Maybe it will prove to be no more than a mere bump in the road, but Miami came off as a real shocker.
The 72-65 setback was the Gators' first loss of the season, and though they bounced back to whip Stetson 93-54, it still raises some serious questions about the Gators' ability to contend in the SEC East.
After all, the Hurricanes were a mediocre 2-2 coming into the game, having lost to South Carolina State at home and to Xavier by 13.
But the Gators simply couldn't handle the Hurricanes guards, which could be a troubling omen. Miami's Guillermo Diaz and Rob Hite were 17-of-37 shooting, including 7-of-16 on treys. Miami also out-rebounded Florida 34-31.
The Gators figure to find out right away if the Miami loss was an aberration. They are host to Florida State.
The Gators open SEC play Jan. 8 against Arkansas at Gainesville.
Florida pretty much had its way against Stetson after the embarrassing loss to Miami, whipping the Hatters 91-54. Gator starters combined for 23-of-34 shooting from the field.
-- The Gators have won 12 in a row against Stetson but the loss to Miami snapped a 26-game winning streak against in-state competition.
-- Coach Billy Donovan is only in his ninth season at Gainesville, but that matches the longest tenure of any Gator coach. Norm Sloan was at Florida from 1981-89.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Point guard Corey Brewer.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We had no answer for those three at all. We tried to go zone some in the second half, and they knocked down threes. We tried to play man-to-man and had no chance to contain them on the dribble. You have to give Miami a lot of credit." -- Coach Billy Donovan, after Miami guards Anthony Harris, Guillermo Diaz and Rob Hite combined for 55 points against the Gators
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: vs. Louisville, Saturday, Dec. 11; vs. Georgia Southern, Sunday, Dec. 19; vs. Eastern Kentucky, Wednesday, Dec. 22.
KEYS: The Gators have forced their last five opponents into 110 turnovers, an average of 22 per game. In the loss to Miami in that stretch, however, the Gators forced only 13 turnovers, and Miami's guard play was a key to its victory.
ROSTER REPORT: Matt Walsh was only 2-of-9 from the field (1-of-5 from three-point) in the Gators' 72-65 home loss to Miami. He recovered against Stetson, going 6-of-9 (2-of-5 on treys) and scoring 15 points.
-- Junior Anthony Roberson scored a team-high 20 points against Miami to reach the 1,000-point plateau for his career. After scoring 12 in only 20 minutes against Stetson in his next outing, he now has 1,027 points.
============== GEORGIA ==============
When you lose by 38 points, you look for bright spots anywhere you can find them.
Georgia coach Dennis Felton may have found one in the Bulldogs' turnover total.
They made only 12 in their 87-49 loss to Georgia Tech despite facing constant pressure from the Yellow Jackets.
In what is likely to be a problem against quality opposition the rest of the season, however, the Bulldogs were out-rebounded 44-25. Levi Stukes was the top rebounder for the Bulldogs with four.
They did manage to win the boards in a 67-62 victory over Gardner-Webb, although it should be noted that Gardner-Webb had no starter taller than 6-7.
Felton will have time to drill his Bulldogs in practice to come up with an answer.
After Saturday's game in Atlanta against Tennessee Jan. 5.
The Bulldogs shot 50 percent (21-of-42) from the field in the 67-62 win over Gardner-Webb with the starters a combined 17-of-35, thanks mostly to the contributions of Corey Gibbs were a combined 4-of-7.
-- The 38-point loss to Georgia Tech (87-39) was Georgia's most lopsided defeat in almost 46 years, going back to a 108-55 loss to Kentucky on Jan. 29, 1959.
-- Free throw shooting is woeful for the Bulldogs, who are only 61-of-108 (56.5 percent) for the season. They were only 20-of-35 against Gardner-Webb and 16-of-29 against Georgia Tech.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Point guard Steve Newman.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "One of the things I was most proud of was how once we were down and out and the momentum was on their side, we still found a way to fight and gut it out and we came away with the win. Our defense was really tough down the stretch. We closed it out with rebounds." -- Coach Dennis Felton, after the 67-62 victory over Gardner-Webb
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: vs. Oregon State, Saturday, Dec. 11; vs. Wofford, Sunday, Dec. 19; vs. Bethune-Cookman, Wednesday, Dec. 22.
