Nembhard

UF guard Andrew Nembhard is shooting 74.1 percent in his last four games.

 

Florida guard Noah Locke went up for the jump shot, but he noticed forward Isaiah Stokes open in front of the basket with 49 seconds left in the first half.

At his peak height, he threw the ball forward. Stokes grabbed it, boxed out his defender until he created enough separation and made an easy layup.

The play not only put the Gators men’s basketball team ahead by 12 over Vanderbilt, a game it ultimately won, but also showcased its new offense. Florida is becoming more physical in its offensive scheme with just three games remaining in the regular season.

“We were very one-dimensional early on,” coach Mike White said. “Unfortunately, we found that out the hard way. It’s stuff our guys work on every day, and our guys have taken ownership and have an understanding that it’s been a deficiency.”

White said on Tuesday the Gators have been working on adding new ways of scoring, mainly attacking the rim more and getting to the free-throw line.

It worked.

Florida mainly shot from behind the arc at the beginning of the season, rarely working the ball into the paint to center Kevarrius Hayes or designing plays to get an easy bucket.

It shot less than 20 three-pointers in just three of its first 21 games. Florida shot over 30 attempts in six of those games. In UF’s last four games, it tried less than 20 threes in three of them.

“We want to attack the basket more,” White said. “We’re better at posting up. We’re better at interior passing. Keyontae Johnson puts more pressure on the rim. Jalen Hudson is finding a little bit of a rhythm.”

Johnson and Hudson have been a big part of Florida’s transition late in the season. Johnson draws fouls on the inside and gets to the free-throw line, while Hudson drives to the basket more. Hudson scored 17 points against the Commodores, showing off skills like alley-oops, dunks, jump shots and three-pointers.

Another player who made a change offensively is guard Andrew Nembhard. The freshman has stepped up his game to become one of UF’s most consistent options.

He’s learning how to finish at the rim when going up for a contested layup. He’s minimizing turnovers. And when Nembhard isn’t scoring, he’s collected assists in its place.

Over the last four games, Nembhard is shooting 74.1 percent from the field. That includes a perfect 9 for 9  against Alabama on Feb. 16.

The future is optimistic for the Gators as they attempt to close out the season strong. They still have to face Georgia and LSU at home before closing out the season against Kentucky in Lexington. With an upgraded offense, they can escape some of these contests with wins.

“I think we’re very confident right now,” Hayes said. “I think we have a sense of what we’re capable of. Even though there’s still more to do, we’re getting there.”

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

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