Mike White’s first team has shown flashes of promise, but tonight served as a reminder of why I say “flashes of” and not consistent. It also served as the most frustrating moment of his young tenure.
In the last scheduled game in this once fierce in-state rivalry, Florida’s offensive struggles doomed them in a 66-55 loss to the Miami Hurricanes. The Gators’ defense actually held Miami to just 39% from the field, but Florida’s offense was so bad that it didn’t matter. And despite being held to their season low in points, Miami has completed the sweep of the home and home series and secured the state’s bragging rights for the second straight year.
But forget bragging rights with a fan base that has all of four fans. The Gators have a lot of work to do, or they’ll lose bragging rights to a lot more teams than just Miami.
Florida’s offensive stats were, as you’d expect, dreadful. UF finished the game a woeful 1-12 from three point territory against a Miami team that’s not very good at defending the three ball and 10-16 from the free throw line, including Dorian Finney-Smith missing the front end of a one-and-one. But let’s not blame Doe-Doe, as he accounted for 12 of the Gators’ 55 points and their lone trey. The Gators also got out rebounded 42-31 despite coming into the game fourth nationally in that category.
Yet the stats don’t tell the whole story. My patience for Kasey Hill is running on fumes right now, as his positive attributes in being a good on-ball defender and crisp passer are far outweighed by him turning the ball over in an endless array of ways. Officially, he was credited with three turnovers, but those don’t account for his ridiculous “drives” to the hoop that end with him flinging the ball wildly in the general direction of the basket and hoping for a miracle. I’m convinced that, sound defensively as he may be, this team is overall worse when he’s on the floor. Hill has a decidedly negative impact on his team; this is a problem that better get fixed, and quick, before Florida starts losing the really important games. Let’s let Chris Chiozza give it a go at the point.
Elsewhere, John Egbunu continues to improve as a down-low threat. On a night where Florida was otherwise embarrassed on the boards, Egbunu pretty much controlled the paint. Whenever the ball came into that emerald green colored rectangle, he was aggressive and dominant, slamming down a few dunks and grabbing five rebounds despite being outnumbered by the amount of Miami big men. Above all, he’s emerging into a legitimate option on offense. I know Mike White is a guard kind of coach, but he may want to consider getting Egbunu some looks.
But while the offense will get its fair share of criticism, part of the equation was that Miami was just the better team. Much like last year, Florida couldn’t stop Angel Rodriguez or Sheldon McClellan, who each hit three three-pointers, the last of which from McClellan made it 56-44 with 6:39 left to bury the Gators. The Hurricanes are bigger, faster, stronger, better coached and more experienced than the Gators, and figure to be a high seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. A win would have been nice to get, but while the Gators’ overall play was alarming, a loss doesn’t do any real harm for Florida in terms of their tourney chances.
Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, Florida will get another chance to pick up a big time resume win on Saturday, as they travel to East Lansing to face top ranked Michigan State. Let’s just hope they bring their offense, or that one could be even uglier than tonight’s game