No. 5 Florida looks to bounce back vs. Loyola-Chicago
No. 5 Florida is coming off two straight losses but it’s the second one that has given the Gators a bit of a wake-up call — and that might be bad news for the Loyola-Chicago team that comes to Gainesville, Fla., for a game on Wednesday night.
On Monday night, Florida State pushed Florida around in many ways and scored a surprisingly easy 83-66 victory.
The Seminoles dominated the boards, finishing with 23 offensive rebounds and 24 second-chance points, then shut down a Gators offense that came into the game averaging 99.5 points per game — the best in the nation.
Florida coach Mike White said after the game that he had been worried about his team playing soft, and he said that’s what happened in this game.
“It reared its ugly head again,” White said. “(This game) was the epitome of soft.”
Florida (5-2) lost to Duke 87-84 in its previous game, eight days earlier. The Gators wasted a big lead in that game but the loss to the Seminoles appeared to bother them more due to the way they got pushed around.
Guard Egor Koulechov said the loss might have awakened the Gators.
“A reality check for us,” he said. “We have a lot to learn. We’ve got to get better.”
Florida still is averaging 94.7 points per game, now second in the nation. Junior guard Jalen Hudson leads the Gators in scoring (20.9 points per game), followed by Koulechov (16.7), a graduate student.
Junior guard KeVaughn Allen (13.7) and senior guard Chris Chiozza (11.7) also help.
It’s a safe bet that Florida will play much tougher when it takes the floor against Loyola-Chicago Wednesday. The teams have never met but the Ramblers are off to a good start this season.
Loyola won its first seven games and now is 8-1. The Ramblers’ only loss came at Boise State (87-53) on Nov. 28.
In fact, Loyola coach Porter Moser saw his team bounce back in its most recent game, the first one since Boise State stopped the seven-game winning streak.
The Ramblers played well in an 85-61 victory over Illinois-Chicago last Saturday at home, and that made Moser happy afterward.
“I was pleased with our focus,” Moser said. “This was a complete bounce back from Boise State, and our guys were excited to get that taste out of their mouth.”
They will be going for their first victory over a team ranked in the top five since 1984, and the Ramblers, in fact, have not beaten any ranked team in nearly nine years.
Despite that, Loyola has plenty of offense of its own, with four players averaging in double figures. Senior forward Aundre Jackson tops the team (13.8), followed by junior guards Marques Townes (13.4) and Clayton Custer (13.4).
Senior guard/forward Donte Ingram (12.3) has played well recently and was named the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week on Nov. 27. The previous week, Ingram averaged 14.7 points and 10 rebounds in three games.
The Ramblers are going to need plenty of that offense against a Florida team that’s already scored over 100 four times this season and will likely be a bit frustrated due to their most recent game.