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(AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

Gators’ Men’s Basketball Heads to Athens for Critical Match-up with Bulldogs

With the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs both sitting at 9-7 overall and 1-3 in conference play on the season, Saturday’s game is a crucial one for both teams.

What to Expect from the Bulldogs

Georgia is in somewhat of a transition period this season. After firing Mark Fox last year, they brought in Tom Crean who has had coaching stints at Marquette and Indiana. They lost Yante Maten, who was their best player last season. They’ve had some tough losses this season, including a 46-point blowout to Tennessee.

The Bulldogs haven’t excelled in any area this season. They are averaging 75.6 points per game on sub-par efficiency. According to KenPom.com, Georgia is 147th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency. They don’t push the pace often, and have somewhat struggled from beyond the arc. They are shooting just 31.7% on three-pointers this season. Crean’s team is turnover-prone, as they are averaging 16 turnovers per game. On the defensive end, they rank 83rd in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Keys to the game

Force turnovers

The Gators have had challenges on the offensive end all season long, but their defense has been extremely good. This could be a key facet of the game for Florida. If they can force the Bulldogs into making mistakes on the offensive end and turn those mistakes into points, the Gators could get their must-win victory. Florida has a +4.4 turnover margin on the season, so this should be a big area of focus for Mike White’s team.

Focus On Late-Game Offense

The Gators have blown a multitude of games so far this season. The games against Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Michigan State, and Butler were all very winnable games for Florida. Even if the team had won one or two of those games, they would be in a very different position than they are now. All of those games were lost in part by a lack of scoring in the closing minutes. The Gators need to figure out how to get a bucket when they really need one. If the game against Georgia is close, then their late-game offense will be a crucial part of the outcome.

Players to look for

For the Bulldogs, Nicolas Claxton has been a huge piece of their team. He has improved dramatically since his freshman year, and is averaging 12.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. How Florida’s big men play against Claxton will be a big swing for either team. On the Gators’ side, KeVaughn Allen needs to continue being aggressive. He’s averaging almost 16 points per game since conference play started. He has the opportunity to become the go-to scorer Florida needs.

Tip-Off

The Gators and Bulldogs will tip-off against each other at 12:00 p.m. EST on Saturday in Athens.

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