The seventh-ranked Florida Gator men’s basketball team will look to extend its winning streak to nine games Saturday as it faces off against the Auburn Tigers. The Gators (14-2, 3-0) will play the first of two straight road games in the state of Alabama in Auburn Arena, where the Tigers (8-6, 0-3) lead the overall series 87-73.
However, the Gators have been dominant against the Tigers with head coach Billy Donovan at the helm as they have won 15 of the last 16 outings. Just last year, the Gators went into Auburn Arena and put a whooping on the Tigers, knocking down 15 three pointers on their way to an 83-52 blowout win.
When you look at both these teams you see two completely different ends of the spectrum. The Gators are sitting 3-0 in the conference fresh off a blowout 22 point win over the Georgia Bulldogs, while the Tigers are sitting the opposite 0-3 fresh off an 11 point loss on the road at the Tennessee Volunteers.
The Tigers will be led in this game by their two top guards who happen to be one and two in scoring in the SEC. Senior Chris Denson is averaging just under 19.5 points per game while Junior KT Harrell is averaging right at 19 points per game. With these two being the only Tigers to average double digits this season, Gators head coach Billy Donovan says his team will have to be able to contain them.
“Denson and Harrell, both those backcourt guys have really been scoring for them, and this team is entirely different and our team needs to understand this is a different year and a different game.”
Donovan did release a little bit of good news to Florida fans as he said senior guard Casey Prather has been cleared to play. However, with the little amount of contact Prather has received, it will be up in the air just how many minutes the senior will see on the court.
With the possibility of their leading scorer seeing little to no minutes, the Gators will need to find others to rely on. Once again, the Gators will look to senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, but with some cramping issues against Georgia, the Gators may be looking for bigger contributions in other ways as well.
As the season progresses, the Gators continue to look for an inside presence and it’s no secret the staff wants senior center Patric Young to be that guy. Young is averaging just under 11 points per game and has scored double digits in the team’s last five games. Another big man that has started to come on strong for the Gators is senior forward Will Yeguete. Yeguete is coming off his biggest game of the year in a 12 point game against Georgia and the coaches will only look to get him some more touches.
Despite the Tigers gaining most of their scoring from their backcourt, Young says he still has to key in on what the opposing big men will bring.
“I like to see how the team’s offense will be run, how much the guy I will be guarding gets the ball, and if there’s something I really need to remember,” he said.
On paper, the Gators should have no problem with a Tigers team currently winless in the SEC, and when you add in players such as freshman Kasey Hill and sophomore Michael Frazier II, the Gators have built themselves a very complete ball club and have found many guys capable of putting up points.
But as with what this season has shown already, anything can happen, especially in a tough road environment. Donovan will look to keep his team focused and prepared for the job at hand, and most importantly get another W in conference play.
The Gators and Tigers will tip-off Saturday afternoon at 4pm. You can hear all the action on 103.7 The Gator with coverage starting at 3:25.
For audio prior to Saturday’s game, click on the links below.