Gators Face Tall Challenge in Tallahassee

The Florida Gators face their second major challenge of the young season Sunday evening when they take on Florida State on the road. The Gators (4-1) did not do well on their first test of the season, fading in the final minutes of a 93-75 loss to Ohio State. Since that game, the Gators have won three straight, including a 79-66 win over a pesky FAU team on Tuesday.

Florida State comes into the game with a perfect 5-0 record, but Leonard Hamilton's team has not faced any competition of note. FIU (89-66) is arguably the best team they've faced, and if it's not the Golden Panthers, it might just be Mercer (79-55). That changes this week with the Florida game followed by Ohio State coming to town on Tuesday.

FSU is an extremely tall team, which causes some match up problems for the Gators with their starting backcourt of Erving Walker (5-8) and Kenny Boynton (6-1) facing Derwin Kitchen (6-4) and Deividas Dulkys (6-5). Kitchen, of course, is a former Gator-signee who ended up in Tallahassee after a junior college stint. The Gators backcourt combines for almost 29 points a game while the Tallahassee tandem puts about 22 on the board every night.

The biggest problem of all for the Gators is FSU junior forward Chris Singleton who is one of the best combo forwards in the country. The 6-9, 225 Singleton is too big and strong for most small forwards and quicker than just about every power forward out there. He averages a double-double (17.4/10.6) and has a triple-double to his credit this season. On top of that, Singleton was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year last season.

Florida will probably alternate Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus on Singleton, but might consider using Will Yeguete off the bench to play him more physically.

A key for the Gators in this one is to get back to using the bench and for the players off the bench to play well. Against FAU Tuesday night, the Gators played Walker (35), Boynton and Chandler (33 each) too many minutes. That doesn't hurt early in the season, but the Gators can not expect to be a significantly better basketball team if they wear out their three perimeter players over the course of the season. Wilbekin and Prather must get more playing time and they must play well enough to justify it.

If you look at the two teams you would expect this game to be a high scoring one with both teams averaging better than 75 a game, but historically that has not been the case. In the last five games neither team has scored as many as 75 points in any of those contests. The average score in those games is 63-62 in favor of the Gators.

Florida State has won the last three meetings in Tallahassee. The Gators last win up there came in December of 2002 when the Gators survived a 58-57 battle.

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