Mike White wants his team to get mad. He wants his players to destroy a locker room after a loss or scream in practice when they lose a drill. But with the Gators set to play their first NCAA Tournament game Thursday, he knows that’s unlikely.
“Last year’s team coming off a loss would be pissed off,” he said. “This team doesn’t get really upset. I wish we would.”
As one reporter pointed out, the time for players to get upset is running out. The time for aggression is now. The Gators will face St. Bonaventure — a 65-58 winner over UCLA in Tuesday’s play-in game — which puts them at a disadvantage. White and his staff won’t know whom to focus their scouting on until then.
“I would rather know who we’re playing and be able to spend four days prepping for that team,” he said.
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But he’s trying to use the situation to his advantage. He said his players will watch the First Four game as a group to learn as much as they can.
He’s hoping that with the potential of their season ending, his players will be really engaged and respond with some emotion, unlike in the Southeastern Conference Tournament against Arkansas. But he’s also as unsure about his team as pretty much everyone else.
Perhaps he said it best when he noted that Florida’s fluctuating defensive success makes it sometimes look like an NIT team and sometimes like a top-10 team.
“To defend the way we did the other night was very discouraging,” he said, “but maybe we’ve got another positive chapter in us.”
Florida’s baseball team swept one series this past week and got swept in another.
They were handed a midweek home-and-home sweep courtesy of UCF, which had no problem handling Florida’s arsenal of freshman pitchers. The Knights started by terrorizing freshman righty Jack Leftwich on Tuesday in Orlando by tagging him for six earned runs in 2.2 innings of work. The relievers didn’t fare much better in UF’s 7-9 loss, although first baseman Keenan Bell collected three RBI.
Florida’s other pair of freshman starters — lefty Jordan Butler and righty Tommy Mace — didn’t have much better luck on Wednesday in Gainesville. Butler started the game and allowed two earned runs in five innings while Mace allowed two earned in two innings. Florida’s offense left nine men on base and fell 4-2.
But the Gators found some redemption over the weekend with a sweep of Rhode Island, starting with some brilliant pitching Friday. Brady Singer led the way with seven scoreless innings and eight strikeouts before Nick Long and Connor Churchill completed the combined shutout.
Nelson Maldonado’s four RBI helped power Florida’s offense in the 9-0 win. Singer improved to a team-best 4-0 on the year.
The first game of a double header on Saturday wasn’t much closer, with Tyler Dyson leading the pinstripe-wearing Gators to a 9-2 win. He went 6.1 innings with no earned runs while freshman Hunter McMullen went the final 2.2. Dyson leads Florida’s weekend starters with a 1.07 ERA.
Jackson Kowar helped finish the sweep with two earned runs in seven innings Saturday, although his offense didn’t help him much. It took a breakthrough in the last inning — a game-tying single from shortstop Deacon Liput and a game-winning single from Butler — to secure the win.
No. 2 Florida (15-3) hosts No. 7 Florida State this Tuesday and will open SEC play this Friday at South Carolina.
Junior pitcher Kelly Barnhill continued to dominate this weekend as Florida opened SEC play against No. 23 Kentucky. The junior righty tossed her third no-hitter of the season, lowered her ERA to 0.20 and picked up her 11th win of the year Friday against the Wildcats.
No. 2 Florida (19-1) completed a sweep of UK and will continue conference play this weekend with a three-game series at Georgia.
Alex McMurtry was already one of the most accomplished gymnasts in UF history, but she made sure her last home performance was one to remember. The senior tied Florida’s all-around record with a 39.825 in UF’s last regular season meet.
Her team also bounced back from an ugly road loss to Missouri the week prior and defeated No. 11 Nebraska 197.925-196.70.
Next up for Florida are the SEC Championships on March 24 in St. Louis, Missouri.
▪ Florida’s track and field team won the NCAA Indoor Team Championships over the weekend. The title was Florida’s fourth indoor title ever and its eighth men’s track title since 2010.
▪ UF’s women’s golf team finished in first place in the SunTrust Gator Invitational, its only home tournament of the season. UF shot even par, which beat second place Furman by 12 strokes. Sophomore transfer Sierra Brooks led the way by shooting 2-under par.