Gators face veteran GWU for NIT Final 4 bid

Maybe this wasn’t the tournament they wanted to be in, but three games in and the Gators are still doing their own kind of dance in the NIT basketball tournament. Having won two road games already to reach the quarterfinals, Florida has to win another road game against a veteran Georgie Washington club to get to the NIT Final Four.

Florida Gators (21-14) vs George Washington Colonials (25-10)

Wednesday March 23, 2016; 7 p.m.

Washington D.C.; Charles E Smith Center


Florida head coach Mike White likes the way his team is .tuned in to the game at hand.

“It’s been good… good focus,” he told the Florida media on Tuesday afternoon. “(Monday) we took it a little bit easy physically. It was more of a mental day. We lifted and watched a bunch of film, but we didn’t want to really take that next step not knowing who we were playing. We’ll get after it today. We’ll go really hard, but really short knowing that we go here pretty quickly.”

Florida’s opponents, the George Washington University Colonials played Monday night and went on the road to defeat NIT No. 1 seed Monmouth while the Gators finished off Ohio State on the road a night earlier.

On the verge of getting a trip to The Big Apple, Florida gets to first visit the nation’s capital. So White is going to let his team enjoy things a little bit before the game on Tuesday.

“It’s a great opportunity to visit a place that is very important, and a place I am sure most of our guys haven’t visited before,” White said. “We’ll get a chance to do a little bit of sightseeing tomorrow and then we’ll have our hands full with a team that is playing really well. A team that has had a bunch of big wins this year, a really good George Washington team.”

The Gators have been playing well as of late. They have won their last three road games, half of the number of wins in true road games they have had all season. An offense that has blossomed a little bit and a lot of that has to do with point guard Kasey Hill who has seemingly taken the team on his shoulders for the last several games.

“He’s really playing well,” White said of Hill. “We looked at it yesterday. We broke down some numbers. It started with Vanderbilt at home. We started simplifying some things offensively and started selling out to more ball screening, more spread pick and roll, more transition offense, less long developing stuff in the half court and Kasey’s probably benefited the most.

“We talked all season about the offense being a trial and error. I think we probably found our best way to play and I wish we found it a month earlier than we did. But, in these last eight games, we are 4 and 4, the defense has been pretty good but offense has been playing much better, we’re averaging almost 10 more points a game.”


Florida Projected Starters

Ht. / Wt.



F Kevarrius Hayes (FR

6-9, 210



F Dorian Finney-Smith (SR)

6-8, 220



F Devin Robinson (SO)

6-8, 195



G KeVaughn Allen (FR)

6-2, 183



G Kasey Hill (JR)

6-1, 180




GWU Projected Starters




F Kevin Larsen (SR)

6-10, 265



F Tyler Cavanaugh (R-JR)

6-9, 238



G Yuta Watanabe (SO)

6-8, 197



G Patricio Garino(SR)

6-6, 210



G Joe McDonald (SR)

6-1, 190



Hill has been a catalyst for that offense, more often than not getting to the rim with the ball and finishing at the basket with his quickness and the open lanes he is finding. We are seeing the things out of Hill that Gator fans expected with his All-American status out of high school.

White knows the pressure has been there for Hill.

“It’s not an easy position to be in. We’re at the University of Florida with expectations,” White said. “This team was in the Final Four two years ago and Kasey has been expected to be a really good player. In his defense, he’s finishing up his junior year and he’s playing his best basketball and he still has time to be that player.

“Over the last month, I am really pleased with his play. His attitude… he’s gotten to a point that at a higher level he’s focused on his play and just play and filter out some of that distraction. He’s in a high profile position. I guess it would be similar to being the quarterback for the Gators.

“Overall you have to respect how he’s handled it. He’s playing the best basketball he’s played since he’s been at Florida.”

Colonial’s Tyler Cavanaugh leads the team in scoring. The 6-foot-9 forward has the ability to play underneath and hot from the three-point line. That isn’t such a big deal really, but the fact is all five guys can make the three including 6-foot-10 Kevin Larsen.

“We defend Keith Stone and Alex Murphy and Dorian Finney-Smith it’s really what we play,” White said about playing a power forward that can shoot from distance. “Our guys are familiar with it. Some of the teams in our league play that way. To take it a step further, their five will step out and take threes as well. We’ve only played a couple of teams this year that all five starters shoot the three and post at different times. All five are really skilled, really versatile, and a unique offensive team.

“They are a really good all-over passing team and skill level team. They are very experienced team. They have (four seniors and two redshirt juniors). They are playing guys that have been playing for a long time. They’re older guys, smart guys, and skilled guys.” 

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