#17 Florida Gators (18-5, 8-2 SEC) @ Georgia Bulldogs (13-10, 4-6 SEC)
Athens, Georgia; Stegeman Coliseum
Tuesday, February 8, 2017; 7 p.m.
One of the issues the Gators faced in the first part of this season was rebounding the basketball, especially on the defensive side of the court. Teams were getting too many second chances at baskets because the team wasn’t doing the things they needed to do to keep it from happening.
A big team meeting that happened after the Gators’ last loss five games ago resulted in some introspection and an understanding that they have to work together sometimes to make sure they get the balls that miss the basket.
“I think there’s a little less focus on going to get the ball and more focus on doing your job and not allowing the guy you’re responsible for from the getting the ball,” Florida head coach Mike White said on Monday. “And, again, with these guys embracing playing for each other, if so-and-so [teammate] gets the rebound and you don’t, we got the rebound. We did our jobs. You blocked out. You don't get credit for the rebound, but you blocked out. You made a heckuva play. It doesn’t show up in the stat sheet, but there’s an unselfishness there. We’ve become more unselfish, not just offensively but defensively. We’re focused on the right things.”
Rebounding is a mentality and something the entire team has to be a part of.
“I think a lot of it is attitude, and athleticism of course is a part - and strength and intensity and toughness.”
“I think just the desire, the focus, the fight, and again I’m watching my words here because we’re going to Athens where it’s going to be very difficult to outrebound them (the Bulldogs had a 41-32 rebounding edge in first game). Overall we’re a better rebounding team and I feel better about at least holding our own against these really good rebounding teams. You’re going to take a step back every once in a while, but this time of year you’re striving for that consistency and we certainly hope we continue to fight the way we’ve been fighting on the glass. Guys have just made a step in terms of selling out to it. It’s been fun to watch.”
Chiozza gets SEC Player of the Week…
Chris Chiozza got his first triple double of his career in the win over Missouri on Thursday and followed it up with a solid game against Kentucky on Saturday, both huge wins for the Gators. Chiozza was named SEC Player of the Week for his efforts.
“Really happy for him,” White said. “He's a guy that probably a few times deserved a few more minutes and there's just not enough minutes to disburse. He's handled it really well. He's a starter who's coming off the bench. Certain nights, of course, he's playing starter minutes. He's consistent. I think he's made a big jump defensively this year. He's been challenged by his staff and by his teammates and he's challenged himself to become tougher and more of a pest defensively.
“Arguably there (have) been a few games where he's been our best defender. He did a really good job, as did Kasey, on Malik Monk the other night. For him to be rebounding the ball the way he's rebounding it with his size shows you the toughness that he's playing with, the tenacity that he's playing with. They're very unselfish of course with the ball, and we're very pleased with his assist-turnover ratio. He's making really good decisions."
Stone could return…
Redshirt freshman forward Keith Stone returned to action for practice on Monday and has a chance to play on Tuesday after missing a couple of contests with a viral infection.
“He actually is released to practice (Monday) for the first time, so he'll be questionable for tomorrow<” White said of Stone. We'll see how he responds today in practice, but I don't think he had any dizziness over the last couple days."
Another big test…
Florida went into overtime at home against Georgia last month and the Bulldogs are a tough out with their physical nature of play.
“This game is going to be very, very difficult,” White said. “We were so fortunate to beat Georgia at home. Probably as fortunate as any game that we’ve won if you look at the fact that we never got into a defensive rhythm against them, we never got into a great offensive rhythm. Canyon (Barry) steps up and makes two four-point plays. I think Keith (Stone) his three, 3s, if I’m not mistaken, played really well. We had two guys come off the bench and play arguably their best games for us to barely beat them. Yante Maten gets in foul trouble; otherwise, I’m not sure we would have won that game. So the fact that you just beat Kentucky has absolutely nothing to do with moving forward. That’s been explained to our guys.
White said coming into the season that he had an older and more mature team than he had a year ago and that is starting to show in the way they are playing at this point in time.
“The maturity we’ve had in the last three weeks has been tremendous,” he said. “This is another maturity test, culture test and again we could go up there and play really well and not win. Georgia is very, very good. J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten are a handful. Mark (Fox) does a tremendous job, they execute so well defensively, they are so sound and solid, but our focus as a staff right now is on challenging our guys to understand how difficult this is going to be, we’re back on the road, we’re coming off an emotional win of course, and it’s another maturity test."
“It’s the third game in six days against one of the most physical teams that we'll play all year and a team that gets you thinking. There's a lot of prep that goes into playing Georgia, the quick turnaround, and that's another reason it's such a big test. In a perfect world, you don't want to have 48 hours to prepare for Kentucky at home. And in a perfect world, you don't want to come off a big, home win with a really quick prep to play at Georgia, either. At the same time, it's an opportunity and it's a test, it's a challenge to see how we respond."