White looking for maximum effort from his Gators vs. Ole Miss

There have been a few games this year when the effort on the defensive end of the court wasn’t there for the Gators. The blowout loss to Kentucky on Saturday was one of those days. While Florida head coach Mike White recognizes them as not a normal occurrence, he would like to eliminate them altogether. They’ll need it facing Stefan Moody and the Ole Miss rebels on Tuesday.

Florida Gators (15-8, 6-4 SEC) vs Ole Miss Rebels (15-8, 5-5 SEC)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016; 9:00 p.m.

Gainesville, Florida; Stephen C. O’Connell Center

TV: ESPNU

Through most of the first half of the season the Florida Gators struggled mightily on offense. But, one thing they could regularly count on was their defense.  It’s a swarming, mostly full-court, but fundamentally sound defense that irritates opponents and forces them into bad situations.

Every once in a while, especially on the road, that defense falters.  When the defense goes, so does some of the confidence with this team on offense.

“Offensive struggles were frustrating though the first half of the year and we’re playing much better,” White said Monday when addressing the media. “Our defensive effort from Saturday was definitely frustrating, but to credit these guys we haven’t seen a lot of these days and a lot of these nights. In the first half of the season we were really struggling to find baskets and ways to score. I thought we were really resilient and continued to fight day-in and day-out.

“Unfortunately for some reason at Rupp Arena, we didn’t play with that same edge. Confidence could have something to do with it. There is a reason their numbers are what they are at home and Coach Calipari’s are as well.

“Overall, throughout the season, to me it’s been very good.

“The energy we displayed at Michigan State was unbelievable. I told our guys that, ‘we lost the game, but you ought to take so much pride from how hard you guys battled and fought for every loose ball and every possession.’ We were off the charts that night. At Texas A&M it was near that effort defensively, and we just struggled to make some shots and free throws.

“To have that discrepancy is confusing, but a lot of teams have those issues on the road. But, we’ve (played well on the road and won) a couple of times. At Ole Miss we were terrific defensively.

“It’s what you aim for as a coach. We’ve talked about it a bunch. You try and max out and we want to see that kind of defensive performance every night. We’ve gotten it most night at home and less on the road.”

The Gators got off to a horrendous start against Kentucky and then a couple of minutes into the second half as well. They seemed to right the ship a bit in the second half led by the insertion of DeVon Walker who hasn’t seen much playing time lately seemingly because of some offensive frustrations. He and Dorian Finney-Smith were the lone bright spots on the floor for the Gators.

“I thought we kept fighting after the very poor first half,” White said. “The other couple of positives were that DeVon Walker came in and showed a lot of character defensively. I thought he got us going with his communication. That could have been the biggest deficiency for us. We just wouldn’t talk to each other for whatever reason. We just couldn’t get ourselves going with that defensive energy. I thought DeVon helped in that area.

“Even when he came back out I thought we played a little bit better defensively.

“The other big positive of the game was Dorian. He just continues to play very well. He’s playing with a lot of confidence, he’s sure of himself really on both ends. Offensively he was really good.”

There are reasons for the varying effort levels White says, understanding that they have to fight through those excuses.

“It depends on how you played in the last couple (of games), it depends on when you played last. Some teams are playing Tuesday-Saturday; some teams are playing Sunday-Tuesday-Saturday-Wednesday. A lot of it depends on travel… it’s such a long season. A huge factor is how you’ve done. The more you lose the hungrier you get. The more upset you get… it’s a little bit easier to dig deep and have added motivation if you’re coming off a couple of losses. We were a team that won 5 of 6 and probably got a little comfortable. Playing at Kentucky, it makes no sense… it probably was a little factor. Kentucky coming off of a couple of losses as Kentucky was, I’m sure they were as hungry as they’ve been.

“The energy level we showed in the game against West Virginia coming off the game at Vanderbilt in which we had opportunities we didn’t take advantage of. If we won at Vandy, who knows?  The West Virginia game may have been different.

“The biggest factor by far and away is the home crowd. We play with more confidence and at a different level.”

As the Gators prepare for Ole Miss on Tuesday night, they are in pretty good shape injury wise. The lone issue right now seems to be senior forward Alex murphy and his plantar fasciitis in his foot.

“No timetable (for Alex Murphy). Schuyler (Rimmer) is back in the full swing of things,” White said. “He’s been healthy for a couple of weeks now and has his weight back.

“Mentally I think we are on edge a little bit, which is good. I hope that is good for (Tuesday) night but in the past when we’ve been on edge we’ve been our best.”

#

Florida Projected Starters

Ht. / Wt.

P/ RPG

10

F Dorian Finney-Smith (SR)

6-8, 220

15.5/8.2

15

C John Egbunu (SO)

6-11, 255

10.7/6.3

0

G Kasey Hill (JR)

6-1, 180

8.2/2.9a

4

G KeVaughn Allen (FR)

6-2, 183

11.4/2.6

11

G Chris Chiozza (SO)

6-0, 175

7.3/4.7a

 

#

Ole Miss Projected Starters

Ht./Wt.

P/RPG

5

F Marcanvas Hymon (R-FR)

6-7, 216

6.5/5.4

13

F Anthony Perez (SR)

6-9, 226

7.0/4.1

1

G Martavious Newby (FR)

6-3, 218

4.8/5.1

14

G Rasheed Brooks (JR)

6-5, 201

9.4/3.4

42

G Stefan Moody (SR)

5-11, 179

23.5/4.1a

Ole Miss is playing a little bit differently than the last time the Gators faced up with them according to Florida’s coach.  Head coach Andy Kennedy is an offensive minded guy and Ole Miss brings pressure offensively, especially with guard Stefan Moody. But, they are starting to manufacture points from others around Moody making them more dangerous all around.

“I don’t know what kind of adjustments AK will make, but I’m sure he will be creative,” White said. “He’s a really good coach and been very good at getting his best offensive players in a position to be successful.

“We’re much more concerned about Stefan’s supporting cast. All of those other guys are really playing well right now, coming off of a game which they played well against Vanderbilt. They were defended at a high level, Moody goes 5-25, and they beat Vandy.”

“This team is really playing well. They’ve won 3 out of 4. They won their last game. They are 5-4 on the road. We have to play well.”

White expects his players to rebound in terms of getting after things on the defensive side and they will need to.

“Our guys are a little beat up (mentally), he said. “They are disappointed in our effort and the fashion in which we were beat (against Kentucky). I’d be surprised if we don’t come out tomorrow night and play really hard. That is what is most important, especially with this team.

“What happens after that I don’t know… we’re going to have to value the basketball against Ole Miss’s changing defense, Andy changes defense as much as anyone in our league. We’ll have to guard against a supporting cast that is playing with a ton of confidence. The best scorer in our league is Stefan Moody. We will have to be on our toes. It starts with our energy and that is something that should be easiest for us to control.”


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