Feb 9, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Mike White reacts on the bench against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half at Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Florida Gators defeated the Mississippi Rebels 77-72. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Gets Ready For Surging Alabama

The Alabama Crimson Tide (14-9) may be too down and out to make the NCAA Tournament, but that sure won’t stop them from fighting ’til the very end. ‘Bama has now won their last three games, including most recently a victory over #15 Texas A&M. On Saturday evening, the Tide make their 2015-2016 O’Dome debut as they take on the Florida Gators (16-8) at 5:45 p.m.

As noted, the Crimson Tide have won their last three games, all coming in dramatic fashion. Alabama has won those games by a mere 12 combined points, and took down the Texas A&M Aggies after Anthony Collins, a 93 percent free-throw shooter on the season, missed two free throws to either tie or win the game for TAMU.

Alabama doesn’t do anything great, but their defense is what sets them apart. ‘Bama gives up 67.6 points per game, good for 81st in the nation, and is fifth in the SEC in blocks per game. Junior forward Jimmie Taylor leads the defensive charge averaging 1.8 blocks per game, and has recorded seven swats in his past three contests.

The Crimson Tide’s offense has been a bit stagnant this season, averaging a subpar 67.8 points per game, ranking 289th in the nation. Alabama scores just .3 points per game more than Missouri, who sits at the cellar of the SEC in scoring. Senior Retin Obasohan, one of only two players to average double-digit points per game, leads ‘Bama’s offense, scoring 16.0 points per game. Obasohan has scored at least 20 points in five of the Tide’s last seven games, shooting 54.5 percent in that span.

Feb 9, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators guard Kasey Hill (0) shoots a three pointer against the Mississippi Rebels during the first half at Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 9, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators guard Kasey Hill (0) shoots a three pointer against the Mississippi Rebels during the first half at Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Gators will hold a major rebounding advantage on Saturday night, as Florida comes in grabbing 40.3 rebounds per game, good for 31st in the nation. Alabama is without their leading rebounder, freshman Dazon Ingram, who has been out since December 13, and will remain out, with a fractured left foot. Ingram averaged a team-leading 5.9 boards per game before his injury. Freshman forward Donta Hall has done a solid job filling in for Ingram as of late, collecting 21 rebounds in the Tide’s last three games.

Florida’s defense has been the Gators’ saving grace all season, especially with the team’s early year offensive woes. UF has forced an astounding 58 turnovers in their past four games, helping the Gators set the pace of whatever matchup they’ve found themselves in. Fortunately for Alabama, the Crimson Tide give up the 56th fewest turnovers per game in the nation at 14.2 per game.

Florida is coming off a game where they struggled to consistently hit their shot, but passed the ball superbly. The Gators shot 47.4 percent from the floor on Saturday in a 77-72 win over Ole Miss, but racked up 15 assists, 11 of which came from Chris Chiozza and Kasey Hill. For as hard of a start to the season Kasey Hill had, and for as difficult as it was for Chiozza to find his shot early, the pair has made a really solid backcourt duo lately, combining for 26 assists and eight steals in their last three games.

BY THE NUMBERS: Florida’s 16 wins have already matched their win total from last season. The Gators are also going for their 8th SEC win on Saturday, which would tie last year’s total, with seven in-conference games left. Saturday evening marks the third and final time this season that Head Coach Mike White will face off against a fellow first-year, SEC coach. White has gone 1-1 against the category this season. Lastly, Florida has scored at least 80 points in four different SEC games this year, something they hadn’t done since the 2012-2013 season.

INJURY UPDATE: Florida forward Alex Murphy will miss his 11th straight game with plantar fasciitis. Murphy has appeared in only three games this season, playing a mere 23 total minutes. Alabama forward Dazon Ingram remains out for the season with a fractured left foot.

BROADCAST INFORMATION: Saturday evening’s game tips off at 5:45 p.m. and can be seen live on the SEC Network, with Dave Neal and former Vanderbilt sharpshooter Barry Booker on the call. The game can be heard live as always on ESPN Gainesville 95.3 FM, with pre-game coverage starting at 4:55 p.m.

About Jake Winderman

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