Mike Okauru

Mike Okauru provided a surprise burst off the bench in Wednesday's loss to Georgia. The freshman guard posted 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting. 

Georgia forward Pape Diatta raced toward the right corner of the court and collected a rebound off his own missed three-pointer with 6:11 left in the second half.

As silence filled the O’Connell Center on Wednesday night, the loudest sound wasn’t the dribbling of the ball while the Bulldogs prepared for another offensive possession, but rather Florida men’s basketball coach Mike White stomping his feet on the hardwood in anger.

“We needed to have a ‘B’ night defensively,” White said, “and we didn’t get it.”

While the Gators’ defense did show promise, a couple of mental lapses in the second half helped Georgia pull off a 72-69 comeback victory.

Florida — leading by three — turned the ball with 15 seconds left in the game following a travel by guard Jalen Hudson. UF then left Georgia forward Yante Maten open from deep three-point range in the final few seconds, leading to Maten draining a game-tying three in the eventual overtime loss.

“Lack of communication,” White said about the play. “Which we’ve struggled with all year.”

 

Okauru provides scoring

On a night where Hudson, Florida’s leading scorer, couldn’t make a basket, another guard took his place.

Freshman Mike Okauru has been relatively quiet through SEC play, averaging 3.3 points per game. But on Wednesday night, he dropped 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field, good for the third-best mark on the team.

“My teammates have been telling me to be aggressive,” Okauru said. “Same as the coaches, and I think it’s been helping me a lot.”

Okauru was instrumental in breaking up Georgia scoring runs in the first half. A three-pointer with 14 minutes left in the first half broke up an 11-point run by the Bulldogs, making him the only Gator to score in a near-six minute stretch.

Later in the half, while UF held a 24-23 lead, Okauru hit another three with 3:47 left to extend Florida’s advantage to four.

On top of his scoring, Okauru stole the ball twice and provided 14 minutes of solid defensive play, earning praise from his coach.

“I’m hoping he can continue to be locked in defensively,” White said. “The longer he’s out there…doing his job defensively, he’ll continue to grow with confidence offensively.”

Chiozza and Hudson struggle

While guards Egor Koulechov and KeVaughn Allen scored 19 points each, Florida’s two other veteran guards played some of their worst games of the season.

Hudson, who averaged 15.7 points per game before Wednesday’s contest, recorded only one point on three shot attempts. He also played a reduced 22 minutes due to early foul trouble, unable to provide his usual scoring efforts as a result.

Meanwhile, senior Chris Chiozza put up just five points against the Bulldogs on 14.3 percent shooting from the field. He only shot a lower percentage in one other game this season, an 83-66 loss to Florida State on Dec. 4 where he scored all five of his points from the charity stripe.

When asked if he was puzzled by Chiozza’s performance, White had one response.

“Yeah,” he said. “That’s not Chris Chiozza.”

Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at [email protected].

Jake Dreilinger is the assistant sports editor of the Alligator and covers the Florida Gators football team. He has previously covered men's basketball, baseball and softball. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2015.