Gators look to refocus after costly lapses

The Florida basketball team lost to Vanderbilt for the third time this season and found themselves out of the SEC Tournament after just one game. While shooting the ball in the Bridgestone Arena was a chore, to a man, know if they defended just a little better, would have come out of the game with a win, instead of a 72-62 overtime loss.

Florida’s top offensive scorer, sophomore KeVaughn Allen, struggled in the arena hitting just 5-16 shots on the night. Still, he was the first to say if the effort was better on the defensive end, those numbers wouldn’t have mattered.

“We had a bad offensive night, but we can’t rely on offense to win the game,” Allen said from the locker room shortly after the game. “We have to play defense to win the game and come closer as a team.

It was a game of runs for Vanderbilt. The Gators got out to an early lead leading 17-11 with 10:25 left in the first half, then the Commodores buckled down and went on a 21-7 run with a barrage of threes and runs at the basket that turned into points or free throws. They went into halftime with a 33-28 lead.

“Got to play smarter,” junior guard Chris Chiozza said. “Stay focused the whole game. Can’t give up easy looks and let a team get a rhythm going.”

The Gators fought hard and had a one point lead with only 24 seconds left, but giving up an offensive rebound to the Commodores hurt them.

“We didn’t do our jobs,” Chiozza said. “We had the game won. Last possession they brick a three, all we have to do is get the rebound and the game is over and we don’t box out…. small things like that. Good teams that want to win, they don’t make those kinds of mistakes.

The game was tied after that and a free throw, Florida still had a chance to win in regulation. They get to the basket with a shot by senior guard Kasey Hill and it rolls off. It was what they were looking for in that moment, but the finish just wasn’t there.  

“That’s what we wanted mix it around get the layup, get the offensive rebound, get another shot, no-call, then overtime.

All the Gators can do is move on from it. They can’t control anything now until the NCAA selection committee decides to place them somewhere in the bracket on Sunday.

“They’re a good team,” Allen said. “They came in and ready to play. Obviously tonight the better team won. But we can’t dwell on this game, we just have to move on from it.

Junior forward Devin Robinson echoed the sentiments.

“We have to go back to the drawing board,” Robinson said. “Just like when we lost two in a row and had a nine game winning streak, just go back to the drawing board, recollect, and just be ready to work.”

As did Chiozza.

“Come up here like any other game, ready to play,” he said. “Learn from these last couple of games like we did the whole season. Bounce back and come back harder.”

How much time off they will have, they don’t know yet. Coach Mike White hasn’t decided.

“That is coach’s decision, I don’t know what we’re going to do at this point,” Allen said. “I do know when we do practice we’re going to work on the things we did wrong and just have to be more focused and be more aware of things on the court and the defensive end.”


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