Todd Golden talks ahead of Ole Miss matchup on Wednesday night

Florida basketball suffered a tough loss last time out against the Kentucky Wildcats in the Southeastern Conference schedule opener last Saturday. Alas, there are plenty more games left to be played and the Gators are traveling to take on Ole Miss Rebels on Wednesday night.

The two-point defeat at home is still burning in the minds of head coach Todd Golden and his team as the Orange and Blue let an opportunity to score a big-time victory slipped through their fingers in the final minutes. While the UK squad is packed to the brim with talent, there are still some lessons to be learned from the experience.

Ahead of Wednesday night’s affair in Oxford, Golden spoke with the press corps as he does before every game, giving the media answers to their pressing questions. Below is a look at what the Gators skipper had to offer.

Micah Handlogten's first performance against SEC competition

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

I thought he did some really good things. Obviously, he was the only guy who had a lot of success on the offensive glass. He had six offensive rebounds, which was huge for us. I thought he had some good moments defensively and then in the second half was just a little loose with the ball. It was a little fluky.

Three or four turnovers in the second half one off an offensive rebound and trying to save it. Sheppard tips it, they get the steal. Gets a defensive rebound taken from him and then just that high-low to Tyrese that just got taken away and he’s generally a really good ball-control guy so I think over the course of the season that’ll even itself out but he did a nice job and he’ll continue to play well.

Talking about getting minutes for all of the front court

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Generally, all these guys are good players and for guys that watch us practice, it’s very competitive and very close on a daily basis in terms of who’s playing well and who deserves the minutes.

Obviously, Tyrese and Micah. Condo is really coming on and a high usage big, a guy that’s going to bring great energy and Tommy does a great job bringing everybody together. Tyrese didn’t have a great game on Saturday so that led to a little more Condo.

Down the stretch, you want to have guys that can put the ball in the basket a little bit so Condo got that opportunity but we need Rese to play a little bit better in that game for us to beat Kentucky and Tommy’s been really, really good. He’ll continue to be a big role player for us.

On Florida playing at the tempo he wants it to

Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner
Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner

No, I think we’re at a pretty good tempo right now. Yeah, because it’s a fine line of playing so fast that you’re not under control, right, and I think we’ve done a good job over the last couple of weeks specifically of playing with really good pace but also taking care of the ball.

Although we let it slip in the second half and we had some bad turnovers, we only had 11 for the game. I think our turnover rate was 13%, which, you know, that’s top-25 in the country. That’s really, really good.

So if we can continue to play that way and take care of the ball, you know, we’ll continue to do it, but it’s part of what’s made our identity, it’s part of what’s allowed us to get on the glass, because we have depth in the frontcourt, and we’re playing at this pace that’s hard for other teams to keep up. And it’s been beneficial for us, for sure.

Can Florida can gain confidence after the battle with Kentucky?

Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner
Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner

I think it’s more frustrating, you know, than anything else. I think our guys knew going into the game that we can play with Kentucky. I don’t think it was something that, oh, you know, now we just realized we’re there.

And I said this after the game, you know, for me, and I’m not trying to sound arrogant, but I went into that game expecting to win the game, you know. I thought our team had taken a big enough leap, you know, from where we were last year, where we were at the beginning of the year, and Kentucky is playing really well, so it’s not a slight on them.

I think they’re a real top-10 team in America, but just in our gym and with a little momentum, you know, I thought that’d be a game with the way we’re playing that we could win, and going back and watching the film, it’s hard for me to find how we lost the game, you know, we just didn’t shoot it very well. Some guys that generally shoot it really, really well from the perimeter, didn’t, like Walt and Will combined to take 18 threes.

Anytime that happens, I’m going to be very excited, you know, because they’re elite shooters. They only made three. ‘Rese didn’t score it very well. Obviously, we’re 19-for-28 from the line or whatever it was, so left some on the board that way, but, you know, there was more of like ‘how did we not win that game’ than being excited that we can play in that game.

Looking at the Ole Miss Rebels' team

James Gilbert/Getty Images
James Gilbert/Getty Images

Good, they’re good. They’re physical, they are a team that, you know, they played a lot of home games early in the year as they were trying to kind of figure out who they were identity-wise.

Big win at home against Memphis about a month and a half ago, and then, you know, good win at UCF on the road, and then obviously they got beat up pretty good the other night in the beginning of SEC play, but that, you know, can happen on the road at Tennessee, top-five, 10th team in the country.

So, anxious to see how they are coming out of that, but they’re, you know, they have an identity. They play hard, they’re physical, they set a lot of screens. They’re a very aggro-personality as a team, and we’re gonna have to withstand that, especially early in the game, and kind of set the tone that we can handle that, and if we do, I think we’ll be in good shape.

The importance of rebounding against the Rebels

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, it’s a very important part, you know, they’re statistically not a very good rebounding team, especially on the defensive glass, and they’re going to be geared up for us, because that’s a huge strength of ours. You know, Coach Beard’s a good coach, so they’re gonna go in, I’m sure they’re practicing their block-outs and they’re working on different ways to keep us off the glass.

But it’s definitely, you know, something that we need to get back to. We thought we’d have an advantage against Kentucky that way, and we did out-rebound them, but not by as much as I wanted to. And, you know, this game against Ole Miss, you know, for us to win, we have to get back on the glass and kind of do a good job kind of imposing our will that way.