KEYS: The Bulldogs have to improve their rebounding and shooting. They are hitting only 40.5 percent from the floor (to the opponents' 43.1) and are being out-rebounded by a 36.8-36.0 margin. They also have made more turnovers (77) than their opponents (69).
ROSTER REPORT: In what could be a record if they kept such things, starting center Dave Bliss fouled out in just four minutes in the loss to Georgia Tech. He was scoreless, not getting off a shot, and had one rebound and one turnover. Oddly, he has only 10 other fouls in four games.
-- Sundiata Gaines (12.8) and Levi Stukes (12.0) are the only Bulldogs averaging in double figures in scoring.
================= SOUTH CAROLINA ================
South Carolina is on a 10-day layoff for final exams, and the Gamecocks are left to ponder just how close they came to being undefeated at the break.
Clemson beat the Gamecocks 63-62 in overtime when the Gamecocks, who had won their first four outings, managed to survive a slow start but couldn't overcome poor free throw shooting.
The Gamecocks scored only three points through the first 10 minutes of the game, but trailed only 25-22 at the break. The Gamecocks led in the second half but couldn't hold a four-point advantage in the last two minutes.
They hit less than half their free throws (12-of-25) and eventually lost despite a career-high 21 points from Tre' Kelley, who hit a jumper with six seconds left to send the game into overtime.
"Putrid. That's all I can say," coach Dave Odom said of the three throw shooting. "If you put blinders on you can shoot better than that. I felt good about how Tre' responded in the second half. But, he didn't get much help."
Odom wants his Gamecocks to get tougher as they count down to their conference opener Jan. 5 at Kentucky.
"We must get tougher -- tougher mentally and tougher physically," he said.
South Carolina saw its final chance for victory fade when its last pass rolled out of bounds, letting Clemson escape with a 63-62 overtime victory. But the Gamecocks actually lost the game earlier with a miserable performance at the free throw line, where they were only 12-of-25.
Renaldo Balkman (3-of-5) were the only players to hit better than 50 percent from the stripe.
-- The Gamecocks have forced opponents into 96 turnovers (19 per game) while committing only 66 (13 per game).
-- Depth helps South Carolina's aggressive style. Only one starter is averaging more than 30 minutes a game -- Carlos Powell at 31.6.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This was one of the weirdest games I have been involved with in a long time." -- Coach Dave Odom, after the 63-62 overtime loss to Clemson
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: vs. East Carolina (Mobile, Ala.), Monday, Dec. 20; vs. South Carolina, Wednesday, Dec. 22.
KEYS: The Gamecocks, coming off a long break, sees the schedule pick up in a hurry. They should get a good measure of where they stand with their Dec. 18 road game against Kansas.
ROSTER REPORT: Tre' Kelley was 9-of-13 from the field, including 3-of-5 from the behind the three-point line, but managed to hit only one of three free attempts in the loss to Clemson.
-- Tarence Kinsey, who was averaging 14 points through South Carolina's four victories, was scoreless in 34 minutes against Clemson, missing all seven of his attempts from the field and going 0-for-2 at the line.
-- Seniors Carlos Powell and John Chappell will pick up their degrees Dec. 13 after just 3 1/2 years of academic work. Powell is the team's leading scorer (16.2) and rebounder (6.2). Chappell is a reserve and has appeared in three of the team's five games. He will graduate with three degrees and carried a 3.9 GPA in his final year.
============== TENNESSEE ==============
Things get busy for Tennessee's Volunteers starting Saturday when Xavier visits.
The Vols have had only one game over an 11-day stretch, that a 69-68 loss to UT-Chattanooga. Over the next two weeks -- actually 13 days -- the Vols will have five games.
"We have just got to do a better job of showing some energy," coach Buzz Peterson said after the loss to the Mocs. "Right now we need to get tough and dig in."
The Vols have had a rough time of it after opening with a 69-57 victory over Stanford in the Maui Invitational. They have won only once, 73-67 over Wofford, while losing three times.
Granted, two of the losses were to national powers Texas in Maui, but the one-point setback to Chattanooga was damaging to the program's image.
"As quick as it went down, we can get it right back up and play like we were before we left for Maui,'' Peterson told the newspaper. "There's so much parity out there. It's what you do from this that matters. How do you handle this, and what's next?
"I just think you've got to stay positive and don't point fingers. We've got to come together and try to get through this and get us a win against Xavier."
The Vols open conference play Jan. 5 at Georgia.
