GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Mike White took a much different approach with his struggling team at halftime.
Instead of screaming, he was more subdued.
It seemed to work.
Chris Chiozza scored 16 points, Jalen Hudson added 13 and the Gators used two big, second-half runs to beat Incarnate Word 75-60 on Friday night.
Egor Koulechov chipped in 12 points despite another woeful shooting night, and Florida (8-4) won for the third time in four games.
“I’ve shot a lot of bullets with these guys and it’s not even Christmas,” White said when asked about his latest tactic.
Players suggested the upcoming holiday break may have caused a lack of energy, but White refused to buy that excuse.
“We’ve shot like this for a while,” he said. “We’ve defended like this all year. It’s who we are.”
For two big spurts after intermission, Florida looked like its old self. The Gators hit 11 of 14 shots during spurts of 14-2 and 17-2. Take those away and they shot 28 percent (14 of 50) from the field.
“Around the country, there are so many upsets happening right now,” Hudson said. “People are clocked out, ready to go home for Christmas. People are just so focused on the next thing.”
The Gators were focused just enough in the second half. They made six 3-pointers and converted two 3-point plays in the first 11 minutes after the break to turn a close game into a lopsided affair.
Chiozza scored eight points in the game-changing 17-2 run. He made a driving shot in the lane with two defenders draped all over him. He hit a 3-pointer and then converted a 3-point play off a steal. The senior point guard also didn’t have a turnover for the second straight game.
“That’s just what I’ve been focusing on,” Chiozza said. “Coach is on me every day: ‘We’d rather throw up a shot from halfcourt than turn it over.’”
Florida shot 39 percent from the field, including 9 of 36 from 3-point range. It wasn’t a stellar night, but it was the first time in a month the team scored that many points.
The Gators’ more troubling issue has been defense, and nothing they did against Incarnate Word (5-5) eased White’s concerns. After all, the Cardinals entered the game ranked No. 297 in college basketball’s Ratings Percentage Index.
Charles Brown III led Incarnate Word with 13 points. Simi Socks added 11.
The highlight for the Cardinals: Shawn Johnson heaved in a 3-pointer from near midcourt at the end of the first half, making it a three-point game at the break.
Incarnate Word: Center Konstantin Kulikov scored four points in his Cardinals debut, but the 7-footer could be more of a factor in Southland Conference play. The junior from Oryol, Russia, sat out the first nine games of the season while awaiting NCAA clearance.
Florida: The Gators hardly look ready for Southeastern Conference action. A season that started with lofty expectations, which only increased with a top-five ranking, looks less and less like it will end in the NCAA Tournament.
Incarnate Word: Begins Southland Conference play Thursday at McNeese.
Florida: Takes a week off before hosting Vanderbilt next Saturday.
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