How Golden manages foul trouble situations

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Riley played really well in the first half, right? So he got going and picked up two quick ones and I didn’t want to take him off the floor and kind of take that momentum that he had out of the game, not only for him individually but us as a team. Then he picks up his third with like eight minutes to go and a half. It was funny watching the broadcast (Dan) Schulman, “Yeah, they’re definitely gonna sit him the rest of the half.”

Four minutes later, there’s Riley Kugel. He’s back out on the floor, playing the rest of the half. Riley’s a guy that generally doesn’t foul a lot. So it’s an individual case-by-case basis is the best way I’ll say it. If a perimeter player picks up two fouls early, I’m not going to be super, super worried about them playing through foul trouble.

Now, if one of our more foul-prone players does, then yeah. We’re probably not gonna play them through two as much. But Saturday, that was a new one for me playing a guy with three in the first half and letting them rip a little bit. And honestly, it didn’t affect him.

There were maybe one or two defensive possessions where he didn’t guard the post as physically as I would have wanted him to. But I don’t think it really overall affected us that much, and then he fouled out late with that take foul when we needed to foul. So it ended up working out okay, in terms of kind of keeping them in the game.

How the Gators' depth eases the pressure on Kugel

Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner
Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner

We have enough guys right, that are capable. When you say figured out, it’s more just on the offensive end, just getting comfortable getting in the rhythm. It’s the sign of a better team, right?

Denzel is playing pretty well, especially on the offensive end. Will didn’t have a great game, but he’s been playing really well over the last month, and then ZP and Walt have been pretty consistent with their output. As long as Riley continues to defend — that’s the first and foremost thing — you saw him kind of get back to himself in the first half Saturday, getting on transition, running through the passing lanes, being really aggressive, getting to the rim, getting to the foul line — six free throws, I think; he had eight the game before.

So those are the things that is him getting back to himself and I think he’s headed that way right now.

Can Kugel's athleticism be underrated?

Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner
Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner

Not by me. But he’s one of the best athletes in college basketball. That’s for certain. He’s just explosive. Super super fast and when he’s locked in, really physical. That’s one of his best gifts for sure.

On Will Richard's 0-for-7 from three performance against Kentucky

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports


How Golden deals with outlier output like Richard's

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

That is the trickiest part of coaching. I’m just being honest. You’re sitting there after the game and again, like I’m going back schematically and I’m like I don’t think we would change a whole lot if defensively or what we were trying to do offensively if we played them again.

Part of it is that you look down and Will is 0-for-7 from three, and one of the best shooters in the country. You just got to kind of shake your head a little bit and move on. But yeah, he goes 2-for-7 we’re having a different conversation today. So you can’t get too high, you can’t get too low.

That’s where being process over results is really important. And having the mental toughness and the ability to kind of keep the noise out and understand what we’re doing, at least from my mind is working and is right for this team. If we have a chance to get Will seven more threes tomorrow night, we’re gonna do that and we’re gonna live with the results because I believe in him and he’s given us the reason to believe in him, as well.

How well Kugel has adjusted to his new role

James Gilbert/Getty Images
James Gilbert/Getty Images

He’s been good. He’s doing what we expect him to do and what we’d expect him or any other guy on our team to do.

He’s not been the only guy to come off the bench. Will did against Wake. ZP, we brought him off the bench for a long time this year and to be honest he probably shouldn’t have been starting from the first day back, especially the way he’s been playing all year.

It’s part of being a good team, is having guys that understand what their role is and understanding how they can do their best for the team and regardless of whether they’re starting or coming off the bench that they’re gonna get minutes they deserve. And then if they’re doing what they need to be doing, they’re gonna be closing the game.

At the end of the day, at least from a competitive standpoint, I would much rather be a closer than a starter in terms of minutes in the game. He’s handled it well and I expect him to handle it well, and I expect him to keep playing better over the course of the conference season.

Where does Golden's up-tempo philosophy come from?

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody, to be honest. It’s a lot different.

Oh, Bruce plays fast a little bit, but Kyle and Randy are not that way. I was more of just our personnel. We thought we had a really good backcourt this year. We thought we had multiple bigs that could run, really liked the athleticism in our front court and wanted to try to find a way to play a little bigger and get some easier baskets early on in the clock.

I think schematically it’s working, our early games are really good for us. We’ve done a really good job getting on the glass. We just need to shoot the ball a little better. I think we’re capable, I think we’re getting some good looks.

If we do that, I think then we take the jump from being a Top 25, Top 30 offense to a top-10 or -15 offense. If we can do that, over the next couple weeks, then we’ll have a really good conference season.

Up next

James Gilbert/Getty Images
James Gilbert/Getty Images

Florida next travels for its first road game of the 2024 portion of the schedule with a matchup against Ole Miss on Wednesday, Jan. 10, in Oxford, Mississippi. Tipoff is slated for a late 9 p.m. ET start and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

Read more

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Florida still seeking support in AP Top 25 Poll after loss to Kentucky

No love for Florida in USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll after loss

Florida sees drop in KenPom following Kentucky Wildcats loss

Gators slip a spot in ESPN’s Basketball Power Index after Kentucky loss

Florida inches up NET rankings despite narrow loss to Kentucky


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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire