Opener fi­asco a re­al­ity check

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS FRIDAY - By Edgar Thomp­son

GAINESVILLE — UF coach Mike White is not go­ing to over­re­act to one game, not mat­ter how bad it was.

The key now is how his Ga­tors re­spond to Tues­day night’s 81-60 loss at Florida State, a fi­nal score not nearly in­dica­tive of the onesided beat­ing de­liv­ered by the Semi­noles.

“I was shocked,” White said Thurs­day.

The Ga­tors’ col­lapse was a re­al­ity check for a team ranked on the fringe of the pre­sea­son top 25.

White is tak­ing the long view. The con­test was the first of a 31-game, four­month reg­u­lar sea­son.

Next up is a visit from Charleston South­ern at 7 p.m. Fri­day.

“I’m as dis­ap­pointed as any­body that we didn’t beat Florida State,” White said Thurs­day. “That said, it’s just one game. It’s be­hind us. We bet­ter get bet­ter to­day. We’ve got an­other game to­mor­row. That’s the beauty of col­lege bas­ket­ball.

“Take that how you want to take it but I want to get bet­ter to­day, I want to get bet­ter to­mor­row, and see where it leads us. We’re 0-1.”

Even so, flop­ping at FSU so dra­mat­i­cally dur­ing the sea­son opener felt like more than just any loss to the Ga­tors.

“I feel like emo­tion­ally, it is kind of hard,” se­nior cen­ter Ke­var­rius Hayes said. “You've been pre­par­ing for so long and your first game kind of like tanks like that.”

The de­feat gave the White and his play­ers plenty to work on.

The No. 17 Semi­noles ex­posed the Ga­tors’ lack of tough­ness, se­nior lead­er­ship and of­fen­sive co­he­sive­ness.

FSU pounced on UF and built a 35-point lead as the Ga­tors gave in.

“When things are not go­ing our way ... we need to find a way out of the funk,” Hayes said. “I feel like we re­ally didn't do that and we kind of fell vic­tim to it and it just kind of kept go­ing down­hill.”

Se­nior guard KeVaughn Allen, who spent much of last sea­son in a slump, failed to score for the first time in 85 games. Fifth-year se­nior guard Jalen Hud­son, who re­turned to school af­ter test­ing the NBA draft wa­ters, shot just 3 of 10 from the field, in­clud­ing 1 of 5 from 3-point range.

The Ga­tors’ shot se­lec­tion and ball move­ment were sus­pect much of the night. UF fin­ished 6-of-24 from 3-point range.

Mean­while, the Ga­tors had just nine as­sists and 16 turnovers.

The suc­cesses and fail­ures of last sea­son’s team too of­ten was dic­tated by whether long-range shots were fall­ing. The ten­dency resur­faced in Tal­la­has­see.

“Most of our is­sues through­out the night were of­fen­sive,” White said. “Not be­ing able to score against a pro­lific de­fense and some of it was our own do­ing. Hor­rific shot se­lec­tion, which I’m in charge of. “It’s got to get bet­ter.” Hayes called the FSU loss “a wake-up call.”

White hopes it sparks some­thing in his team that has been sorely miss­ing for too long.

Fol­low­ing a long bus ride back from Tal­la­has­see and a fit­ful night of sleep, White met with each of his play­ers in­di­vid­u­ally and then later as a team.

White said his play­ers, to a man, took own­er­ship of the loss. Yet, White would have liked to see a lit­tle more emo­tion from his play­ers.

The lack of com­pet­i­tive fire felt all-too fa­mil­iar.

“Sim­i­lar to last year, a lot of the same guys, we’ve got a re­ally nice group of guys,” White said. “They’re more ... ea­ger to hear as a staff what we have to say. I get a lot of head nods and eye con­tact and ‘yes sirs,’ and our guys go to work. That’s the pos­i­tive and the beauty of this team.

“But, the fire in the belly, the tear­ing up in the locker room, you know, that al­pha dog or those three al­pha dogs that are go­ing to go nuts on the team and say this isn’t go­ing to hap­pen again. None of that is hap­pen­ing in our locker room.”


Florida State’s David Ni­chols pres­sures Kevaughn Allen of Florida dur­ing the Semi­noles’ win Tues­day in Tal­la­has­see.

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