When you play defense like Florida played Tuesday night in Athens you can survive a shooting drought like the one at the end of the first half when the 17th-ranked Gators (19-5, 9-2 SEC) couldn’t have peed in the ocean if they were standing on the end of the pier. Florida’s 72-60 win over Georgia wasn’t pretty unless you find beauty in bare knuckles defense.
The Gators blew a 16-point lead when both their offense and defense went into the deep freeze the final 9 minutes of the first half. The Gators missed 10 shots in a row and went only 1-14 from the field and the defense, so good in the first 10 minutes of the game, took a snoozer until the break.
Still, Florida had a 35-33 lead going into the locker room and Georgia never got any closer. What turned white knuckles into a cruise control win was what the Gators did defensively. The Gators held Georgia (13-11, 4-7 SEC) to 8-31 shooting in the second half, but that’s deceptive because the Bulldogs hit 4 of their final 5 shots well after the game had been decided. There was no such thing as an easy shot for Georgia, which was forced well out of its comfort zone by Florida’s relentless pressure. Those normal 15-foot shots became 20 footers that clanged off the iron and that got the Gators running, which got the offense back into gear after that dreadful first half finish.
Georgia finished the game hitting 21-63 (33.3%) overall from the field and just 6-18 (1 for their last 7) from the 3-point line. Florida forced the Bulldogs into 16 turnovers and Kevarrius Hayes (4) and John Egbunu (2) combined for 6 blocked shots to keep the Bulldogs out of the paint.
Take away that 1-14 finish in the last 9:07 of the first half and the Gators actually shot the ball very well. The Gators were 12-18 from the field before that awful stretch and finished the first half 13-35 (37.1%). In the second half, the Gators shot 13-29 for 44.8%, finishing the game 36-64 for 40.6% overall and 33.3% (7-21) on 3-pointers.
Point guards Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza continued their inspired play as the Gators won their fifth straight game. Hill scored 12 points and contributed 2 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals while Chi Chi led UF with 15 points to go with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals. Other Gators in double figures were Canyon Barry with 11 and Justin Leon with 10 to go with a team-high 7 rebounds.
The Gators return home Saturday against Texas A&M (12-10, 4-6 SEC), which plays host to Missouri Wednesday night.
GAME NOTES: The win was the 40th in the career of Florida coach Mike White, 40-20 at UF and 141-60 overall in six seasons … With a 4-4 effort, Canyon Barry extended his streak of consecutive free throws to 35 … The Gators outscored Georgia 31-14 off the bench … Florida outscored Georgia 18-6 off turnovers.
UF BASKETBALL ROSTER FOR 2017-18
Here’s a look at how Florida’s basketball roster will shape up next season. Currently, the Gators have 13 players on scholarship, which is the NCAA limit. There are 11 active players plus transfer Jalen Hudson (from Virginia Tech) and redshirt Dontay Bassett. The Gators have three seniors in graduate Canyon Barry, Kasey Hill and Justin Leon, three signed incoming freshmen and one committed who will sign in the spring, so that means there will need to be attrition for UF to get to the scholarship limit of 13. Most NBA scouts believe Devin Robinson will declare for the NBA Draft after the current season.
