Florida Gators get Back on Track

KeVaughn Allen
NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 09: Florida Gators guard KeVaughn Allen (5) during the second half of the Never Forget Tribute Classic college basketball game between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Florida Gators on December 9, 2017, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.(Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Florida Gators have had a roller coaster feel to their season so far. They started the year off red-hot, averaging 102 points per game as they started off 5-0. The Gators then lost a late lead to Duke and stumbled a bit. They lost four of the next five including home losses to rival FSU and a shocking set back to Loyola-Chicago. The Gators scoring average fell to under 70 points per game in that five-game stretch. Coach Mike White’s Florida Gators have now won five in a row for the second time this year, including a 3-0 start to SEC play.

Florida Gators get Back on Track

Balance is Everything

The Florida Gators have one of the more balanced teams in the country. Four of their starters average in double figures. They thrive in transition and on the perimeter. Coach White’s teams are known for their aggressive defense, and ball movement on offense. This bunch is no different. The bulk of the Gators scoring comes from its outside shooters, as they average just under 10 made threes a ball game. They have hit 15 or more threes in four different contests this year. Of course, relying on the outside shot too much can be a problem some nights. Florida was a combined 8-44 from deep in the back to back home losses earlier this year.

The Gators will need to find more inside-out balance as the season goes on. An over-reliance on the three-point shooting can leave a team in a bad spot on an off shooting night. Florida will need more production from post players like Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes while it awaits the return of injured center John Egbunu. The Gators also need to get junior KeVaughn Allen going. He is averaging 11 points per game, but only has one 20 point game on the year. Allen had eight games with 20 or more points last season. The backcourt will remain the focus of this team regardless, with guard Chris Chiozza running the show.

Senior Leader

Speaking of Chiozza, the senior point guard has taken his game to a new level this season. He is averaging 13 points, 5.8 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. His steal and layup in the final seconds on Saturday helped the Gators escape Missouri with a hard-fought road win.

Chris Chiozza is shooting career highs in field goal, three-point, and free throw percentage. His 90% from the line is third in the SEC, with teammates Egor Koulechov (96%) and Allen (89%) also among the league leaders. The senior’s ball pressure and passing ability set the tone on both ends of the floor for the Gators. Guard play is crucial to success in college basketball, especially in March it can make the difference between a long run and a short dance.

Transfer Boost

The Florida Gators have benefited from the trend of player transfers this season as well. Koulechov is a graduate transfer from Rice and is averaging 15 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He scored 1262 points in his three seasons at Rice before bringing his sharp shooting and toughness to Gainesville.

The Gators leading scorer is Jalen Hudson, who played two years at Virginia Tech before sitting out last year. Hudson is a streaky shooter who has the ability to get red hot from downtown. The 6’6” junior has hit three or more shots from beyond the arc in seven games this year. His 16.9 points lead the team.

Florida Gators Back on Track

Florida had a hot start, followed by a dip in form, and now the Gators are streaking again. The SEC is a much-improved conference from top to bottom this season. Starting conference play with three straight wins, two on the road is a great way to bounce back from some of their non-conference missteps.

If Egbunu can get back healthy, solidify the middle of their defense, and give them a steady paint presence, Coach White’s Florida Gators will be a factor in the SEC title race all season.  With guard play being such a determining factor in college hoops, the experience and shooting in Gainesville could take them a long way.

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