Gators face tough test in Tucson

There are plenty of familiar names on both teams from last season's matchup between Arizona and Florida in Gainesville. The Gators were the only ranked team last season when the teams met, coming in at No. 12, but the returning experience is a major reason why both teams are ranked in the top ten for this matchup. The scene shifts as the teams will tip off on Saturday at 10 p.m. EST in Tucson.

"They'll be creative offensively and try to put you in binds with their personnel," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "Sean's teams have always been solid man-to-man teams. They do a good job defending."

The experience for Arizona is on the perimeter. Sophomore guard Nick Johnson stated last season and is averaging 13.6 points and 3.7 assists this season. Senior point guard Mark Lyons, who transferred from Xavier in the offseason, is averaging 13.4 points. He averaged 15.1 points per game at Xavier last year.

Solomon Hill is skilled enough to play small forward and power forward. Hill struggled in Gainesville last season – 1-7 from the field for five points — but will be a tough matchup for the Florida defense, which is second in the country with 48.3 points allowed per game this year.

"They lost some pieces from last year, but when you look at their team, Nick Johnson, Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill on the perimeter is a very veteran team," Donovan said. "They've got a lot of depth and experience. They're an older group on the perimeter."

The Wildcats aren't as experienced with their big men, but there's plenty of talent. Freshmen Brandon Ashley (6-8) and Kaleb Tarczewski (7-0) are in the starting lineup and are combined for 13.1 rebounds per game this year. Freshman Grant Jerrett (6-10) is another impact freshman big man that comes off the bench.

"They can play very big with Solomon Hill, Tarczewski and Ashley on the front line, or they can go small with Tarczewski at the center spot, Solomon Hill at the four and play (Kevin) Parrom at the three with Johnson and Lyons," Donovan said.

"They're a basketball team, like us, that can do a lot of things. They've got the flexibility to do a lot of different things. It's a very complete team."

Tarczewski graduated from the same high school as Florida senior forward Erik Murphy, who has talked to their high school coach about the Arizona freshman. All reports Murphy has heard have been impressive.

"I'm somewhat familiar with him," Murphy said. "He's big and a legit seven-foot. He runs really well. He plays hard and he's tough."

The top-ten matchup will be the first big test the Gators have this season. Florida secured a 25-point win at Florida State on December 5 during the team's first road game of the season. Saturday's challenge will be a much tougher one.

"We're playing against a very talented and gifted team," Donovan said. "They've got tremendous experience on the perimeter and a lot of very talented, new young guys. You find out more about you're team traveling across the country against a very good team."

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