Gators need to get back on track at Georgia

The road hasn’t been too kind to Florida this year, nor has it been too kind to many teams in the SEC. Nevertheless, the Florida Gators must travel to Athens on Tuesday to play an improved Georgia team that they beat earlier in the year. This game is a big one in terms of the standings.

 Florida Gators (16-9, 7-5 SEC) vs Georgia Bulldogs (14-9, 7-5 SEC)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016; 9:00 p.m.

Athens, Georgia; Stegeman Coliseum


Florida is in a four way tie for fourth place in the SEC at the moment, with Texas A&M and Vanderbilt the other two and both teams the Gators have already lost to. The Gators are coming off of a game where they performed miserably on the offensive end and playing a Georgia team that has won three of their last four games and is currently 5-1 at home in the SEC. The Gators are just 1-4 on the road.

Florida lost to Alabama on Saturday at home against a defense that was different than they had faced all year. The Crimson Tide played man defense most of the game, but when the ball was in the hands of the Gators’ best player Dorian Finney-Smith, Alabama would suffocate and prevent him from really having a big game.

Florida couldn’t match the game plan with others picking up the slack and it cost them. Florida head coach Mike White expects a different kind of defense at Georgia, but still a defense that is a good one.

“First off we’re going to play a defense that is totally different,” White told the media on Monday. “They will allow us to pass the ball a little bit more. Georgia’s defense is a little bit more packed, but equally as effective and capable defensively. They have similar numbers overall. Two really good defensive teams and then we will see another one on Saturday (at South Carolina).

“Alabama did such a good job of staying extended as our guards were driving and wings were driving. They stayed at home on the guys that they were guarding and they funneled everything to Jimmie Taylor. It didn’t allow for a lot of assists and passes leading to shots. They forced us to play one on one and driving and tried to make plays individually, they forced us to play one-on-one in the post. They obviously aren’t our strengths.”

More than worry about the standings and were that might place Florida in the SEC Tournament, White just wants to take each game situation as it presents itself.

“I’m not even looking at it as separating from the pack at all,” White said. “I think in this league on the road you have to go in survival mode really and hope you can play well enough to have a chance. It is that simple.

“It’s going to be a very difficult challenge for us, the next one will be difficult, and the following one will be difficult. Especially on the road, these two this week starting with Georgia. They’re playing really well, especially at home.”

The Gators at times have struggled putting the ball in the basket. The defense is usually there, but scoring points has not been easy at all for this squad.

“We’re having offensive struggles, we shot 29% at home and now we’re playing a defense that is just as good, but different of course. My biggest concern is right now is not the league standings, RPI numbers, nothing like that. It’s how the heck we score at Georgia.”


Florida Projected Starters

Ht. / Wt.



F Devin Robinson (SO)

6-8, 195



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




Georgia Projected Starters




F Yante Maten (SO)

6-8, 240



F Derek Ogbeide (FR)

6-8, 250



G Charles Mann (SR)

6-5, 215



G Kenny Gaines (SR)

6-3, 205



G J.J. Frazier (JR)

5-10, 155



The Gators won in Gainesville last month thanks in large part to scoring 9 three-point shots on 41% shooting from the arc.  They haven’t been able to do that enough this year and it certainly isn’t something they have been consistent with. He also knows the Bulldogs and Mark Fox aren’t going to sit on their hands and not change things from that first go around.

“We have to do a lot of the same things, but Mark is going to make adjustments,” White said. “He’s really good, they’re really good. There are some things that we showed our team the day after that we could have done a little better. There are some things we showed our team yesterday we could have done better (against Alabama).

“Both teams will try and clean up mistakes as we all do heading into game two with conference matchups.”

The Gators are pretty consistent on defense, as mentioned. So there are some things they can build on. Still, matching the intensity they usually get at home with a road game has been hard to come by.

“There are a lot of positives we can take from the first game, but they are playing differently, we are playing differently,” White said. “They are coming off playing very well, we are coming off struggling.

“The biggest factor is that they are home, we are on the road.”

 Outside of point guard J.J. Frazier, the Bulldogs are pretty beefy with four starters going 200+ pounds. They and Florida lead the conference in rebounds with Georgia having a slight lead over the Gators. They have four players averaging double digits on offense in Frazier, Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann, and forward Yante Maten.

“Looking at Georgia, they’re top four guys are just terrific,” White said. “Maten might be the most improved player in our league. Their three veteran guards have won a lot of games, scored a lot of points, had a bunch of assists, and gotten a lot of defensive stops. Their three guards are really good.”

Florida is going to have to get improved play from their guards, especially scoring the basketball. Junior Kasey Hill, sophomore Chris Chiozza, and freshman KeVaughn Allen combined to go 1-10 from the arc on Saturday.  That can’t happen again if they want to win. And yet, White believes the success on offense will show itself from having a good defensive game.

“It’s huge,” White said about getting the guards untracked. “I think it’s the biggest key of the game. I don’t foresee us going to Georgia and see us scoring 80 points, I just don’t. We have to be really good defensively and play with confidence offensively and let it fly. Defensively, if we aren’t on it, you have three guards that are capable of getting 20-a-piece and if they do that we’re in trouble. Those three guys and Maten, he’s been really good.

This is a big couple of games coming up even if White wants or even needs to down play them for his team. But, he is right in saying they need to get a good win outside the confines of the O’Connell Center in the conference.

“I wouldn’t call it the deciding week, but it’s a huge week for us,” he said. “We’ve got to break through on the road and (these are) two opportunities and two very difficult challenges and we would like to have some success. But, more importantly right now I look at Georgia and I just want to have a chance. I want to be in striking distance midway through the second half. That is the first order of business. Get out, get in a decent rhythm, make a couple of shots, and be somewhat effective against their changing defenses. Just have somewhat of a shot against a good team who is playing well at home.”

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