at the O'Connell Center.
The Gators have dropped three of their last four games — the sole win coming against non-conference foe Baylor — with many of their struggles coming in the second halves of those losses.
During a home defeat against South Carolina on Jan. 24, Florida hit a flurry of shots to open the second half, only to be outscored 38-24 over the final 16:11. Three days later against Georgia, UF had a stretch in the second half where it missed 19 of 20 shots. Most recently, Florida squandered a six-point halftime lead over Alabama. The Gators were outscored 41-17 by the Crimson Tide after the break.
For coach Mike White, it’s back to the drawing board.
White said he’s considering “wholesale changes” for his team after dropping from first in the SEC standings to a three-way tie for third over the course of the team’s current losing streak.
“Some of it was a little bit effort,” White said. “Some of it was a little bit of wind. But most of all, it was our guys weren’t in the right spot that they were supposed to be in.”
White said he wants to see more discipline from his players moving forward. He also wondered if he was keeping his starters on the court for too long.
“Some of our second-half collapses defensively, I think, have to do with playing guys too many minutes,” White said. “We’re not a very deep team. We’ve got to somehow get a little bit deeper. We’ve got to infuse somehow a little bit of confidence in a couple of these freshmen to give us something.”
White said freshman guards Deaundrae Ballard and Mike Okauru have looked good in practice and their playing time might increase.
Another factor White zeroed in on was shot selection. While he wants the Gators to shoot with confidence, White would like to see fewer forced shots against the Tigers — something his floor general, Chiozza, agrees with.
“We’ve been known to try to take hard shots to get something going when we don’t have everything going our way,” Chiozza said.
Another reason Florida has a tendency to force shots is its inconsistent defensive play, something Chiozza pointed out in the loss to Alabama.
Defensively, Chiozza will have his hands full with LSU guard Tremont Waters. Waters leads the Tigers with 15.3 points per game and is coming off a 27-point, 11-assist performance in a win against Arkansas on Saturday.
White praised Waters’ playmaking abilities as well as LSU forward Duop Reath, who is second behind Waters in scoring and leads the Tigers in blocks.
“Boy, (Waters) is a handful,” White said. “He’s really, really gifted with the ball in his hands… and I don’t know what (Reath’s) numbers were last year off the top of my head but he’s had some huge games and he’s continued to improve.”