Jan 4, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; The Florida Gators bench reacts after a three-point-shot in the second half against Richmond Spiders as the Florida Gators beat the Richmond Spiders 67-58 at Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit:

Florida vs. South Carolina: Gators Begin Conference Slate with Division Foe Gamecocks

In their first of 18 SEC games, #10 Florida (11-2) will take on SEC East rival South Carolina (7-6), beginning their journey toward a potential second consecutive SEC regular season championship.

Florida is definitely hot enough to pull this one out, riding a five-game winning streak and holding a 19-7 advantage in home games against South Carolina (13-4 under Billy Donovan). Although there could be some jitters because this game is a SEC opener, the Gators have history on their side with a 8-0 record in SEC home openers, plus they have been well-tested with a tough non-conference schedule.

It could be argued that the Gamecocks are equally hot, winning four games in a row over Akron twice, Marshall and South Carolina State. However, they have competed against only two ranked opponents (then-#9 Oklahoma State and then-#23 Baylor, which were both away losses) compared to Florida’s four, which could play a role in how prepared the Gamecocks look tonight. Also, it looks like four underclassmen (three freshmen) will start for South Carolina. It will be interesting to watch how they do matched up with the more seasoned Florida team.

Additionally, although it’s been harped on a lot, it’s important — with a win tonight, the Gators could match the school record for consecutive home wins at 24, set by the 2006-2007 national championship-winning squad.

Florida will likely start senior forwards Will Yeguete and Casey Prather, senior center Patric Young, senior guard Scottie Wilbekin and sophomore guard Michael Frazier II. South Carolina’s probable starters include freshman forward Demetrius Henry, sophomore forward Mindaugas Kacinas, freshman guards Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice and senior guard Brenton Williams.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Catch the game on TV through CSS / CST and WatchESPN or on the radio through Country 107.3 The Gator and Gator IMG Sports Network (Sirius 110, XM 201).

For more on the Gators make sure to follow us on Twitter (@HailFloridaHail, @BrettKaplan13 and @laynejweitzel).

Tags: Florida Gators

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