Florida Gators forward Justin Leon during the Kentucky game– GatorCountry photo taken by David Bowie A large part of Saturday’s game felt eerily similar to the only other two noon tipoffs of the season against Georgia and Vanderbilt several weeks ago. The Florida Gators basketball team was just sluggish throughout several stretches in the game against Texas A&M.
The Gators looked at a loss for a source of energy. It felt like a game Florida simply wasn’t going to be able to do enough in, after pouring out so much energy over the previous five-game stretch of wins by double figures.
Florida did start the game at a pretty good pace, going up by as many as 11 with a 24-13 lead with time winding down in the first half. That’s when the Gators got too comfortable. That 11-point lead turned into a tie game within a matter of five minutes, as the Aggies went on a 14-3 run.
The Gators managed to take a 29-27 lead to the locker room, but they started the second half the same way they finished the first. Cold as ice. Florida was 2-for-14 from the field to start the half, which opened the door for Texas A&M to take a four-point lead at the 11:33 mark.
Florida responded out of the break with six straight makes from the field and nine of 11 to practically put the game out of reach for the Aggies, who looked to be running out of gas on the floor. The Gators came away with a 71-62 win to bring the streak to six consecutive wins and move to a 10-2 SEC record, which surpasses last season’s conference win total of nine.
The Gators came out with what looked to be a new offensive strategy after the 11:33 timeout, but it turns out what Mike White said to the team in the huddle had nothing to do with the offense at all. It was about defense, but that is what has worked for Florida all season. The Gators are the most successful when they can create good offensive possessions from great defensive stops.
“It was more about defense, to be honest with you,” White said. “You guys might frown upon that, but as much as we couldn’t get it going offensively, I saw a little bit of an energy drop and a lack of communication on the defensive end. The message was, ‘Let’s continue to play defense at the highest possible level and we’ll fall into a couple turnovers, we’ll fall into a couple long rebounds that get us out in transition’. Offensively, other than, ‘Hey guys, shots are gonna fall, keep taking the shots you’re gonna take. We’re gonna get ours offensively. We’re gonna win the game with some stops’. That was the only message offensively.”
Justin Leon led the Gators offensively, with 18 points on 7-for-15 from the field and 4-for-8 from three. He started the game off hot, hitting all three of his shots in the first few minutes to score […]