Mike White’s squad improved to 18-14 on the season with an opening round 66-50 win in the 2019 SEC Tournament over Arkansas. The win likely punched the Gators’ ticket to the NCAA Tournament as the team was regarded by many to be moving close to the bubble after losing three games in a row to close out the regular season.
Following the game, here is what White had to say to the SEC Network set from Nashville:
on Keyontae Johnson’s big game to begin the tournament:
“He’s had a few practices like that. He’s come a long way. This guy was barely playing early. The first month of practice before games, he’s probably wondering – we are probably wondering, is he a redshirt candidate? How much will he actually earn? And we had some adversity, we had another guy at his position leave at Christmas, Keith Stone with the torn ACL, unfortunately. Keyontae has gotten the opportunity and he’s just taken advantage, that’s it.”
on Andrew Nembhard and what he brings to this team:
“Consistency, maturity, basketball IQ, he has got a grown man approach to the game and he’s making shots. He had a couple of near-finishes in the first half, he could of lost some poise, pouted, whether he was in foul trouble or not — he does what he does, he leads us. He is an unbelievable communicator, getting guys in spots. He’s a quarterback out there. That stuff doesn’t show up in the stat sheet. Hadn’t had a bad practice all year. He is the epitome of consistency, he’s always going to defend and positionally rebound and he hit a big shot for us late in the game.”
on the message to his team at the half:
“Just chill, we got unsettled offensively and this team has struggled with it all year. Naturally, when we have gone through dry spells offensively, we are all feeling it and we have got to stay the course and maintain our defensive principles, accountability and offensively, just keep plugging. Whether (shots) are going in or not, we have got to have faith that we will score enough.”
on his team’s outstanding offensive rebounding and three-point shooting:
“Huge points of emphasis for us. They have four good shooters, one didn’t play today, I don’t know what the situation is there. But they played three other elite shooters… with size and they can also score other than catching it and shooting. Our offensive rebounding has gotten better throughout the year. Some of that is Keyontae Johnson as we talked about and Kevarrius Hayes is playing his best basketball in the bottom of the ninth of his senior year. Very, very proud of his effort. There’s no way he can play any harder out there. He is a tough, tough kid. I love coaching him.”
on his message for his team heading into the matchup against Arkansas:
“We have got to find bodies, we have got to be accountable. Obviously, defensively on that glass with their length and speed and with their passing game or pushing it, if you will, they do such a good job of a ton of ball movement and they have different guys in different spots at different times and so your defensive rebounding is really tested by these guys at times.”
With the win, Florida advances to the Friday’s quarterfinals and will face No. 1 seed LSU in a 1 p.m. ET game broadcast by ESPN.