Preview: Chris Chiozza a game-time decision for Florida in season opener


Time: 7 p.m.

No. 8 Florida kicks off its season on Monday, but the Gators don't know whether senior point guard Chris Chiozza will be on the floor.

Florida coach Mike White said Chiozza, who has a shoulder injury, will be a game-time decision when the Gators host Gardner-Webb at Exactech Arena in Gainsville, Fla.

"I'm hopeful, but it'll be a pain-tolerance deal, of course," White said, according to "But he's progressing. He's such a tough kid, you guys know that, physically and mentally. If he can play, he'll play."

Chiozza hit a game-winning 3-pointer to beat Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in March, as Florida advanced to the Elite Eight.

"He's ridden a little wave of momentum," White said of his point guard, who averaged 7.2 points and 3.8 assists last season. "He's playing with a lot of confidence. He's always really led by example but I think it's increased. He's in a good place and I think he's going to have an ability to show people how good he is this year. He's going to have more opportunity. And we need him, we need him to lead these guys. He's as important to this team as anyone on the roster."

If Chiozza can't play on Monday, the Gators will use KeVaughn Allen and freshman Mike Okauru at the point.

"Most players in the SEC and the whole country are more people persons as you would say," Chiozza told the Gainesville Sun. "But KeVaughn, if he doesn't know you, he's not going to talk to you. And he's not very expressive. I mean, I don't really express that much emotion either. I think we are probably two of the most calmest guys you are going to see on the court. No matter what we do we're going to have a straight face and just look like we're out there handling business."

Allen is Florida's leading returning scorer. He averaged 14 points per game last season and had a career-high 35 in the win over Wisconsin.

"In his short career here, he's made timely shots, big shots," White said. "I think what's underrated a little bit, and maybe some see as we're seeing it more and more, is the durability and improvement on the defensive end, and hopefully a continued improvement on the glass, as he's helping us more and more there. He's become more and more confident too. He's maturing himself and I'm really pleased where he is right now."

Gardner-Webb (0-1) is facing its second straight ranked team from the state of Florida.

The Bulldogs trailed No. 13 Miami by just 27-23 in their season opener on Friday. But the Hurricanes opened the second half with a 24-2 run and ran away to a 77-45 win.

"The second half was a rough one," Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft said. "I don't know if I've gone through a second half where we've just been blitzed like that. Miami is really impressive, talented, athletic, with a lot of shooting at a lot of spots."

DJ Laster had a team-high 10 points for Gardner-Webb, which shot just 31.7 percent from the field and was 4 of 16 from 3-point range.

The Bulldogs play at Central Florida on Wednesday.

The Gators host North Florida on Thursday.