Holding the title of Charleston Classic Champions, the Florida Gators have moved to 5-2 after a rough first couple of games. With victories over St. Johns, Miami, and Xavier in the tournament, the Gators appear to be finding their flow.
Sophomore Keyontae Johnson received MVP honors, as he logged 49 points, 24 rebounds, and shot over 60% throughout the tournament.
Florida led by 17, yet Xavier cut it close by bringing it within three within the final minute. Due to Kerry Blackshear Jr. and some solid defense by the Gators, though, they held strong and ended up winning the game 70-65.
Here are three takeaways from yesterday's action and what it all means going forward.
The Gators shot the ball fairly well all night, finishing with a 54.2% field goal percentage and shooting 38.9% from three.
However, only six Florida players scored with every starter and Ques Glover contributing with points, which is impressive considering they faced a respectable Xavier team who beat UConn.
The Gators started hot and kept it up for most of the game until the final minutes as Florida still has those awful scoring droughts, which have haunted them for years. For perspective, Florida only scored 11 points in the last 9:30 of the game, which allowed the Musketeers to storm back into the game.
Ball movement remains a problem in Florida’s half-court offense, and there are still too many people standing around without the ball. Hopefully White will continue to add more sets as the season goes on to get his best guys the ball, but with a lack of transition scoring and a lackluster half-court offense, it will be tough for Florida to score coming up on better competition.
On the bright side, it spears Noah Locke found his stroke in Charleston, as the record-setting sophomore shot 3-5 from behind the arc and ended up with 13 points. Locke shot 50% from three during the whole tournament, which is massive to Florida’s offense as one of their best scorers is back in his groove.
This will help spread the floor even more which allows for Johnson and Blackshear to thrive, and also frees up the lane for Andrew Nembhard to penetrate and make plays with his excellent court vision.
Florida has prided themselves on working hard on the defensive side of the ball since White got to Gainesville. Defense is the bread and butter for all of his teams to play well.
Switching from man to zone threw off Xavier for the entirety of the game, and Florida caused plenty of turnovers in the first half which contributed to the big lead they held going into halftime.
The Musketeers finished the game with 18 turnovers and only shot 44.4% on field goals. Even when guys aren’t scoring for the Gators, they are making plays on defense, which is a pleasant sight to see. Players like Scottie Lewis struggled to score, yet he still made plays on defense and caused havoc due to his length and speed.
Press Break Concerns
This contributed to the lack of second-half points, but Xavier’s press led to multiple turnovers and complete stagnation of any Florida offense. The Gators struggled to get the ball up the floor, and it remained a problem to the final buzzer.
This is something Mike White should have addressed mid-game, but it didn’t seem to get any better as Xavier forced turnovers while pressing until the very end.
To break a press you must:
- Get the ball to the middle
- Don’t ever throw into the corner
The ball should be moving fast so the defense can’t adjust, and the Gators tended to hold it and not get up the floor quickly to counter the press. This was a persisting issue all night, and it must be fixed before other teams pick up on these little holes in Florida’s game.
Overall, this tournament victory is a great résumé builder for the Gators, and it seems like they have found some confidence after calling a team meeting before the Charleston tournament.
Florida will have plenty of time to fix its remaining problems, and they only will play five more times before the new year. Marshall, Providence, Utah State, and Long Beach State will all come to Gainesville, and the Gators will visit Butler on Saturday, December 7th.
Expect to see more production on offense, as White should open up more of the to the team throughout the next few weeks, piece by piece. Florida is headed in the right direction and should be ranked once again after this showing in Charleston and are slowly starting to look like the team that got all the hype in the preseason.