After coming off a very disappointing loss in Columbia, the Gators’ basketball team traveled back home to Gainesville to take on a mediocre yet hungry Vanderbilt squad. The thinking was that the Gators could get back on track and gain some confidence with a better end result.
Instead, the end result was worse. Way worse.
A back and forth game that showcased the true talent of sophomore guard Kevaughn Allen saw pretty much everything else that could go wrong, go wrong. Florida left Vanderbilt in the game far longer than they should have, and left the outcome up in the air in the final minutes. The Gators have survived the last few times they’ve failed to put their opponent away, but when you play with fire enough times, you’ll get burned.
And Florida did get burned, first by South Carolina earlier in the week, and now for the second time in a row by a Vanderbilt team that came in 8-10.
The Gators got off to a slow start, falling behind 8-0. Somehow they recovered and built up a five point halftime lead. But then they totally collapsed, allowing Vanderbilt to completely dominate the second half. Mike White’a team was left to try to dig out of another hole, and even though they came closer than they probably deserved to when Vanderbilt threw the ball away with ten seconds left and up two, they still couldn’t do it. And now, the confidence and hope that this team had built up is all but gone, replaced by concern and doubt.
It’s hard to watch a team grow and build into a successful unit and then watch the very same team lose to an inferior opponent, expect to see them bounce back for a home game against another inferior team only to come up short and lose in dramatic fashion. This seems to be a turning point in the season… whether it’s good or bad, we’ll find out, but it feels like Florida has met a crossroads.
For the second straight game, the Gators struggled with the deep ball, a spot that so many Florida teams relied on for so many years. The team didn’t even hit one against South Carolina, something that hasn’t occurred in the previous 850 games.
For a minute, it is worth taking a slight detour towards recognizing the awesome talent of Allen. Just for a moment. I don’t think that anyone doubted the young man, but oh boy, if they did they were proven wrong today. He sure showed that he has what it takes. Despite adding on to the 3 point struggle going 5-12, one being a missed game-winner, Allen managed to put 29 points on the board for his team. It’s very hard to find a player that can dominate a game like he has done so far (unless you’re Kentucky).
But he got virtually no help from his teammates, and that could prove to be this team’s downfall when it matters most. This loss alone isn’t particularly damaging, but later ones like it could be. Florida will have no hope to go anywhere in March if they can’t get more than six points from anybody other than Allen and Devin Robinson.
This can be a learning experience that kick starts a nice run into March. It can also be the beginning of a downward spiral into the depths of depravity. With no real previous indication of how White’s teams do after losses like this, all we can do is wait and see.