Feb 4, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators center Patric Young (4) blocks Missouri Tigers guard Jabari Brown (32) during the second half at Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: ┬ęKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Top-Ranked Florida Gators Tangle with Missouri Tigers in SEC Quarterfinals

The top-ranked Florida Gators (29-2, 18-0 SEC) will face off against the eight-seed Missouri Tigers (22-10, 9-9 SEC) Friday afternoon in the Georgia Dome. The Tigers fate was sealed after their double-overtime win against the Texas A&M Aggies. Florida and Missouri played only once this season, a 10-point win by the Gators in the O’Dome. Scottie Wilbekin went off in that game, scoring a then- career-high 19 points. The Gators were actually down 28-25 at the half in that game, but Wilbekin poured it on in the second half to come out with a win.

Going to double-OT makes a tough situation tougher for Mizzou. The Tigers are going to have some tired legs at the worst possible time. The only thing worse would be if they played a game Wednesday night as well. But if that were the case, than Missouri wouldn’t be a bubble team. Mizzou’s put together an up-and-down season. They’ve had the ecstasy of beating then- 18th-ranked UCLA and the shame of losing to a not very good Vanderbilt team. However, they’ve put together 22 wins this season and remain a team on the bubble. No doubt they’ll be looking to improve their chances of making it to the NCAA Tournament with a win over Florida.

Missouri is led by a trio of scorers, all scoring more than 13.5 points per game. Junior guard Jabari Brown leads the Tigers with 19.7 points. Junior guard Jordan Clarkson and senior guard Earnest Ross form the rest of the trio, scoring 18.1 and 13.5 points per game. For Florida to succeed, they’ll have to keep these guys under wraps. The Gators did just that in their earlier meeting, holding them to a combined 32 points.

Meanwhile, the Gators are certainly riding high after a 19-point demolition of Kentucky on Senior Day. After an emotional pregame ceremony, Florida came out and flat-out dominated the Wildcats. The Gators are riding the hot hands of Patric Young and Michael Frazier II. Young put up 18 and 7 versus Kentucky and Frazier did work against South Carolina, putting up 37 points on an SEC and UF record 11-18 shooting from three-point range en route to being named the SEC Co-Player of the Week. Casey Prather, though much quieter as of late, still leads Florida in scoring at 14.6 points per game. But the Gators have a well-balanced group where four are scoring double-digits and one more is just under the 10-point mark. Frazier and the SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin both come in at 12.9 points. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year Patric Young also shows he has some offense, putting up 10.9 points. The SEC Sixth-Man of the Year Dorian Finney Smith comes in just under the mark with 9.4 points per game.

The way Florida has won all year long is by defense, however. The Gators, led by All-SEC Defensive Team members Wilbekin and Young, allow a paltry 58.5 points per game. UF allows just 40.1% of their opponents shots to fall and out-rebound the other side by 5.3. Florida also forces 24 turnovers per game, something to keep in mind with the Gators press and the Tigers tired legs.

Florida will likely start their four seniors, forward Casey Prather, guard Scottie Wilbekin, forward Will Yeguete, and center Patric Young, as well as sophomore guard Michael Frazier II. Missouri’s probable starters are senior guard Earnest Ross, junior guards Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson, sophomore forward Ryan Rosburg, and freshman forward Johnathan Williams III.

Tip-off is set for 1 pm at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. It’s the first game of the day, so there will likely be no delays. You can watch the game on ESPNU and streaming at WatchESPN.com. If you can only listen to the game, you can check it out on the Gator IMG Sports Network or streaming on Country 103.7 The Gator.

Do you think Florida will come away with a win? Or will the desperate Tigers pull off the huge upset? Sound off in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter.

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Tags: Florida Gators Men's Basketball SEC Tournament

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