After losing to Florida State and Loyola-Chicago in consecutive games, the fifth-ranked Florida Gators have dropped to 5-3.
The Florida Gators started the season on fire. They rose to fifth overall in the AP Poll, trailing only Villanova, Michigan State, Kansas and Duke, and won their first five games. December, however, hasn’t been that kind to them.
After dropping their game on Wednesday night, the Gators losing streak has increased to three, and two of those losses are unacceptable for a program of their level. Loyola-Chicago handed them a 65-59 defeat thanks to stifling defense that held the Gators to just 36.9 percent shooting; they made two of their 19 threes. Chirs Chiozza and Jalen Hudson were their leading scorers with nine. On the other side, Aundre Jackson gave the Ramblers 23 on a blistering 10-12 shooting.
“Hopefully we’ve been humbled a bit,” said Mike White, according to the Associated Press. Florida guard Jalen Hudson summed it up perfectly: “I can’t put a word on it. It’s pretty embarrassing. It’s so embarrassing.”
Loyola-Chicago improved to 9-1 on the year and are atop the Missouri Valley Conference. The Gators are on the opposite end of the spectrum and could fall out of the top-25 if their skid continues. The game before this one, however, left an especially sour taste in Florida’s mouth.
Rival Florida State pummeled them this past Monday. The final was 83-66. Coach White didn’t hold back and called his team’s performance the “epitome of soft” and dubbed their effort “very disappointing.”
Terance Mann ripped out the Gators’ heart, connected on 11-of-17 shots and finished with 25 points. For Florida, Hudson and KeVaughn Allen had 16 and 15, respectively. The nail in the coffin was the Seminoles unrelenting attack on the backboards, where the demoralized Florida possession after possession. When the final buzzer sounded, Florida State had hauled in 23 offensive rebounds and 51 boards in total. The Gators finished at 34. Additionally, the Seminoles coerced their rival into sloppy play which led to 17 turnovers.
The Florida Gators don’t have much time to figure things out. After losing in such dramatic fashion, opponents’ confidence is growing, and their intimidation factor is slowly eroding. Games against 17th-ranked Cincinnati, Clemson, James Madison and Incarnate Word round out their non-conference schedule. Starting on Dec. 30, the Gators begin doing battle with the rest of the SEC, highlighted by meetings with Texas A&M, Kentucky, Baylor and Tennessee, who are ranked seventh, eighth, 23rd and 24th, respectively.
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