Dec 4, 2017; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators guard Egor Koulechov (4) drives to the basket against the Florida State Seminoles forward Phil Cofer (0) defends during the second half at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

No. 5 Florida And No. 17 Cincinnati Set To Square Off In Never Forget Tribute Classic

The Florida Gators are at a fork in the road. After winning their first five games, UF has dropped their past three contests against No. 1 Duke, Florida State and Loyola-Chicago. Saturday’s tilt vs. No. 17 Cincinnati at 6 p.m. at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey in the Never Forget Tribute Classic offers the Gators a chance at redemption and an important win come March.

Nov 13, 2017; Highland Heights, KY, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats guard Jacob Evans (1) goes up against Western Carolina Catamounts forward Mike Amius (23) during the first half at BB&T Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Lockdown D

Like Mike White, Cincinnati Head Coach Mick Cronin revolves his system around tough, hard-nosed defense. The Bearcats give up the 14th-fewest points per game in the NCAA and the 2nd-lowest two-point percentage in the nation. Additionally, Cincinnati ranks 8th in defensive efficiency and has only given up 70 points twice this season. Cinci’s only loss this season came on December 2, when the Bearcats gave up a season-high 89 points to No. 13 Xavier.

Electric Upperclassmen

Senior forward Gary Clark and junior guard Jacob Evans have paved the road to success this season for Cincinnati. The duo combined for 37 points in the Bearcats’ most recent 89-76 loss to Xavier. Clark ranks 42nd in the NCAA in offensive rating this season and is shooting 49.3% from the field. Evans has been deadly from beyond the arc, sinking 42.1% of his attempts from long-range. He’s also posted over 20% of the team’s total assists this season.

Must-Win Game?

Florida’s game on Saturday is in no way a must-win game for the NCAA Tournament. Instead, it is a must-win game to stay ranked in the AP Poll. If the Gators do take down Cincinnati, in convincing fashion or not, they’ll more than likely stay ranked in the 15-25 range. If they lose to the Bearcats, resulting in their fourth straight loss, they’ll follow a similar route to Arizona from ranked in the top 5 to unranked in a single week.

(Positive) News Of Note

Although Florida has had a rough stretch in the past two weeks, individually many of its players are still thriving. Jalen Hudson, Egor Koulechov and KeVaughn Allen all ranked in the top 65 nationally in turnover rate. Chris Chiozza is also ranked 51st in the country in three-point percentage, while Jalen Hudson is ranked 97th in offensive rating.

How To Watch And Listen

Saturday’s game tips-off at 6 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2 with Jon Sciambi and Fran Fraschilla on the call. You can listen to the game on the Gator IMG Sports Network or Sirius 108/XM 203.

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