You have to know Mike White as a coach. He preaches defense, he teaches defense, he swears by defense. Although Florida played one of their best games of the year in several areas on the offensive end, he wasn’t happy about the defense, especially guarding Osprey guard Dallas Moore who scored 31 points on the night.
“It wasn’t our best game, credit North Florida, Dallas Moore was incredible,” Mike White said after the game on the Gators’ IMG Network. “What a performance he put on. He was absolutely incredible, 12-of-21, 6-of-12 from three. We did a poor job on him, honestly we did. Our attention to detail wasn’t good, allowed him to his left hand too much. (Our) scouting report was to make him a driver and we didn’t. We allowed him to be a 3-point shooter. In a perfect world, he had about 4-5 3-ppoint attempts and he had 12 and he capitalized, good for him.”
It was never really a matter of the game getting away from Florida. White’s Gators were longer, faster, quicker and just more talented than their opponent. The Gators shot 58.5% from the field and 47.4% from the 3-point line. They got off to a quick double digit lead and never looked behind. With shooting percentage and 3-point percentage being struggles so far you would think that would please the Gator Chief.
“They were outmatched by our size,” White said. “We made a few shots of course. I thought we executed pretty well against their zone, but the competed every bit as hard. They beat us to some loose balls. Dallas Moore had his way with us. We have to learn from this. Despite the score, I’m not sure we got much better tonight, but it’s a process and we’ll move on to the next.”
White grew quickly perturbed with the starting unit on the floor in the first minute of the second half. The Ospreys erased six points of a 20 point lead in that minute causing turnovers and again a couple of 3-point shots from Moore. He pulled the starters after a minute, all five of them to let them stew over what was happening on the court.
The second unit started slow, but showed an intensity in their play that kept them on the court and they would eventually show what White was looking for.
“They got off to a rough start as well and we were about to go right back to the starters,” White said. “Then we strung together a couple of stops and I thought we got into a decent rhythm against their zone and Chris Chiozza was terrific tonight.
Chiozza had a career kind of night. He scored 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting along with three 3-pointers. He also added nine assists, four rebounds, and just one turnover. He was part of a bench effort that scored 51 of the 91 points on the night.
“When you look at some of the positives, Chris Chiozza was the best player on the floor in my opinion all around. If we didn’t switch so much we would have had Chris on Dallas a lot more, he did most of his damage on other guys. He created havoc defensively. Chris was extremely unselfish, got guys shots, and made shots.”
Florida redshirt freshman forward Keith Stone continues to make strides, he poured in eight points off the bench. Freshman Eric Hester hit his first three point shot of the season and played 11 solid minutes. Sophomore Kevarrius Hayes continues to draw praise from White as an effort guy that continues to improve.
“I thought Keith Stone settled in in the second half and did some of the things he did against Miami,” White said. “Eric Hester brought great energy. Kevarrius Hayes is what he is… he’s going to bring it every time he’s between the lines.
The 3-pointing has been a bone of contention so far this season. White is consistent of his praise for his team in practice and believes that the deep shooting will improve this season. It took a step forward Thursday in a gym that was very kind to them last year as well. The 47.4% from the arc nudged forward the season average that is now just 31.5%. Junior Justin Leon and senior Canyon Barry played a prominent role here hitting three 3-point shots each to go along with Chiozza’s triple 3-ppoint night as well. The UNF gym was the place the Gators shot the best last season as well.
“I just think it rubs off on other teams who come here against the Ospreys who shoot it so well,” White said. “You feel like you have to catch up and mimic them in some ways.
“It feels good to see that ball go through the net, especially for a guy like Chris who’s had some practices where he’s really shot it. Justin Leon is a guy that we’d like to see open a few times more a game so he can let that thing fly, because he’s shooting a really high percentage in practices and we like to see more attempts for those guys. Canyon Barry did some good things offensively for us too and defensively.”
The Gators finished with four players in double digit scoring, Chiozza (16), Leon (13), Devin Robinson (10), and Barry (12). Chiozza played the most minutes (26).
Defense overall was good outside of the 31 allowed by Moore. The Ospreys shot just 37.7% as a team and just 27.3% from the 3-point line. No other North Florida player scored more than seven points.
Hill the assist man…
While Chiozza led the team in assists, the five dishes that senior Kasey Hill served Thursday night has him at a career total of 401 and placed him among the top 10 career assist leaders in Florida history. Often criticized for some parts of his game, Hill does a lot of things that can’t be coached and help his team.
“Congratulations to Kasey, he’s an unselfish kid,” White said. “He’s played a couple of different roles here at Florida and handled it well. He’s continued to stay the course and be a good teammate. Now he’s a leader of this team that is playing really well obviously. As a senior he wants to go out the right way. He has an incredible ability to get in the paint with a bunch of God given speed and quickness. He’s got great vision too. He’s got that ability to get guys shots on the interior and the perimeter as well.
UP NEXT: Florida will take on #5 Duke on December 6, in the Jimmy V Classic as they travel to New York City to play in Madison Square Garden. The 9 p.m. contest can be seen on ESPN.