Call it playing a tougher schedule. Call it facing coaching staffs with more familiarity with what they do. Call it their own fault.
No matter what you call it, the truth is there. Florida, once considered among the top rebounding teams in the nation, hasn’t been so dominant since the beginning of Southeastern Conference play.
Prior to the SEC opener against Mississippi a week-and-a-half ago, the Gators had outrebounded 13-of-14 opponents.
The one glitch: Morehead State and power forward Kenneth Faried, a magna cum laude graduate of the Dennis Rodman School of Glass Cleaning.
Yes, Ohio State, Xavier, Central Florida, Kansas State and Florida State, among others, had been on the short end of team boards against UF.
But through three SEC games, the Gators are 0-2-1 in team rebounding and now rank seventh overall in the conference with 37.8 boards-a-game (a semi-deceiving statistic because rebounds are based on missed shots and some games have fewer of those).
Florida has just two players – No. 18 Chandler Parsons (6.5 rpg) and No. 19 Vernon Macklin (6.4) – in the SEC’s top 20 rebounders, though that is due in part to having more post depth than most.
The numbers aren’t overwhelmingly negative – Florida is only a minus-1.33 in conference play – but consider UF is plus-6.7 overall (and dropping), and it begs the question: Is there something wrong?
The SEC’s active leader in career rebounds with 687, Parsons said there is blame to go all around.
“The SEC is a physical conference,” UF’s senior swingman said. “I know the teams are a lot bigger and stronger here.
“(The problem is) just our mindset. We’ve got to come each game with the mentality we’re going to win the game on the defensive end. We’ve just got to keep rebounding.
“We’ve got great size (and) great depth. So we’ve just got to keep going to the glass on the offensive end and just keep blocking out our man on the defensive end, not giving up second chances.”
Parsons says the team can get “satisfied” when its offensive game is going well (which it has of late, scoring an average of 76.4 points in the last five games), but need continue defensive focus.
Another issue has been foul shots.
Not that it has been a positive for the Gators all year, but since SEC play started, UF has made just 38-of-59 free throws, a 64.4-percent clip. In all, Florida ranks 11th in the conference in foul shooting at 65.1 percent. Only South Carolina, which has beaten the Gators in the O’Connell Center, is making the so-called freebies at a worse rate (62.2 percent).
Parsons called his own 52.9-percent showing “confusing” because of how well he is shooting overall from the field (50.7 percent, ninth in the SEC) and on three-pointers (41.9 percent, fifth in conference).
Even steady Erving Walker (75.3 percent, 14th in the SEC) had issues, missing the foul shot on a potential three-point play, as well as the front end of a 1-and-1 late against the Gamecocks last Saturday.
The junior point guard said he has to let go of his recent troubles.
“(The misses last game are) out of my hands,” said Walker, recently passed by Kenny Boynton (76.6 percent) for the team lead in foul shooting. “Sometimes, things happen.
“I know I’m a good free throw shooter, and I’m confident stepping up to the line. I don’t want to jinx myself, but it’s rare that I just keep missing free throws. So, I just (need) to focus on the next one and be focused on the foul line.”
MIDWEEK PICKS: Here are my picks for the SEC games scheduled for this Tuesday-Thursday.
The best game goes to tonight’s Kentucky at Alabama tilt. The Crimson Tide can win this one, but I think the Big Blue pull out a tight one, 75-74.
Tennessee will fall again, this time at Georgia, 79-64.
Wednesday brings a pair of pick ‘em-types, so I will go with the home team in each. Let’s go South Carolina 68, Arkansas 62 and Vanderbilt 66, Mississippi 60.
The Gators take the court again Thursday night at Auburn.
Walker said there was a “slippage” in a couple of practices last week leading up to the South Carolina game. He added practices this week have gone very well. Because the Gators tend to play the way they practice, I think Florida gets back on track with a comfortable 71-52 victory.