Nice to see you again. Long time no see. How’s your mom and them?
But seriously, folks. Florida and Georgia should be old friends by now. They met for the first time this season exactly two weeks ago in Gainesville opening the SEC schedule for both teams with the Gators running away to a 77-44 victory. They meet for the second time tonight in Athens, where they haven’t had much success of late, as the #8 Gators seek to move to 5-0 in the conference and give head coach Billy Donovan win number 401 at Florida. Their first match-up wasn’t much of a contest as the Gators jumped out early and cruised to a huge win. While they can’t be expected to come away with another 33 point victory, the Gators are simply too deep and too talented for the Bulldogs so this one likely won’t be too close either.
The Gators jumped out quick in the first one scoring the first 11 points of the game and cruised from there holding the Bulldogs to 38.9% shooting and forcing them into 19 turnovers. The Bulldogs were led by forward Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who finished with 11 points 6.5 points below his season average and tied for his season low in points. The Gators were led by Mike Rosario’s 19 points.
The Gators have been dealing with a multitude of injuries this season and are still doing so. Reserve forward Casey Prather is still out due to a high ankle sprain. Power forward Erik Murphy, who came of the bench due to a rib injury in the first match-up to score 11 points, is still playing with a rib protector underneath his jersey due to his sore ribs. Small forward Will Yeguete, who only played limited minutes in the first game, is still battling through tendinitis in his knee. Mike Rosario (ankle) and Scottie Wilbekin (broken finger) appear to be healed from their injuries. Despite all the injuries and associated lineup changes, the Gators have not missed a beat winning their first four conference games by an average of 26.5 points, well above their season average scoring margin of 21.5 points per game.
The Gators have been playing very well on both ends of the court lately, but defensively they have been stifling. Look for that trend to continue in the rematch as the Bulldogs have little scoring threats outside of Caldwell-Pope which makes them much easier to defend than Missouri, who the Gators held to 52 points on Saturday beating them by 31 points. The Gators have opened SEC play shooting over 51% from the field while holding conference opponents to just under 49 points per game.
The hardest part in any rematch is figuring out how the other team will adjust. After a 33 point beat down, Georgia will surely make adjustments to try and make this match-up more favorable for them. That cat and mouse game is always an interesting dynamic to rematches and will likely be the only interesting aspect in this one as the Gators just have too much balance offensively and too much quickness on the defensive end for Georgia to hang for the full 40 minutes.
Of course, you can never count any game as a W in conference play, particularly when played on the road. If the Gators don’t continue to play focused, turn the ball over and combine it with a poor shooting performance there is a shot for Georgia, but they will certainly need a confluence of events for that to happen. Look for Patric Young and Erik Murphy, who had 15 against Missouri on Saturday, to have another solid outing in the post with Boynton and Rosario getting their shots from the perimeter. Scottie Wilbekin, who had 13 points and 10 assists against Missouri, has really come on as of late making good ball handling decisions, getting the ball into good scoring positions, and providing high energy, active defense for the Gators. If that trend continues the Gators should have no problem this evening.
Tip off for tonight’s game from Stegman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia is 8 pm eastern and will be broadcast on the SEC Network. Follow on Twitter @HailFloridaHail for live updates from tonight’s game.