The Gators were sloppy in multiple areas, but there’s no question what they want to do with the basketball. Mike White wants Florida to run.
His team consistently pushed the tempo on Thursday night on the way to an 89-42 win over Palm Beach Atlantic in an exhibition game. The Gators open the season at Navy on November 13 at 9:30 p.m.
The increased tempo did come with a price. Florida was sloppy with the basketball at times, committing 23 turnovers with 15 of them coming in the first half. However, the frantic pace was also the plan for Palm Beach Atlantic and the Gators forced 30 turnovers.
“Twenty-three turnovers, that’s scary,” White said. “We weren’t very happy about that. We played with too much intensity level when the ball was in our hands. I like to think that some of it has to do with our guys playing in front of our crowd for the first time. I think our guys were really jacked up. They were having fun. Hopefully some of it was first-game jitters.”
For the Florida players, it’s a change in pace that has a learning curve. The Gators used a quick tempo at times last season, but the team played slow during most of the year. Since White took over the program, it has been about pushing the tempo as much as possible.
The Gators are buying into his philosophy of going fast on offense, but they’re still learning how to be careful with the basketball while playing with speed.
“It’s so hard because you’re playing so fast and coach wants you to get down the court and get to the basket,” said Florida point guard Kasey Hill, who had nine points, three assists and one turnover in 20 minutes. “You have to understand that sometimes you have to put your brakes on and slow down a little bit, but you also have to keep pushing it. It’s very hard to play without trying to turn it over, but you just have to play.
“As soon as we get it, coach is saying ‘go!’ A lot of guys are trying to go, but we have to value the ball a lot more. If that was a Division I team, we would’ve gotten beat by 20 turning the ball over that much.”
White and his staff have been preaching that the players need to create a frantic pace on defense. The Florida press is designed to create problems for the opposing team and make them speed up too much, followed by the sloppiness with the basketball. The Gators made Palm Beach Atlantic do that on Thursday, proven by the 30 forced turnovers.
When the Gators get the basketball, it’s about controlling that energy. White still yells from the bench for the player bringing the ball up to push it up the floor. But they have to be quicker in comprehending what’s going on all over the floor.
The turnovers on Thursday came in different ways.
“Some of it was decision making,” White said. “Five or six of them were passes that should not have been made at all. Some of it is just simple accuracy with passing where we hit the right guy but we’re throwing it at his feet. We had a couple loose balls that we tried to dribble out of instead of sticking our nose in there and grabbing it with two hands. We had our bigs handling the ball too much as well. It’s combination of all those things.”
White was also concerned that the sloppiness followed Florida to the free throw line. The Gators shot 37 percent (10-27) from the free throw line, at one point being as poor as 5-18. Florida’s 37 percent from the free throw line was lower than their 40.7 (11-27) mark from behind the three-point line.
Just like with turnovers, White blamed his team’s anxiousness in their first game in front of Florida fans at the O’Connell Center.
Florida forward Alex Murphy went down after playing just two minutes on Thursday. Athletic trainer Duke Werner spent time looking at Murphy’s right foot before helping him off the floor. Murphy couldn’t put any weight on his foot as Werner and teammate Kevarrius Hayes helped the senior to the locker room.
“Duke told me a foot injury, a right foot injury that we’ll find out more about tomorrow,” White said. “I guess we’ll look further into it. I don’t know whether it needs this, needs that or who he goes to see. I know he was hurt. He’s been playing well in practice, so mentally it’s a tough deal for him but we hope he bounces back as quick as possible.”