This is how the roster shapes up without attrition:
Redshirt Seniors (1): John Egbunu (6-11, 255)
Seniors (2): Devin Robinson (6-8, 200); Chris Chiozza (6-0, 176)
Redshirt juniors (1): Jalen Hudson (6-6, 190)
Juniors (2): KeVaughn Allen (6-2, 183); Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 218)
Redshirt Sophomores (1): Keith Stone (6-8, 240)
Sophomores (2): Eric Hester (6-3, 167); Gorjok Gak (6-11, 231)
Redshirt Freshmen (1): Dontay Bassett (6-9, 222)
Incoming Freshmen (4): Isaiah Stokes (6-9, 270); DeAundre Ballard (6-6, 195); Chase Johnson (6-9, 210); Michael Okauru (6-4, 180)
ELSEWHERE IN SEC BASKETBALL: The win over Georgia moved the Gators into a first place tie with South Carolina (19-5, 9-2 SEC) and Kentucky (19-5, 9-2 SEC). South Carolina was beaten by Alabama (14-9 7-4 SEC), 90-86, in four overtimes in Columbia Tuesday night while Kentucky beat LSU (9-14, 1-10 SEC), 92-85, despite playing horrendous defense. South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell put together the best game in the SEC this season with 44 points, 21 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
Arkansas (17-7, 6-5 SEC) continued its swoon with a 72-59 loss in Fayette Nam to Vanderbilt (12-12, 5-6 SEC). Auburn improved to 16-8 and 5-6 SEC by knocking off Mississippi State (14-9, 5-6 SEC), 98-92, in Starkville.
RIP PERRY MCGRIFF
Perry McGriff, an All-American in both football and baseball at the University of Florida, was laid to rest Tuesday after a service attended by more than 1,200 at Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville. Perry was a great Gator and one of the most natural athletes to ever come out of Gainesville (he also played freshman basketball at UF). A successful insurance agent, McGriff’s real pride and joy was his Christian faith and the 67 gallons (yes gallons) of blood he donated starting in the 1950s as part of a Phi Delta Theta fraternity participation in a blood drive. Perry was dad to former Gator tight end Mark McGriff, a first cousin of former Gator wide receiver and radio analyst Lee McGriff.
The thing I will always remember about Perry is that in the 50 years I knew him, I can’t recall anyone ever saying something bad about him. That is quite a legacy.
IS NICK SABAN SECOND GUESSING HIMSELF?
It was convenient for Nick Saban to send Lane Kiffin packing the week before the national championship game with Clemson. Saban didn’t think Kiffin was doing such a hot job of juggling his Florida Atlantic head coaching duties with Alabama offensive coordinator so he elevated former Washington and Southern Cal coach from analyst to offensive coordinator and told Kiffin thanks, but no thanks. Alabama scored 31 points in the national championship game, but you never got the feeling that Sark and quarterback Jalen Hurts were anywhere close to being on the same page that Hurts and Kiffin were.
Do you think Saban looks in the mirror and asks himself if maybe he was a tad hasty in sending Kiffin packing?
The change to Sark as OC might have seemed like a good idea at the moment, but maybe not so smart now. While everyone in Alabama was quick to vilify Kiffin as the latest version of the Anti-Christ, he spent almost three full seasons turning Bama’s offense into a scoring machine with three different starting quarterbacks. Alabama lost only three football games that he called the plays.
Sark went 0-1 and the Bama offense was stagnant most of the Clemson game. A month later and just weeks before spring practice begins, Sarkisian is history. He took the job as the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator Tuesday. Couple the loss of Sark with wide receivers coach Billy Napier taking the Arizona State offensive coordinator job and tackles/tight ends coach Mario Cristobal taking the co-offensive coordinator job at Oregon and you have more instability on the offensive side of the ball in Tuscaloosa than we’ve seen since Saban’s first year (2007) when he fired Major Applewhite as offensive coordinator and completely reshuffled his staff.
The big question is who does Saban hire as his OC?
A quick and easy solution might be to elevate Mike Locksley, a former offensive coordinator and head coach who spent 2016 on the Alabama support staff. Locksley favors dual threat quarterbacks and he’s got a good one in Hurts, who he’s already familiar with. Locksley is a lights out recruiter.
Then there is the Chip Kelly card. Kelly is available and nobody knows a dual threat triggered offense better. He seems as welcome in the NFL as a leper right now, so if he’s going to resuscitate his coaching career, St. Nick’s Home for Wayward Coaches might be the place. If Kelly can swallow his pride a bit he will find that Saban doesn’t mind in the least a coach whose career has taken a sideways turn or two.
