GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Mike White said Florida’s offensive performance Wednesday night was the best he’s seen in his two seasons as head coach.
The Gators shot 59.6 percent overall after opening the game 21-of-28 from the field on the way to a 94-71 win over Little Rock.
Florida was making its debut in the newly-renovated Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and put on quite a show in the new “O’Dome.”
Here’s what White had to say afterward (with video below):
- On the atmosphere in the new arena: “It was incredible. Incredible. It’s such an honor to be such a tiny part of all this. Just to be able to compete in an arena, in an environment like this, so thankful. Our players are so thankful to our administration, to Jeremy (Foley) and I know Scott (Stricklin) has taken it over obviously and will do a tremendous job and will give us tremendous support as well. But Chip Howard and Mike Hill and Lynda Tealer, everyone that made it possible through our administration. But financially, some donors stepped up to make this happen as well. Our construction people obviously did an amazing job cosmetically, but also with regard to timing. It’s incredible how quickly it got done, and then I think it got done because of a lot of history and tradition that’s taken place around here. With all of the success that not only our basketball program and Coach Donovan and Coach Kruger and all the great players that have played here — not only for us, but in other sports that have utilized this building — I think you’ve got to tip your hat to all those people that paved the way for something like this to happen. It was awesome. It was awesome. It was rocking in there. It was fun, it was loud and our guys fed off of it from the tip. I thought our guys played with tremendous energy and confidence and without question this new energy level because of the new arena and playing in front of our fans for the first time all season was a big factor.”
- On KeVaughn Allen setting the tone early: “Our guys settle in for sure when shots are made, but especially when arguably your best scorer makes shots. I think it’s just natural for teams, when you combine that with Devin Robinson getting into a similar type rhythm and having a similar time aggressive confidence to him, I think that that led to probably as confident a 40 minutes offensively as we’ve played against a really solid defensive program. … And then Devin obviously has an ability to shoot over you. I thought Kasey Hill made great decisions in ball-screen offense and got guys shots.”
- Best 40 minutes you’ve seen this team play offensively since you’ve been here? “Yes, I would probably say, yeah. I would say this year and last year, yeah. Offensively we were pretty good. We weren’t quite as crisp defensively. I thought we were pretty good defensively in the first half. Credit Little Rock in the second half, they did a good job of finishing through contact. … I thought with maybe 8 minutes or so we regained some of that defensive energy. But we’re all trying to do the same thing. Can we get that 40 minutes offensively and then play as well as we have in five or six games defensively for 40? … That’s what we’re searching for. That’s the challenge for our guys, and they understand that. They know that we weren’t quite as on it, if you will. We weren’t quite as crisp, but in our guys’ defense, that’s their first experience seeing that ball go through the hoop that many times. Now you’ve got to get to the point where hopefully we see that more often, and while you’re seeing that, can you maintain your defensive energy, intensity, focus, communication level.”
- Could you sense that kind of night coming? “No. To go 16-of-31 from 3, no. We didn’t do that in practice yesterday. It’s really nice to see. Kasey Hill made some shots himself even when he wasn’t getting other guys shots. He’s worked on those shots so often that it’s nice to see the ball go in for him.”
- On focus heading into first true home game: “Coming into this game, the whole thing was our focus and where’s it going to be. There’s just so much more you’re dealing with even if it wasn’t an newly-renovated arena. The fact that it’s our first home game and you’re walking in the hallway and you have people that you haven’t seen since last season that, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ There’s just so many more distractions in shoot around with some of our guys’ buddies and classmates coming to games that they haven’t been going to on the road, and then obviously with the built-in Christmas distraction or holidays distraction. This is when upsets happen in college basketball as often as any other time of the year because sometimes teams are half checked out. We all know that, and then of course the added distraction because it was. And 95 percent of it is positive, the fact that we’re in this beautiful building, but I kept talking to our guys about not allowing it to be a party. This isn’t a party. Let our fans party. They deserve this. This is incredible, they’ll have fun. But if we’re not locked in on defending and jumping to the basketball and closing out and blocking out, rebounding and running our offense and the Arkansas Little Rock scouting report, then we’re selling ourselves short. Again, I thought we did a pretty good job of it in the first half, but when you shoot the ball that well you can get away with some mistakes.”
- More on the offense: “We were just in a really good rhythm. I thought our guys played really aggressive and they played really confidently. Again, I’d like to credit the environment. The environment just, I think, led to that.”
- On play at center with John Egbunu (hamstring) sidelined: “Schuyler (Rimmer) has made a big jump with his conditioning and his confidence level. He’s been pretty good for us in the last couple games. Kevarrius (Hayes) has been really good for us at times. Again, I don’t like the way that we defended one-on-one in the post. I thought that their bigs got too easy of catches, too deep of catches as well in the second half. And a couple of those post-ups were against our 4s, but our 5s have to do a better job of that overall, though. For Kevarrius to step into John Egbunu’s minutes and take advantage, I think he’s done really, really well, and offensively he’s been terrific. Even when he’s not scoring it, a lot of times Kasey’s getting a guy a shot because of the fact that Kevarrius Hayes beat his guy up the floor to a ball screen. He plays with that motor. He sprints to ball screen(s), he sucks the defense in when he’s diving to the rim because he’s got the ability to catch and finish under control. He’s got great poise, really good footwork. He’s a good player and he’s going to continue to get better.”
- Bad time for a long layoff? “No, I’m ready for a break. I’ll probably start cringing tomorrow when we’re traveling to go see family. Right now it’s about, hey, let’s get away from it and the players are the same way. I think it will be easier for them at that age to stay away from it mentally and to check out for a couple days, and they deserve it. They need it. For us as a staff, I’m sure it’s like this for all staffs, but it would be hard to really let loose and get away from it. We’ll be watching a ton of film on ourselves and the next opponent.”