Florida’s men’s basketball team somehow emerged from its game against Alabama on Saturday with a 104-98 win despite trailing by as much as 21. The Gators overcame a 14-point deficit at the start of the second half to force overtime and eventually win in double overtime to complete the largest second-half comeback in program history.
Here are a couple of takeaways:
Offense rounding into form
UF’s offense has drawn the most criticism for the team’s disappointing start to its campaign. It has seemingly alternated between decent and downright ugly for most of the season.
But the Gators have scored at least 80 points in three of their last four games and 100 in back-to-back games. Against Providence, Long Beach State and Alabama, Florida shot above 43 percent in each game. A miserable offensive performance against Utah State aside, this is the best the Gators have been offensively all season.
In its last 10 games, UF’s adjusted offensive efficiency ranks 31st in the country, according to Bart Torvik’s rankings.
Forwards Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Keyontae Johnson have scored 20 points or more at least once in the last four games, with Blackshear hitting that mark in three straight.
Point guard Andrew Nembhard exploded for a career-best 25 against Alabama and has dished out 28 helpers in that four-game stretch. Guard Noah Locke has also had three double-digit scoring games.
Freshman Scottie Lewis has begun to make strides offensively. He was unable to play against LBSU because of a concussion but has registered double-digit points in his last two games. Lewis also grabbed 10 boards to complete a double-double against the Crimson Tide and had three blocks.
Is this where the turnaround begins?
It’s felt like the Gators have had several moments this season where they were finally going to turn into one of the top teams in the country like many believed they were before the season began.
This same question was asked after UF won the Charleston Classic, after the Gators rolled through a decent Providence team and now after a miracle comeback win to start conference play.
Yet two games after the Charleston Classic, Florida was demolished by Butler. It lost to Utah State after one of its worst offensive performances of the season. Now, the Gators have another opportunity to finally get some momentum going.
It’s worth noting that Alabama is a better team than its 7-6 record suggests. The Crimson Tide play at one of the fastest paces in the country, and much like Marshall earlier in the season, its hectic style gave the Gators fits. Combine that with a lights-out shooting performance in the first half (48 percent from the field, 50 percent from three) and another cold start for Florida, and it looked ugly.
But the Gators’ offense woke up in the second half and Alabama came back down to earth as Florida earned its first conference win of the season.
The schedule gets easier from here as well -- for now. None of UF’s next three opponents - South Carolina, Missouri and Ole Miss -- are ranked in the top 50 according to KenPom.
A 4-0 start to conference play would not only boost the team’s confidence, but it might be a necessity as the Gators face two of the best SEC teams in No. 8 Auburn (13-0, 1-0 SEC) and LSU (9-4, 1-0 SEC) before a showdown with No. 6 Baylor (11-1, 1-0 Big 12).
But these next three games will likely determine if this young but talented team is making strides or if all of the preseason hype was for nothing.
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