Noah K Murray / USA TODAY Sports

Slow start in second half dooms Gators vs Noles

Against all three of the best teams on Florida’s schedule this year, the same problem has ailed the Gators (7-3). A slow start or negative start in the second half has had the Gators fall behind to the point where they can’t recover. It happened for the third time this season on Sunday evening in Tallahassee as Florida State as Florida State (10-1) walked away with an 83-78 win.

An aggressive and physical team, Florida head coach Mike White wasn’t particularly pleased with just how physical things got in the contest. White was tagged with a technical foul in the second half because of a few non-calls on the court.

Shortly after the contest, he spoke on the Gators IMG Network and tried not to display too much of his distaste for the way things were called.

“I thought we played hard,” White said. “Canyon’s (senior swing man Canyon Barry) got a laceration on his forehead on a block out foul. I guess they called on him. John’s (junior center John Egbunu) got a dislocated finger. Chris (Chiozza) is obviously still beat up. Justin (Leon) hurt his foot.

“It was a hard fought game by both programs, high intensity of course. I thought we had our chances especially in the first 20 minutes. The second half defensively, we just weren’t as good, we just weren’t quite as sharp coming out of the locker room.”

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The Gators were down by two at half time (36-34) after senior guard Kasey Hill stole the ball at half court and raced for a layup with a couple of seconds left on the half time clock. After that first half of a game that went back and forth, the Gators came out of the gate slow in the second.

A couple of possessions back-and-forth led to a run by Florida State where they built a 54-44 lead just 5:15 into the second stanza. The wall that the team hits at times is something that White and his assistants have been working on.

“In all three of our losses it’s a common theme,” White said. “We just addressed it. We have to continue to address it. We have to find a way. We have halftimes in practice and obviously that’s not the answer. We’ll continue to try and be creative and continue to try and stress it because our defense in the second half, if just as good (as the first half), we would have a better shot. We could have won this game.”

“For them to shoot the percentage they shot, 55% in the second half, after shooting 37% in the first half, that wasn’t enough (from us) defensively.”

Hill’s steal and layup was part of his career high 21 points in a game where he also finished with three rebounds, three assists, and a couple of steals. Sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen was the only other Gator in double figures on the night with 16 points. When they struggle, shooting is usually near the top of list of culprits.

“4-of-16 is not going to do it from three, but (we) did enough offensively,” White said. “Overall to come in here and shoot 47% and only have 9 turnovers. We didn’t have our best game at the foul line of course (64%) we didn’t convert at the level we’ve been shooting there this year to this point.

The Noles countered with a couple of players scoring double digits as well. Sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon poured in 24 points hitting mid-range jumpers to blazing fast layups. Guard Terrance Mann added 16.

Florida struggled on the backboard, giving up nine more rebounds on the evening (42-33). Florida State pulled down too many offensive rebounds (11) resulting in second chance points. Against a team that forces a bunch of turnovers, the Gators were able to stay away

“Our guys continued to fight, I am proud of that of course,” White said. “That is expected.

“We had) just too many mistakes. I thought we took care of the ball at a higher level, made better decisions, played sounder offensively in the second half. We finished with only nine turnovers against a team that presses as much as they do. We settled in there.”

UP NEXT: The Gators look to rebound from the first two game losing streak of the season as they take on Charlotte (6-3) in Sunrise, Florida Saturday at 4 p.m.  The game will be televised live on FOX Sports Sun Sports.


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