No. 3 Florida will meet Alabama for the second time this season at noon today in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The Gators are coming off a recent 68-58 home win over Missouri, which was a big game for one main reason — it marked the debut of freshman Chris Walker. Walker made his presence known during his seven minutes of play with two dunks, two rebounds and two blocks and is sure to make an impact in the Alabama match-up as well.
Florida (20-2, 9-0 Southeastern Conference) needs all the SEC wins it can get right now, since the Gators are approaching a stretch of schedule in which they will play five of eight games on the road. Although this potential victory will be the 29th in a long string of wins, it could turn out to be very important in the long run for the Gators. They need to put as much distance between themselves and Kentucky, which is two games back in the conference, as they possibly can.
Things have gone essentially the opposite for Alabama (9-13, 3-6 SEC) lately. Although the Crimson Tide kept it close in a 68-62 loss to Florida in late January, they have not managed to pull out many wins since. Alabama has lost three in a row and is winless on the road this season in six attempts. The Tide also has not been impressive against ranked opponents, having lost 15 in a row to top 25 teams.
If Alabama loses this game, coach Anthony Grant, who worked alongside Florida head coach Billy Donovan for 10 years, will drop to 0-8 against his former colleague. He will also match the longest losing streak Alabama has had in his five years at the school.
Florida’s probable starters include senior forwards Will Yeguete and Casey Prather, senior center Patric Young, senior guard Scottie Wilbekin and sophomore guard Michael Frazier II. Alabama will likely start freshman forward Shannon Hale, junior center Carl Engstrom, senior guard Trevor Releford, junior guard Rodney Cooper and redshirt sophomore guard Retin Obasohan.
Tip-off is set for noon. Catch the game on TV through ESPN or on the radio through Gator IMG Sports Network (Sirius 85, XM 85) and Country 103.7 The Gator.