Thoughts of the Day: November 25, 2019

GATORS HOLD ON, WIN CHARLESTON CHAMPIONSHIP The best kind of teaching moments are the ones you get after you win. Mike White has plenty of teaching moments for the Florida Gators (5-2) after their 70-65 win over 17th-ranked Xavier in the championship game of the Charleston Classic. The Gators held a 10-point lead at halftime and expanded it to 17 right out of the gates in the second, but turnovers and some bad shot decisions helped the Musketeers get back to within three (68-65) with 1:09 to go.

After a shot clock violation against UF with 32 seconds remaining, Xavier elected to play for the tie and overtime but good Florida defense on a Paul Scruggs 3-ball resulted in a rebound by Kerry Blackshear Jr., who put the game away with 7.5 seconds to go with a pair of free throws. Xavier had one last crack at the basket with three seconds left but Blackshear cleared the rebound to secure the championship for Florida.

Florida should have won this game in blowout fashion. Xavier deserves credit for playing hard, forcing some turnovers and then converting at the offensive end, but the Gators made far too many silly mistakes in the backcourt against the full court press and several ill-advised shots way too early in the shot clock. And, when the shot clock wound down, there was too much dribbling and standing around instead of passing and moving to the basket. Those are teachable moments, which White will certainly try to work out in practice this week.

Florida was ahead, 52-38, at the 15-minute mark in the second half when Xavier began giving the Gators fits with a full court press. Over the next five minutes, the Musketeers outscored the Gators 10-4 to cut Florida’s lead to 54-48. Florida pushed the lead back to 13 (64-51) behind a 3-point play by Keyontae Johnson and five quick points off the bench from freshman Ques Glover but again Xavier got the Gators out of sorts with a full court press and outscored UF 14-4. This time it was Florida’s defense that made the plays when it counted to give the Gators the win.

Four Gators scored in double figures led by Andrew Nembhard and Johnson with 15 each. Blackshear finished with 14 to go with 10 rebounds and Noah Locke had 13 including 3-5 on his 3-pointers. The unsung hero for UF was Glover, who followed up his 11-point effort against Miami with nine against Xavier.

Xavier is the seventh consecutive opponent the Gators have held to fewer than 70 points.

The Gators return home to the O-Dome Friday for a non-conference matchup with Marshall (2-3).