Accountability Reigns as Supreme Issue for Gators Basketball
On Saturday night, the Gators were involved in what should have been a close home battle with the top-ranked Baylor Bears.
Leading up to the game, excitement filled the arena, and many people around the country gave the Gators a legitimate chance to pull out the upset. However, that was not nearly the case after the opening tip-off.
Due to a stagnant offensive attack, struggles to control the offensive and defensive glass, and lackluster defensive performance, the more physical Baylor team walked out of Gainesville victorious.
The lifeless performance from a team that was once regarded as a top squad in the nation drew some harsh comments from head coach Mike White and starting guard Andrew Nembhard following the loss.
In his post-game press conference, Mike White was very vocal about the shortcomings he saw from his team throughout the night. The biggest gripe he had with his squad was their lack of discipline defensively.
"We're casual. We're soft. At times we lack the discipline that the best defenses in the country like Baylor have," White said in frustration.
Allowing the Bears to close the half on a 13-2 run in the last five minutes, the Gators quickly found the 14-5 lead they had jumped out to early on turn upside down into a 40-29 halftime deficit.
Nembhard pointed out the fact they had a "comfortability with the lead" and that they "just a loss of focus in the first half. Defensively and offensively, we started relaxing... and they capitalized." This led to the run that occurred to end the half.
The inefficiencies seen from this team are much more significant than ones you can fix in a practice or two. Fundamental aspects of basketball that are acquired during the preseason are missing from the Gators game.
On Saturday, we saw those issues magnified in a big way, as this ultimately led to the Gators' defeat.
The offensive and defensive inconsistency are seen throughout the season require adjustment for the Gators to make a late-season run into the tournament but, that is not nearly the most significant issue that continues to plague them from being atop the NCAA.
After this loss, many areas surrounding this year's Gator team are in question, including the ones mentioned above. But, the biggest may be precisely how warranted the comments of coach Mike White were following Saturday's performance.
In those statements, White failed to take accountability for the things he could have done differently to give the Gators a better shot to come out victorious.
The rotation and offensive scheme used late in the game gave them very little opportunities to mount a heroic comeback.
Playing with no sense of urgency down the stretch, accompanied by a cycling substitution strategy of offensive and defensive personnel that gave no player the ability to find a rhythm, there was a lot more to it than just not playing disciplined.
Throughout Saturday’s battle, White continuously substituted players with no presumable strategy and put the Gators in a worse spot against an already talented team by doing so.
By not allowing players like Keyontae Johnson to continue in the game for more than a few minutes at a time—despite his offensive production—White took away the part of the offense that was consistently working for the Gators all night.
On top of this, there were times during his press conference where White seemed to deflect the heat off onto his players, rather than owning some of the responsibility himself as the head coach.
For someone who harped on the accountability of his players by saying, “...there’s a bunch of factors why we didn’t give Baylor a better game. Accountability being the biggest one”, one could argue White isn’t practicing what he preaches.
With a lot riding on getting things fixed quickly, the Gators will need to take a long, hard look in the mirror from the top-down to be able to salvage what's left of their season.