Gators Host the Vols in the O'Dome

Bruce Pearl didn't receive the easiest schedule for his return to the SEC. He came back from his suspension on Tuesday at Kentucky, and his second game back comes Saturday as Tennessee comes to Gainesville to take on Florida. After beating the Volunteers in Knoxville without their head coach, the Gators expect to see a more energized Tennessee team now that its head coach is back.

"They're going to be charged up now that the head coach is back," Florida center Vernon Macklin said. "I watched the Kentucky game and they played well. They're going to come in here and ball like they always do. They're really a great team."

Pearl has been around his team every day this season, except for the day of their first eight conference games. He was still involved in game planning and in coaching his players up in practice, but he couldn't be in the facility or with the team on the road on the day of the game.

The Volunteers will now have assistant coach Tony Jones return to his role after taking over for Pearl. The emotions of Tennessee players hasn't been steady since the head coach left, but Pearl's return to the bench should give his team a sense of stability.

"Anytime there's a break in continuity, they've gone through an emotional roller coaster," Florida head coach Donovan said. "I think there is always an up and down. Tony Jones did a terrific job. Bruce has been in practice and a part of game planning, so there isn't much of a change in what their team is running, but it always gives continuity and confidence. I'm sure there's a better feeling for them."

Tennessee also comes into Saturday off a 12-point loss at Kentucky on Tuesday. The loss gave Florida a two-game lead in the SEC East, so they know the Volunteers will come into Saturday's game needing a win to keep their conference championship hopes alive.

"They could care less that we're in first place," junior point guard Erving Walker said. "We know they're coming in to beat us."

Florida's overtime win at Knoxville in the second conference game of the season isn't in their minds. They know that Tennessee easily could have won that game. However, the Gators had plenty of success thanks to a scouting report that gave them insight to what the Volunteers would do on offense.

"We had a great scout on them the first time and how they were going to drive baseline, so we had a great help defense last time we played them," senior forward Parsons said. "We have to watch and see if they do anything different because they're a tough team to guard."

Guard Scottie Hopson will play in his second game back from an ankle injury. He leads the team with 16.2 points per game, and his absence was easily evident last weekend when he sat out and the Volunteers lost at home to Alabama.

Volunteers center Brian Williams is averaging seven points and 7.7 rebounds per game, and the crafty senior is tough to guard around the basket. His 6-10, 272-pound frame is tough to keep off the glass.

"He's huge," Macklin said. "He's a big guy you have to block out every time. He's long and smart. He's more mature than a lot of guys on that team."

It's also a rivalry that always produces a big home environment. After defeating Kentucky in the O'Connell Center last weekend, the Gators now get another big rival at home on Saturday night at 6 p.m.

"It's right up there with Kentucky," Macklin said. "It's tough because they play hard every single position. Now that they've got their head coach back, they're going to play even harder."

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