Gators grinding through tough schedule

The Florida Gators (14-7, 5-3 SEC) host Arkansas (11-10, 4-4) Wednesday night and continue through the tough part of their SEC schedule. Through it all, bumps and bruises have added up, but these Gators keep fighting on. 

While the Gators continue to play fast and hard, with relentless defensive intensity, the numbers game has been difficult at times. Right now, they are facing some adversity in terms of injuries and guys not 100%, but have managed to fight through that and play well any way.

Senior forward Alex Murphy continues to miss games because of plantar fasciitis in his foot, sophomore center Schuyler Rimmer is slowly building up his game stamina after a few physical setbacks, junior Justin Leon could return Wednesday after a head injury that made him miss most of the Vanderbilt loss and the entire win over West Virginia, and the Kasey Hill broke his nose Saturday in that big win. It has been a bit of turmoil.

“I’d say we’re a little bit banged up with Murphy being out, Schuyler getting back into a rhythm, Justin being out, Kevarrius Hayes had an injury the other night and we’ll find out more today where he’s at. Kasey Hill broke his nose the other day,” Florida head coach Mike White said. “So we’re a little banged up.”

Maybe more of a problem for White is how his team responds after a good outing. More times than not, after a good game, they haven’t played well even if they won the next one. That is a pattern he wants and needs to change.

“Mentally I think we’re in a pretty good place, coming off of our biggest win,” he said. “The biggest concern as a coach at this point is how we handle success. We’ve been here before, not at this level (after the WVU win), but we’ve tasted playing really well a couple of early times where we didn’t necessarily rebound the correct way in the next game.  It is on to the next one.”

He’s a little puzzled in how to deal with the issue.

“We’ll just continue to talk about how we haven’t handled success,” White said. “They know that. We’ll talk about it and watch video today and over the next couple of days. I don’t know if there is an exact answer.”

On Saturday against a relentless team that plays the same style as Florida likes to, if not at a higher level, the Gators came out inspired and played well the entire contest. White says they have purposely taken some steam off of practices in the last few weeks, so that his guys have their legs in these big games.  

“I’m not sure if we have the right answer, but we did start to back it off about three weeks ago,” he said. “We’ll continue doing the same thing this week and next week as we’ve done the last 3-4 weeks. When you get into the conference season we try to go really hard, but we shorten it up a little bit. We don’t want our guys out there for 2.5-3 hours, we don’t want them standing around, because the basketball season is such a long season, it’s a marathon. “

Something that continues to be addressed with this team is the different rotations being used. There have been a few games where the number of players used was smaller than others but a lot of times White goes deep into the bench and it may not seem to be the best alternative.

It worked out well against West Virginia to play a lot of guys.

“It was incredible the other day and a huge factor in that game,” White said. “Schuyler continues to make a case for more minutes as well. I feel good about our three guys at the five. Brandone Francis-Ramirez gave us another option and weapon offensively. I thought he was pretty good defensively. He did some things in press attack too, he used his body to get open in a couple of possessions when we were having trouble getting the ball inbounds, and he’s a big guard.

“It’s a game to game deal with who we’re playing, and who is playing well. A lot of it has to do with this team. We’re just not really proven in a lot of areas. We’re just going to continue to give these guys opportunities and see who plays well.”

One guy that continues to get a lot of minutes on the court is freshman guard KeVaughn Allen. Allen has stepped up his scoring in DSEC play and averaging 14.6 points in conference compared to 11.9 for the entire season. He’s a guy that White knows has to be on the court.

“I thought he’s handled the minutes well lately,” White said. “He’s not playing like a freshman lately. He’s been really good. We’ll do whatever we can with all of these guys to make sure we do our best to help them stay fresh by not going three hours today. We’ll get our work hard and being really sharp and go hard, but getting it in.

“I am very proud of KeVaughn’s performance as of late. I think he’s growing with his confidence, because it’s becoming more consistent, it’s happening more often.”

Most of the time you will see Allen will himself to the basket or to the area on the court for an open shot. However, there have been times when that hasn’t been the case and he was a bit timid or wanting to let his teammates take over.  

“He’s been pretty consistent with his aggressiveness,” White said of Allen. “He’s only had a couple of games when he didn’t do well when he was aggressive. The other games he didn’t have good performances were just him thinking a little too much or being a little too passive, trying to fit in a little too much. He’s too talented of a scorer and explosive athlete. We want him to maintain that attack mode.” 


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