Florida coach Mike White knew all week that the offense’s struggles came down to making shots. Through the first half of the game, those issues were still there. The Gators made more shots and consistently hit shots in the second half to run away with an 86-62 win.
“We found a little rhythm playing through (Dorian Finney-Smith),” White said. “He missed some in the first half, but when he hit one in the second half, Vermont had to rotate to him quicker and it allowed other guys to get looks or attack close outs. He was facilitating, really shared the basketball.
“We were tentative offensively, but to our players’ credit, we were playing within ourselves to a detriment. I was pleased with our guys being contentious to a fault. We really settled in early second half and strung together some stops and got into an offensive rhythm, led by Dorian Finney-Smith.”
The Gators ran out to a 7-0 lead to open the game in the first three minutes with John Egbunu scoring the first five points with Kasey Hill making a layup after that. After that, Vermont outscored Florida 29-27. The Gators shot 34.5 percent (10-29) from the field and 25 percent (2-8) from behind the three-point line.
The players credited thinking too much. They agreed with White’s message that the shots had to fall at some point, and they were trying too hard to make that happen.
“We just turned down a lot of open shots in the first half,” Dorian Finney-Smith said. “The game made people hesitant. Coach challenged people to go shoot the ball with confidence. We were playing with confidence and challenged ourselves on defense, which turned to offense.”
Things changed in the second half. The Florida players were loose, letting the shots fly and they started to fall. The Gators shot 50 percent (19-38) in the second half of the game from the field while shooting 40 percent (6-15) from behind the three-point line.
Dorian Finney-Smith led the Gators with 20 points, adding six points, six assists and three steals. The senior was joined in double figures by three players Hill (14), Egbunu (13) and Devin Robinson (15), who earned his first start of the season while pushing DeVon Walker to the bench.
“Devin was good,” White said. “He only had two offensive rebounds, but it took a big effort from them to keep him off the glass because he was flying to the glass. He’s doing his job. He took really good shots and was efficient. He was pretty solid today.”
Florida has a quick turnaround over Thanksgiving week. The Gators host Florida Gulf Coast on Friday night at 6:30 p.m., and the SEC Network will televise it.