Florida State Defense Presents Challenges

It will be a battle of wills Thursday night in the O'Connell Center. Florida, the third-highest scoring team in the country, will be trying to run up and down the floor against Florida State's 30th ranked defense. The Gators haven't experienced much resistance scoring this season, but their offense will face a tough test against the Seminoles.

The script for Florida State has been the same in recent years. The Seminoles might struggle to score on offense, but they usually stay in games because of a suffocating defense.

"It's pretty sound," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said of the Seminoles defense. "The biggest thing when you look at their defense is they know what they're doing. They've got great length and size. They've got shot blocking at the basket. Your defense and numbers are predicated on what you do at the basket. With the guys they have up front, they make it very difficult to finish at the basket because of their length.

"On the perimeter, they're very disciplined and sound in what they do."

The Gators are averaging 86.5 point a game this season, while Florida State is allowing just 57.8 points per game. The difference of almost 30 points is vast.

Florida has played two teams ranked better defensively than Florida State. Ohio State is ranked 22nd in the country, giving up just 57.1 points per game and Florida scored 74. Texas A&M averages allowing 54.7 points per game, good for eighth in the country, and Florida scored 84 points against the Aggies in a big win over the weekend.

When the Gators have been tested by a tough defense, the Florida offense has responded.

In order to come away with a win Thursday, the Gators will have to handle the tempo. Florida State wants the game to have a slow pace where teams are forced to run offense in half court sets.

"A lot of that depends on how we do defensively," Donovan said about the tempo of the game. "If you can get stops and get out in transition, that's always a good thing. When you look at their defense, we've got to be intelligent in making good decisions early in the clock in determining what to take and what not to take.

"You can come down and take ill advised, quick shots, and it allows them to get out in transition. That would certainly benefit them."

GAME DATE DEBATE: The basketball game against Florida State in Gainesville has taken place the weekend before the two teams play in football in recent years. This time, it isn't. Donovan's understanding is that the Seminoles had an out in their contract if they play in a holiday tournament, which they elected to do this season.

That forced the game to take place December 22, when most Florida students are already home for break. Even last year in Tallahassee, the basketball game was played the day after Florida State won the football game.

"I just feel that it's great for their alumni and our alumni to play (the same weekend of the football game)," Donovan said. "There was something in their contract that gave them an out if they had an opportunity to play in a holiday tournament. The contract now reads that here in Florida, from now on, we're going to play the Friday before the football game."

Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton has a different outlook. He prefers for the game to stand on its own and not be connected to a football weekend.

"For Leonard, he has his own philosophies for how he wanted to play the game," Donovan said. "Leonard's view is he wants the game to stand on its own two legs by itself. I get that and I understand that, but I also have been here long enough to know you get a lot of people traveling in for that game. I always thought it was a great weekend."


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