Five Impressions from Florida’s Loss To Miami

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on November 18th, 2014

There are several ways that you can frame Florida’s home loss to Miami. The popular way nationally is that yet another SEC team lost a non-conference game. That this loss included one of the league’s two flag-bearers just fuels the ubiquitous “sky is falling” narrative. There’s certainly no sugarcoating it: The SEC is off to a disastrous start. But all things considered, I don’t think this loss falls into a worrisome category. Florida’s frontcourt was decimated last night, with Dorian Finney-Smith, Alex Murphy and Chris Walker all out of the lineup for various reasons. This meant Billy Donovan had to provide 36 minutes of action to former walk-on Jacob Kurtz and 31 minutes to transfer Jon Horford, who was strictly a role player at Michigan. Horford played great (17 points, seven rebounds) and Kurtz more than held his own (six points, eight rebounds) but these are not the roles Donovan envisioned for this pair. With a full squad on the floor, Florida would have had a decided advantage on the glass against a smaller group of Hurricanes. Here are a handful of thoughts on a loss that shouldn’t leave Gators fans hanging their heads.

  • Michael Frazier. The Gators scored just one point over a four-minute stretch starting at the eight-minute mark in the second half, and this stretch coincided with Angel Rodriguez’s three-point barrage that got the Hurricanes back in the game. This was already an area of concern for Florida: When the Gators need a basket, who would go get it? Last year a combination of Scottie Wilbekin and near-flawless execution solved that problem. This year the de facto answer seems to be Frazier, the most experienced and accomplished scorer on the team. But the junior couldn’t answer the bell against Miami, missing four shots over that drought, including a few desperation jumpers late in the shot clock. One game doesn’t make a season, but Rodriguez got the better of Frazier last night.
The Gators need more from Michael Frazier, especially in crunch time (

The Gators need more from Michael Frazier, especially in crunch time (

  • Backcourt Potential. It was a mixed bag for the Florida guards last night. Eli Carter stole the show for the Gators, pouring in 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting and scoring from all over the floor. It was he, not Frazier, who got the Gators’ final shot (although it ended in a charge). Frazier had a pedestrian night (13 points) and Hill had a miserable shooting performance, including a crucial missed layup late in the second half, but he still handed out eight assists. Despite the so-so results, Carter’s return to the scorer he was at Rutgers gives Florida a dynamic-looking backcourt. We know Frazier will make shots and Hill will be able to break down the defense, so Donovan will have a dangerous backcourt that can score in bunches if Carter’s leg holds up and freshman Chris Chiozza proves serviceable.

  • Turnovers. Florida is only +2 in the turnover department on the year after breaking even (13 turnovers apiece) against Miami. This isn’t what you’d expect from a Donovan-led team, especially after both early season games were played at the O’Connell Center. Part of this could be personnel-fueled, since the ultra-athletic Finney-Smith or Walker are better fits in disrupting traffic at the top of the Florida zone. Chiozza could be one answer, as he had three steals in the opener against William & Mary (9.2% steal rate), and grabbed a big swipe late against Miami.
  • Freshmen. Chiozza and Devin Robinson didn’t give the Gators much last night, but that’s fine. Both were pressed into more action than Donovan probably wanted at this point. Finney-Smith’s hand injury, however, will mean that Robinson’s development needs to be fast-tracked for Florida to become the best team it can be. While he has the perimeter game to thrive in Donovan’s offense, he needs to pitch in more on the defensive glass. He only picked up one rebound against a Miami team that was playing four guards much of the game.
  • Conclusion. I’m convinced that this was not a bad effort from the Gators. They were shorthanded and essentially dominated three-fourths of a game against a decent opponent. Now, three-fourths is not a whole game, and that last one-fourth certainly did them in. But this was never going to be a smooth sailing for Florida. The Gators are a young team filled with players adjusting to new roles against a tough non-conference schedule. The next few months, and perhaps even the entire regular season, should be viewed as one big learning experience for this team. This team will make the NCAA Tournament even if it loses seven or eight games. If they can learn from all those lumps along the way, they’ve got the talent to be a tremendous threat again in March.
Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *