Sunday, February 17, 2019

Gator Bait. Florida 71 Alabama 53

Welcome to the O'Coleman Center at the Capstone, where only Gators get out alive.  For the 8th straight time, Florida came to Tuscaloosa and left victorious with a commanding 71-53 victory to improve to 14-11 (6-6) while Bama fell to 15-10 (6-6). 

We were outplayed, out-hustled, and out-coached.  Give a lot of credit to Florida for playing great defense.  We aren't the only team to struggle to score against them.  For most of the game, they showed a 1-2-2 three quarters-court pressed and settled into a match-up zone while occasionally going to a half court trap out of it.  It forced us to slow the game down and play at their pace. 

It took us 8 minutes to score from the field, and frankly we were fortunate to only be down by 10 or so at that point.  In fairness, Herb had to leave the game with an injury early in the first half, but we played 9 different guys before we finally scored from the field.    Florida led by 9 at halftime, but gradually increased the lead to 17 early in the second half.  We used the revolving door substitution pattern throughout, and finally the 846th combination that we tried was marginally successful  when we went small with Kira, AJ, JP, Herb, and Donta in at the same time.  That odd combination managed to cut the lead to 8, but they couldn't take advantage of chances to get it closer, and couldn't get a rebound. UF stretched it back out to 15+ and cruised to an easy win. 

Once again, turnovers were a huge problem.  On paper, we only had 11 turnovers to their 9, but that doesn't tell the whole story.  Much like the $tate game, it was the type of turnovers that was the problem.  When you look at points off turnovers, they had 11 to our 3.  Combine that with a laughable 10 of 22 from the free throw line and it's easy to see how this one got out of hand. 

To make matters worse, our defense continued to struggle against a bad offensive team.  We stayed in a man to man defense, which I was generally fine with, but we had a hard switch on everything.  The result was the smaller gators were able to create mismatches where we had our smaller guards trying to defend post players in the lane while our bigs like Donta and Galin were chasing guys around the perimeter.  Would it kill us to fight through a screen every now and then?   They had 36 points in the paint.  Donta is not defending the rim at the level he was earlier in the year, but again, part of that is the result of our soft, switch-everything defense.

Kira had 14 points and I thought he played well, but didn't have much help.  He tried to push the ball and pick up the tempo when he could.  JP and Donta were both in double digits with 10 each.  AJ and Galin played 18 and 16 minutes respectively and both finished with 5 points.  Draw your own conclusions on whether you think that's an appropriate amount of minutes for either of those guys.  I think I've made it obvious where I stand on this issue.

Looking at the upcoming schedule and given the fact that we've been blown out the last two games, it's fair to wonder if yet another late season meltdown is on the horizon.  What's frustrating to me is that if there is any benefit to this revolving door, upward basketball, everybody plays substitution pattern that we employ, is that you would think the team would be fresh at the end of the season and poised to finish strong, but that obviously hasn't been the case. 

They said there were only 150 unsold tickets as of late Friday afternoon, but if that's the case, there were a bunch of no-shows.  The lower levels were surprisingly packed, but I would still estimate the attendance at around 12,000.  Not bad, but not anywhere close to the near sellout announced.  Coming off of a bad loss and with the baseball team and the Birmingham Iron playing at the same time, it wasn't a horrible crowd all things considered.  Speaking of the baseball game, it's ridiculous that I paid for a parking pass, leave downtown Tuscaloosa, at most a 10 minute drive, over 30 minutes before tipoff and still end up having to park on the other side of the law school.  We barely made tip-off. 

The student support was a bit disappointing.  The lower level was packed, but there was nobody in the upper corner of the student section, and they had a huge section blocked off for the football team.  They showed up about 10 minutes late, used maybe half of their reserved seats, and all left at halftime or early in the second half.  I know it's sacrilege to criticize the mighty football Gods who got blown out in the championship game, but if they  want to support the team they should show up on time and be enthusiastic throughout the game like the rest of the students if they want the privilege of having a whole section roped off for them. 

There were some scattered boos during our early struggles which I didn't like at all.  I get the frustration, I'm as frustrated as anyone, but it's impossible to differentiate if the boos are being directed at the players or the coaches, and there's absolutely no excuse or reason to boo these players.  That being said, I thought the crowd was loud and supportive when we made our half-assed runs in the second half.  It was great to see Levi Randolph, Retin Obasohan, Trevor Releford, and Collin Sexton in attendance. 

There has been a lot of negativity posted online directed at Coach Avery Johnson, even moreso than normal after this loss.  All I will say at this point is that it's in the best interest of the program to support him, the staff, and the players for the rest of the season and see how it plays out.   The time to have that discussion will come soon enough.   I will admit, I left this game with about 2 minutes left because I was feeling the urge to yell something  to the head coach that would not be beneficial to the program. 

Up next, we played our 3rd game of the season in bum-youknowhat-texas when we travel to College Station for a revenge game against the Texas A&M Aggies.  Tip-off is set for 8pm Tuesday night on SEC Network. 

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