The Gators took a major step back Monday night, losing to the now 10-9 Ole Miss Rebels 70-54 in a game where nothing seemed to go right offensively.
After going into the game on a three game win streak, the Gators are now 12-7 overall and 3-4 in SEC play.
With a tough road ahead, including a trip to Knoxville to play number 18 Tennessee on Wednesday night followed by a game at home Saturday against a tough Oklahoma State team and no Colin Castleton, the question must be asked: where do we go from here?
Ice Cold Offensively
When I say nothing went right for the Gators offensively Monday night, I truly mean NOTHING. From the first possession to the last, Florida had no sort of offensive identity or consistency.
They struggled virtually every time down to get a quality shot up. And when they did, almost nothing was falling. The Gators shot the ball at a porous 13.8% (4-29) clip from behind the arc against the Rebels, something that has been an issue all season for Florida. They didn’t fare much better overall from the field either, finishing the game going 19-50 (38%) as a team.
As I said earlier, 3 point shooting has been the achilles heal of this team all year and it reared its ugly head Monday night. The problem with the Gators is that they just simply don’t have the personnel to take you off the dribble and get to the rim consistently. And in the absence of Colin Castleton, they don’t have that consistent option that they can just throw the ball to and get a bucket down low.
Now don’t get me wrong, Jason Jitoboh has done a great job stepping up in Castleton’s absence, finishing with a team high 12 points and 5 rebounds on 6-6 shooting from the field. But he’s just not the same guy Colin is down there. So this team is left to just shoot a ton of 3’s, something they have been, well, extremely poor at this year. You can go back as far to blame Mike White and the way he recruits as the reason we don’t have those type of playmakers, but that’s a discussion for another day.
The Gators just never looked like they found any even ounce of rhythm offensively that game. And there’s only one guy to blame and that’s Mike White. Okay, the dribble hand off actions weren’t working. So naturally, you go away from it, right? WRONG. Mike made absolutely ZERO adjustments in that game and just continued to hope and pray this team would get hot from 3, something that has yet to happen and certainly wasn’t going to start Monday.
In the first half, the Gators looked pretty decent on the defensive end. They held the Rebs to only 22 points and forced them into taking tough shots late in the clock, something the Gators have done well as of late.
They were mixing in their usual man to man defense with the 1-3-1 trap and even a couple looks at 2-3. Defense has been the thing that has kept this team in many games this year, so I assumed that the second half would be no different. Boy, was I wrong.
Ole miss proceeded to score 48 second half points and outscore the Gators by 16. Florida really had no answers for anything the Rebels were doing down the stretch, as a lot of defensive lapses led to easy Ole Miss buckets down low and 3 point chances. This all came, mind you, with the Rebels’ best player being sidelined with an injury and against a team that struggles offensively.
The second half defensive effort was nothing short of disappointing, especially for a team that has made their money all year on the defensive end. And that just goes to show you that when this team isn’t defending at a high level, or even a mediocre level at that, they struggle to win games.
Where Do We Go From Here?
After winning three in a row, I really thought this team was maybe starting to turn a corner. Even without Castleton, they were looking like a motivated team that was slowly figuring it out in offense in without him and playing stout defense.
Now after this loss to a mediocre at best Ole Miss team and a game against a very talented Tennessee team on the road tomorrow, what now? How do we respond after a loss like that against a very good team? If nothing gets better, are we forced through another “maybe this year” of Mike White? Only time will tell.