OTHER SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
Arkansas: The new defensive line coach is John Scott Jr. whose $340,000 contract prevents him from leaving Arkansas for another SEC job. Scott was the D-line coach of the New York Jets.
Auburn: Tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Scott Fountain won’t be back at Auburn after four years on the staff.
FLORIDA: Director of player personnel Drew Hughes turned down South Carolina to remain on the Florida staff.
Georgia: D-line coach Tracy Rocker isn’t coming back.
Kentucky: D-line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh has taken a job as Maryland’s co-DC and D-line coach.
LSU: Coach O hired Tommie Robinson from Southern Cal to coach running backs. New Orleans high school legend and former Nebraska quarterback Mickey Joseph, was hired from the Louisiana Tech staff to coach wide receivers.
Mississippi State: Texas State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, has joined the MSU staff as quarterbacks coach.
Tennessee: Brady Hoke will be paid $500,000 to coach Tennessee’s running backs. Offensive line coach Don Mahoney has been fired, replaced by quality control assistant Walt Wells.
The tweet war between New York Knicks president Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony is absolutely ridiculous. Is there an adult in the Knicks’ organization?
As if Baylor needs any more bad publicity, strength coach Brandon Washington, who was brought in by new head coach Matt Rhule, was fired after he was charged with soliciting a prostitute over the weekend.
North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham told CBSSports.com that the NCAA “overcharge us” in its academic fraud case. Carolina has been charged by the men in blue suits with unethical conduct, lack of institutional control and extra benefits provided by a perpetrator of a bogus class scheme. Somehow, we are also to believe that Roy Williams didn’t know a thing about it even though a bunch of his basketball players were taking bogus classes.
As far as I’m concerned, any mock NFL Draft that doesn’t have Florida corner Quincy Wilson in the first round is ridiculous. Rob Rang of CBSSports.com not only has a first round mock with no Wilson but has Jalen Tabor dropping all the way to #18 and the Tennessee Titans. I doubt either Wilson or Tabor will be around by the time whoever picks #15 is on the clock.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are moving Andrew McCutcheon from center field to right field. I’ve often wondered what would have happened if McCutcheon had played college baseball at Florida rather than sign with the Pirates straight out of Fort Meade High School.
A few where are they nows: Nick Calathes is averaging 7.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game for Panathinaikos in the Greek League … Patric Young, still coming back from an ACL, is averaging 5.8 points and 2.7 rebounds per game for Olympiacos in the Greek League … Walter Hodge averages 13.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game for ASVEL in the French Pro-A League … Erving Walker averages 10.2 points, 1.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists for Strasbourg in the French Pro-A League … Erik Murphy also plays for Strasbourgh, averaging 9.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game … Anthony Roberson averages 14.3 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists for Boulazak in the French Pro-B League … Casey Prather averages 18.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3 assists per game for Perth in the Australia NBL … Scottie Wilbekin averages 11.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists for Darussafaka in the Turkish League … Alex Tyus averages 6.4 points and 3.8 rebounds for Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul in the Turkish League … Taurean Green averages 13.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists for Bnei Hertzeliyya in Israel … Adrian Moss is suiting up for Wolfpack/BMS in Denmark but no stats are available … Bonell Colas is averaging 7.6 points and 5.8 rebounds for Randers in Denmark … Kenny Kadji is averaging 14.4 points and 6.0 rebounds for Trabzonspor Medical Park in the Turkish League … Mike Rosario is averaging 11 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists for Hidalgo in the Mexican League.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Are there cracks in mighty Alabama’s football armor or is all this staff change just a speed bump that won’t cause Nick Saban to miss even one night of sleep?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Wilson Pickett’s rise to stardom began when he signed on with Atlantic Records and began recording out of the Stax Records studio in Memphis. Between 1965-71 Pickett had five songs that reached #1 on the Billboard R&B charts and another 12 that made the top ten. Today’s music is Pickett’s greatest hits.