Florida point guards helping Gators go

It has taken some time and a bit of mix and match with this team, but point guards Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza are starting to have more positive moments on the floor both personally and as part of the team on the court In turn, their play is affecting the flow of the game in a way that head coach Mike White likes.

Mike White has said continuously that his team is a good passing team. They are unselfish and always looking for the guy with the best open shot. That hasn’t translated to much offensive efficiency over the full year, but things seem to be coming around.

Just last week the Gators were last (14th) in the league in field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage. They have started to climb out of that funk in both categories and are up to 11th at this point.

One of the big reasons has been the better play of both point guards. Unselfishness from both junior Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza about getting on the court and then the times when both occupy the court at the same time and continually rotate roles has led to better offensive play and efficiency.

“They’ve done a good job of playing together,” White said of Hill and Chiozza. “Whether they are backing each other up or getting in there and sharing the one or two at the same time. Regardless of who gets the ball they act as the point.

“Playing with two point guards it gives us added speed and quickness and allows us to pressure the basketball a little more. You have added decision making abilities. With us being an inexperienced team with a junior and sophomore out there together that also played last year, it gives us that added experience.

The right time to play two or one at the same time is something they are continually working on and seemingly getting better at.  

“Those guys are doing a great job,” White said. “At times we choose not to be overly small and at times we choose to have especially with KeVaughn out there that third perimeter guy. If KeVaughn is in a pretty good rhythm, you want him out on the floor. That third perimeter guy often for us is bigger and longer and that gives us arguably our best offensive facet, that’s our ability to offensive rebound.”

 “Those are the decisions on whether we play the two guys together or not Along with the time and score, whether playing from behind, needing to press, whether playing from the lead and want another ball handler out there… it is definitely a luxury to have two point guards playing pretty well right now.”

Added to the starting lineup several games ago, Chiozza has been asserting himself and has really done the job on both ends of the floor. The quick footed sophomore now leads the SEC in assist to turnover ratio at 3.7 and his quickness makes him a very good defender.

“I think other than the Mississippi State game, Chris has been maybe our most consistent player,” White said. “He’s been really good this year. He’s defended at a high level against both of the scoring point guards that we faced. I thought he set the tone against Kareem Canty (Auburn) and Stafon Moody (Ole Miss). His assist turnover ratio is really, really good. He makes great decisions. He takes good shots and is shooting at a high percentage. Chris is having a very good year.”

Making three-point shots…

Over the last several games, Florida has been on somewhat of a tear from three-point land. While the Gators are 11th overall in 3-point field goal percentage for the season, they are 4th in the league in conference play hitting 60 of 152 shots for 39.5% in seven games.

White says that his team has just been fine tuning their selections on shots taken.

“We’ll just really stress taking really good ones,” he said about moving forward. “I don’t think we had a major shot selection issue early in the season, but I do think we are taking really good ones now. A lot of them are inside-out touches, a lot are paint touches, whether it‘s on penetrations or (Dorian Finney-Smith) or John Egbunu getting paint touches through post feeds. Those types of inside-out threes later in the shot clock is another factor in terms of why we are shooting the ball better.

“We certainly hope it continues.”

He does attribute a three game winning streak and four of the last five to the way they are shooting the ball now.

“Probably the biggest difference in this team is that we are shooting the basketball better,” he said. “Guys have stepped up. Guys have been in the gym a bunch. Justin Leon has led that charge as much as anyone. They are taking advantage of making open threes. Good teams need to have a couple of guys that can step up and just make an open one, simply not allow guys to defend Dorian with a guy and a half or two guys. Not allow people to consistently double John. We need to take advantage of the fact that we have a good passing team. Chris Chiozza early in the season was getting guys open shots; we just weren’t converting at the same level.

Confidence at the free throw line…

His team has struggled for most of the year from the foul line. On Saturday against Auburn, in a blowout win, the Gators were 20-24 or 83.3% from the line. That is an outstanding number that is hard to duplicate, but hopefully a sign that they will get better.

“It’s funny how it works in basketball when a couple of threes fall, how the next guy when he’s open just shoots it with a little more confidence,” White used as an example. “The same thing with offensive rebounding, when we’re chasing down offensive rebounds I think our guys feel a little bit more confident to shoot the ball on that next one, feeling like we have a chance to at least secure another possession.

“It’s the same thing at the foul line. When you get into a rhythm, when you make 7-for-8 as a team I think the next guy gets up there and shoots it a little more confidently.

“With the game the other night, hopefully it carries over to another one. If we string together 2-3 games like that it might just change the whole outlook for our guys walking to the foul line and what is going on in their mind.”

Comfortable with his team…

White thinks the team and staff are really starting to feel more comfortable together with how they are playing and who they are playing on the court at different times.

“I am a lot more comfortable than I was a couple of months ago,” he said.  “I think our players and entire staff are more comfortable. As a program we have a better handle of who we are and what our strengths are. I think when you are hammering defense and rebounding down guys throats and their not necessarily finding that success -- you know our schedule is very difficult, and we play some very good teams that beat us when we took our lumps early. We’ll take a few more lumps I am sure. -- But, when you focus on those hard things and not necessarily on the things you want to hear, I think it took some losses to buy in to understand that maybe this is what we need to focus on.

“Over the last 5-6 weeks, outside of a couple of games, we’ve been really consistent defensively. Now we are seeing guys step up and shooting the ball with a little more confidence.”

 White attributes some of the recent success to honing in on specifics with regard to who gets on the court at certain times and who doesn’t.

“One of the reasons may be the fact that we have consolidated minutes a little bit, and guys we are throwing in and out (of the game),” he said. “A few guys are getting a little less opportunity. We are finally settled in on who we’re going to play and who we’re dependent on. Roles have been defined over time and our guys have done a good job of accepting their roles. It’s kind of a combination of a lot of things.”

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