Mike White

UF coach Mike White said Volunteers forward Grant Williams could have scored 60 points against the Gators on Saturday if they had played man-to-man. “We might have all fouled out, including me,” he said.

 

Florida basketball coach Mike White had a rough week.

His team blew a double-digit second-half lead against South Carolina on Jan. 5 before nearly doing it again at Arkansas. The Gators bounced back offensively early against No. 3 Tennessee on Saturday, but disastrous shooting in the second half dropped them below .500 in conference play.

White looked utterly defeated at his press conference following the game.

What ultimately doomed the team against Tennessee wasn’t poor scheming or scouting. It wasn’t lack of preparation or defensive adjustments from the Volunteers. White was critical of the effort he saw from his team, especially in the rebounding department. He said there needs to be a five-man effort on the boards.

“Sometimes we’ve got guards just watching the fight,” he said. “If you don’t have five in the fight, you’re not going to come up with a really big win.”

Florida struggled to secure defensive rebounds, allowing Tennessee to recover three offensive boards in a single possession in the second half.

White also lamented Florida’s lack of offensive aggressiveness. The Gators showed intensity in the first half before things slowed down in the second. Without an offensively imposing big man, Florida tends to resort to jump shooting. White said he would like to see the team perform better in the paint.

“We’ve got to make layups,” he said. “Even when we get fouled at the rim. Good teams finish at the rim through contact.”

Florida’s offensive problems were exacerbated by the fact that it couldn’t buy a shot in the second half. UF only shot 28 percent in the final 20 minutes, and for a team that doesn’t have much offensive variability, that wasn’t enough. White was visibly frustrated with Florida’s failure to find the bottom of the net. The Gators have struggled to get consistent open looks all year, but they did against Tennessee. Failing to capitalize on those opportunities cost UF dearly.

“We did a pretty good job executing, got some good looks,” White said. “We didn’t make enough of them.”

White was quick to bring up negatives from the game. When asked if he had any positive takeaways, however, he had to stop for several seconds to think.

It’s been that kind of week.

The team fared better defensively, but still found itself out of position on key shots down the stretch.

“We allowed a couple open ones in the last 10 minutes of the game off of lack of rotations, lack of communication,” White said.

UF gave up 18 points to UT star forward Grant Williams. It might have been worse for Florida if it didn’t use a zone defense. White said Williams could have scored 60 points if the Gators had played man-to-man.

“We might have all fouled out, including me,” he said.

Florida travels to Starkville, Mississippi, on Tuesday night to take on Mississippi State. The 12-3 Bulldogs have lost two straight to begin SEC play. A loss in that game could send UF into a downward spiral.

It certainly isn’t panic time for Florida. The Gators have several good losses and have plenty more opportunities to prove themselves in an uncharacteristically deep SEC.

White is worried about his team, though. That much is clear. Based on his comments Saturday night, it’s nothing new.

“I was concerned after game one,” White said.

Follow Tyler Nettuno on Twitter @TylerNettuno and contact him [email protected].

Tyler Nettuno is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida men's basketball team. He has previously covered UF golf and lacrosse. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.