The Vols are getting a lift from newcomers Chris Lofton, a freshman guard from Maysville, Ky. They have started all four games for the Vols.
Lofton leads the team in three-point shooting (15-of-26) and averages 13.8 ppg. Patterson leads in rebounding at 6.8 rpg. In addition, freshman guard Jordan Howell is averaging 12.5 minutes a game off the bench, averaging 2.4 ppg.
-- Coach Buzz Peterson might want to get more from his bench. Starters are accounting for 301 of the Vols' 361 total points (83.4 percent).
-- More than half of Tennessee's field goal attempts (29 of 57) against Chattanooga were from behind the three-point circle. The Vols hit 11 treys with C.J. Watson going 5-of-12.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We want pressure on the basketball and to swarm it a lot. We need good, solid box outs. Our opponents have kept our two- and three-men from getting box outs, but we are improving on that. The energy comes from being focused and on concentrating. We need to make sure that on that third or fourth possession we are playing just as hard as on the first. If we get a little winded, we've got to fight through it." -- Coach Buzz Peterson
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: vs. Xavier, Saturday, Dec. 11; vs. New Mexico, Saturday, Dec. 18; vs. Belmont, Monday, Dec. 20.
KEYS: The Vols are being out-rebounded by about one per game. Coach Buzz Peterson wants more of an inside presence, noting Brandon Crump and Andre Patterson aren't getting enough opportunities. The Vols have six of their next seven games at home to correct that before conference play begins.
ROSTER REPORT: C.J. Watson matched his career high with 19 points, including five three-points in the 69-68 loss to UT-Chattanooga. He was 7-of-17 from the field overall. He is averaging a 15.8 ppg, just under Scooter McFadgon's team-best 16.0.
-- McFadgon has a streak of 28 consecutive free throws, starting after he missed two free throws in the season opener against Stanford.
-- Senior Brandon Crump moved past the 1,000-point mark for his career with his 10 points against UTC. He has 1,005 for his career.
============== VANDERBILT ==============
Vanderbilt continues to struggle finishing games.
The Commodores let another one get away from them at Portland when Oregon broke from a 44-44 tie in the second half to a 75-65 victory.
In their previous game the Commodores let nearly half of a 30-point lead get away before securing a 74-58 victory over an Austin Peay team that lost four starters from last season.
After starting the season with three consecutive victories, the Commodores have lost three of their last four -- all at neutral sites.
Their shooting has deserted them in two of the three losses.
They were only 16-of-46 (34.8 percent) against Southern Arizona State they were 28-of-55 (50.9 percent) but only 9-of-24 (37.5 percent) from three-point range.
In their home victories they have shot 50.2 percent (113-of-225).
Beginning Dec. 18, the Commodores have five home games over two weeks before opening their SEC schedule Jan. 5 by playing host to Alabama.
Vanderbilt is being out-rebounded by three per game (30.4-33.1), the bulk of that coming in losses to Arizona State and Austin Peay, who won the boards 31-21 and 41-32, respectively.
The Commodores won the battle of the boards by a whopping 49-34 margin against Toledo but the only other time they have out-rebounded an opponent was against Southern Illinois (30-28).
-- Vanderbilt became the fourth consecutive team to fail to top the 40 percent mark in shooting against Oregon, hitting only 39.1 percent from the floor.
-- The Commodores have hit 50.0 percent or better from three-point range in their last three home games, including a 13-of-25 effort (52.0 percent) against Austin Peay.
PROBABLE LINEUP: Point guard Julian Terrell. QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're disappointed because we didn't play as well as we wanted to. We have to just keep working at it, and I think we will." -- Coach Kevin Stallings, after the loss to Oregon
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
UPCOMING GAMES: vs. Central Michigan, Monday, Dec. 20; vs. Appalachian State, Wednesday, Dec. 22.
KEYS: Mario Moore is the only player averaging in double figures (15.9) for the Commodores, who also have been troubled by turnovers at times. Vandy will have nine days between games before finishing a busy September schedule with five games between Dec. 18 and Jan. 2. Vandy opens conference play at home against Alabama Jan. 5.
ROSTER REPORT: Point guard Mario Moore scored 14 points in the loss to Oregon, his 14th consecutive game in double figures.
-- Dawid Przybyszewski leads Vandy in rebounding at 6.0 per game followed by reserve DeMarre Carroll at 3.9.