“I felt if we stopped Reggie Kohn, we could stop USF,” Florida’s men’s basketball coach Billy Donovan said Dec. 15.
With three points and three assists, the No. 13 Gators successfully shut down Kohn, resulting in a 52-68 UF victory.
“(UF’s) Justin Hamilton was making him get rid of the ball and making everybody else make plays a lot because everyone knows Reggie is a big playmaker for us,” sophomore guard Brian Swift said. “They were kind of keying on him to keep the ball out of his hands and make everybody else make plays.”
Donovan’s theory on stopping the Bulls carried over to other coaches who have defeated USF.
In the Bulls’ four losses, Kohn has averaged 3.5 shot attempts for three points a game.
When the Bulls leave the Sun Dome with their arms raised in victory, Kohn has an average of 6.8 attempts for 8.4 points a game.
“I think it has a lot to do with that they were keying on stopping me from distributing the ball and stopping me from scoring or shooting,” Kohn said. “That’s what their focus was.”
The tougher teams the Bulls face are not only keying on shutting down Kohn’s point production, but are also focusing on shutting down players around him and stopping him from dishing out assists.
In a 65-56 loss to No. 15 Michigan State Dec. 21, he put six points on the board while handing out two assists.
“I think in the big games he likes to look for everyone else to get theirs before he looks to get his shot,” Swift said. “I think he kind of forgets to get himself involved with the scoring.”
With the 7-4 Bulls opening their Conference USA schedule today against UAB (8-3), 7 p.m. at the Sun Dome, the senior guard will have more pressure on him, facing guards Eric Bush and Morris Finley.
Bush, the 5-foot-10 senior, has 33 steals, and his 5-foot-11 senior backcourt mate is grabbing 25 takeaways.
“Finley and Bush can really guard the basketball,” USF coach Seth Greenberg said. “They play a number of different defenses, but mostly their 1-1-3 and their man-to-man.
“They are extremely aggressive and very quick. They are undersized but very quick.”
Greenberg is asking Kohn to counter opposing teams’ ability to take him out of the play by being aggressive on offense.
“I’m going to try and take what comes,” Kohn said. “He is talking more about when teams are trying to take me out of games and face-guard me and not let me get the ball, just staying aggressive defensively.
“I’m not going to force anything, but I can’t be passive. I still have to be aggressive offensively.”
Kohn has shown an ability to score, including a range that he displayed with a 27-foot three-pointer against Nebraska earlier this season, leading his teammates to feel he should score more.
“Whenever the opportunity for him to score is there, he should take it. I believe that he doesn’t look for his shot as much as he should,” Swift said. “I try to tell him to look for his shot to get the guys going because a lot of people say it starts at the point.”
Kohn averages 7.6 points a game, which is last among the Bulls’ starters.
“Obviously if that is hurting us, I have to do something differently,” Kohn said. “I think I have to be able to fight through that and do something differently.”
One method of getting Kohn more shots would be giving him the ability to run around screens more by taking the ball out of his hands and pairing him with Swift in the same lineup.
“That depends on how the two wings are playing,” Swift said. “It depends on how Marlyn (Bryant) and Jimmy (Baxter) are playing. (Coach) likes to see me and him together to get Reggie some open looks.”
The combination of Swift and Kohn will come on a situational basis, but the permanent solution for Kohn’s lower statistics during losses will be his aggressiveness.
“My opinion is that he is taking care of the ball, and he is distributing the ball, but he needs to be more assertive,” Greenberg said. “He is going to be on the court 30-plus minutes, and he needs to be more assertive aggressively, but he needs to do it within the confines (of the offense).”