Gators take on experienced Bulldogs

Florida plays host to Mississippi State on Tuesday night in Gainesville. The Gators are coming off of a big win at Mississippi and looking to take care of business against a Bulldog team that is struggling in SEC play, but is as experienced as any team Florida will play in conference.

Florida Gators (11-6, 3-2) vs Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-9, 3-4)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016; 7 p.m.

Gainesville, Florida; O’Connell Center


For Florida, the one constant they can point to this season has been the defense. The only two games the defense didn’t show well were against Miami and Tennessee, and that has been the impetus for getting to 11 wins against a pretty good schedule so far.

The offense has struggled, but lately the Gators have really picked it up from three point land. White talked about why this is happening.

“We’re making shots at a higher level than in our first dozen games or so, at a much higher level,” Florida head coach Mike White said Monday. “First of all we are competing against yourself every day and our defense wasn’t as good then as it is now.

“Also, you hadn’t gotten into the grind of the season. You have guys making shots in practice, that hadn’t proven to make shots consistently at the division one level, especially at the SEC level. There’s a transition that goes with this. If you look at season box scores across the country, usually sophomores shoot it better than freshmen and juniors shoot it better than sophomores. There’s just a progression there. To think we’d come out and be a great shooting team this year when relying on freshmen and unproven sophomores to make a bunch of shots for you is probably not the thing to think.

“We’ve been streaky. We obviously shot very well at Ole Miss which was huge for us. We’ve said it all year, when we’re making shots we’re pretty good. Because 95% of the time, we’ve been good defensively.”

One thing that has really picked up in a negative way is turnovers, especially live ball turnovers with the other team streaking down the court immediately and heading to the basket. White has talked about being the main thing he has to stress his team right now after doing a great job earlier in the season with holding on to the ball.

“Three games in a row it wasn’t very good,” White said of the last three games. “It was our biggest weakness of the game either offensively or defensively. The biggest negative that you take from the game in Oxford was live ball turnovers. We made four or five bad decisions. You can’t do that moving forward. We have to learn from it. We watched every one of them again. It’ll be the biggest offensive key for us going into this game against Mississippi State at home. They are really good at transition offense. Craig Sword is terrific in the open floor.”

We just can’t turn the ball over. We’re not good enough to get away with that unless you go 11-20 from three. In our guy’s defense, a couple of them were late and playing with a lead. Still, we have to move on from this.

The Bulldogs come to town as a veteran group that hasn’t quite put it all together yet this season. Still, White knows this team can be tough.

 “I haven’t been overly familiar until watching film here in the last 48 hours,” he said of the preparation for the game. “I don’t care what their record says, they’re very talented. They have a bunch of seniors, a ton of experience. They have a junior point guard that has played a ton of minutes. They have 1,000 point scorers. Gavin Ware is playing as well as any post player in our league. If it ended today I would think he would be first team all-league. He’s the best offensive post player in the SEC. Then they add the number one high school 2-guard in America to that roster.

“They fought at Kentucky and played them very hard. They lost to Texas A&M by one point. They’re very capable.”



Florida Projected Starters

Ht. / Wt.



F Justin Leon (JR)

6-8, 196



F Dorian Finney-Smith (SR)

6-8, 220



C John Egbunu (SO)

6-11, 255



G KeVaughn Allen (FR)

6-2, 183



G Chris Chiozza (SO)

6-0, 175




MSU Projected Starters




F Gavin Ware (SR)

6-9, 260



G Quinndarry Weatherspoon (FR)

6-4, 204



G Malik Newman (FR)

6-3, 190



G I.J. Ready (JR)

5-11, 170



G Craig Sword (SR)

6-3, 197



The Gators aren’t expecting to have center Schuyler Rimmer or forward Alex Murphy back against the Bulldogs, but White hasn’t ruled either out completely.  

“Rimmer has had one thing after another,” he said after responding about talk of Rimmer having the flu. “I feel terrible for him. I don’t know whether Schuyler will be available or not. He’s underweight. He’s had one issue after another. We’ll be a better team when he gets back to 100% for sure. He gives us another option there, especially over time. Once he’s 100% for 2-3 weeks I think he’ll earn some minutes.

“Alex (plantar fasciitis) is just a day-to-day deal. I’m not sure whether he’ll play in the next week or two or three or heck he might feel great tomorrow. It’s just a pain tolerance thing now.”

White says there is no issue with DeVon Walker who didn’t get into the game against Ole Miss.

“He had a great attitude and helping from the bench,” White said of Walker. “He just didn’t get an opportunity for whatever reason. There is nothing wrong with DeVon. He could play 15 minutes or he may not play.”

The Gators liked what they saw of freshman guard KeVaughn Allen on Saturday at Ole Miss and would like to see 27 points and 5-6 from three-point line every night, but White knows that is nothing you can expect from a freshman all the time.

“We’d like to expect it, but again he’s a freshman,” White said. “This is the first time having a bunch of information thrown at him… soaking in scouting reports, dealing with the media, travelling while having to deal with school work and tutors. For us to go to KeVaughn and tell him ‘we have to have 25 from you to win’. We can’t do that to him.

“We do need rely on him to be aggressive. He just has to be aggressive for us. When he really scores it we are that much better. We need offensive weapons as much as anyone.

I think we’re getting to the point where we’re expecting him to be a little more consistently successful than we were a month ago. He came off a game where he didn’t score but then he bounces right back.”

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