Florida Gators focused on defense, energy vs. Richmond Spiders

Florida will have all eyes on the defensive end of the floor Tuesday.

Richmond comes into Tuesday’s game after an upset win over No. 14 California, the program’s 13th win over a ranked program since 2008. The Spiders are off to a 4-2 start, led by their dynamic offense.

They’re 27th in the country with 86.0 points per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field in five of their last six games. The Gators’ main concern is the three-point line, where the Spiders are shooting 38.6 percent.

“They’ve got a bunch of guys who can make threes,” Florida coach Mike White said. “They’re really good offensively, one of the better teams in the country offensively. Their bigs can step out and shoot it, a bunch of guys can make the three. At the same time, you can fall in the same trap of defending the three being your sole goal, but they have guys who can make plays, especially in the post.

“The post guys are really good one-on-one players offensively. They have other playmakers as well. They’re just a handful offensively.”

The main concern is Richmond leading scorer Terry Allen. The senior forward comes into Tuesday averaging 22.2 points and eight rebounds, but he totaled 54 points and 19 rebounds in their last two games against ranked teams in California and West Virginia. He dominated the 94-90 win over the Bears, going for 34 points and 13 rebounds with 17 free throw attempts, the most for a Richmond player dating back to 1969.

The three-point line has been the focus for the Florida defense, as the Spiders have taken at least 15 three-point attempts in every game this season. They’ve even gone over 30 attempts from long range in some games.

“It’s going to be very important to run them off the line, but they’re also very good in the post,” Florida guard Kasey Hill said.

The Florida defense has been up and down all season. There are times where the unit is dominant and other times where focus is inconsistent and they struggle. The Gators allowed 85 points to an efficient Purdue offense, but since then, they’ve allowed less than 65 points to every other team on the schedule.

“We’ve got to come out with unbelievable energy and accept the challenge that we’ve got to be at our best defensively just to hold it down,” White said. “You’re playing a team that can make contested threes, draw fouls on the perimeter, draw fouls on the interior. They can throw it inside, they drive it and they run great actions. It’s a tough test for us.”

The defensive success is determined by energy. For the last two games, the Gators have gotten off to a slow start in the first half before playing better in the second half. The challenge now is to use that second-half energy and translate it to the beginning of the game.

Hill pointed out that Florida struggled with the exact opposite last season. The Gators got off to quick starts but struggled to maintain it for 40 minutes. After angry rants from White and the Florida staff at halftime of the last two games, the Florida coach is hoping he’ll get to avoid that on Tuesday against Richmond.

“I was proud of the way our guys came out and defended in the second half,” White said. “We were really good defensively in the second half. It has been communicated to them. They understand what the energy has to be to beat good teams. There’s no excuses. They have to come out every game with energy from the tip."

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