In 1964, the United States was fighting a war in Vietnam, Muhammad Ali defeated Sonny Liston to become World Heavyweight Champion and it was also the last time Florida and Tennessee didn’t play a home and home regular season series. Fast forward through almost five decades and we arrive in Knoxville where the Gators are set to face the Volunteers tonight for the first time this season.
UF has a two game lead in the Southeastern Conference and would clinch a first round bye in the SEC tournament with a win. In the overall series between these two programs, the Vols have a commanding 72-51 lead. It gets worse – under head coach Billy Donovan, they’re 16-17 with a 5-11 record playing at Rocky Top. The Gators have never really fared well on the road against Tennessee going 16-43.
Junior forward Will Yeguete still hasn’t been cleared to play after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery more than two weeks ago. Florida will also be without freshman guard Michael Frazier II after he sustained a concussion last Saturday against Arkansas. Gator coach Billy Donovan acknowledged that while the lack of depth is a concern, he hopes the freshmen coming off the bench can provide some sort of spark.
Despite the constant flux of player’s health this season, the Gators have been the staple of great team defense. They’ve held three opponents to under 40 points, 11 under 50 and 19 under 60 points. By allowing teams to average around 53 points a game, their stingy play ranks them third in the nation in scoring defense. UF is also second in the nation in scoring margin with +20.6.
Four Florida players are scoring in double digits with senior guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario leading the team with 13 points per game. Senior forward Erik Murphy leads the SEC and is 11th in the country in three point percentage, while junior center Patric Young is first in field goal percentage with 61 percent. Junior guard Scottie Wilbekin is first in the SEC and 11th in the nation in assist to turnover ratio and second in the conference in assists.
The Vols enter Tuesday night on a five-game winning streak and have an 11-3 record at home. Junior guard Jordan McRae leads the team in scoring with 14 points per game, followed by sophomore forward Jarnell Strokes with 12 points per game. Strokes is also third in the conference in rebounding averaging nine per outing.
How does that proverbial saying go, “hope for the best, plan for the worst?” While coach Donovan doesn’t really strike many as being a very cynical person, he understands that not everything in life goes exactly the way you planned.
Another thing to watch for in the game; if Kenny Boynton scores just five more points, it will put him at 1,930 points; tying Andrew Moten for second on Florida’s all time scoring list.
Be sure to catch all the live coverage of tonight’s game starting at 8:25 p.m. on our sister station Country 103.7 The Gator.