Pressey a challenge for No. 10 Florida

The preseason accolades for Missouri point guard Phil Pressey were overwhelming. The junior was named preseason SEC player of the year before the team's first year in the conference. When Florida head coach Billy Donovan turned on the film, it was easy to see why. While trying to come up with a game plan for how to slow Pressey down, Donovan actually enjoyed watching how the point guard worked.

"He's terrific at what he does," Billy Donovan said on Friday afternoon, 19 hours after his team finished a win against Texas A&M in College Station. "I've always said the sign of a great player is one that can make people around him better. He does that as well as anybody in the country."

The statistics show that. Phil Pressey is averaging 12.9 points and 7.3 assists, good for eighth best in the country. Pressey also leads the team with 1.8 assists. His quickness is what makes him elite. Pressey can penetrate the defense with his speed, but his vision and anticipation is what stands out to Donovan, a former point guard at Providence.

There's still some joy for Donovan in watching some of the best point guards in the country. When his team faces off against Pressey on Saturday at 2 p.m. on ESPN in a game already announced as a sellout, Donovan doesn't expect it to be as fun.

"He's creating, coming off pick and rolls," Donovan said. "He's got great vision. He understands rotations and how the floor is moving. And then he finds people. He gives a lot of their players opportunities to take open shots. He's really a terrific player."

The challenge for Florida is figuring out how to slow Pressey. It's something few teams have done. Georgia held him to five points and six assists on Wednesday. It was the first time that Pressey was kept from double figures in five games.

Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin has drawn the tough defensive assignments this year, including Texas A&M guard Elston Turner on Thursday night. Wilbekin held Turner to four points on 1-for-10 shooting from the field. The Gators also have an advantage of two elite perimeter defenders with Kenny Boynton and Wilbekin.

The Gators can't count on just Wilbekin to stop Pressey. The team's film study was a constant reminder that the entire team has to be ready to slow Pressey.

"When we're pressing or coming out of transition or the floor is unbalanced, the easiest way to get matched up with him is when it's a made basket," Donovan said. "Then you can dictate your defense. When there's a missed shot, based on where the floor's being balanced, it's going to be different guys. All of our guys are going to be put on Pressey and have to guard Pressey."

One of the advantages the Tigers have this season is on the glass. They've outrebounded opponents by 10.3 this season. However, they won't be at full strength in the O'Connell Center.

The Gators catch Missouri at a good time with forward Laurence Bowers (MCL sprain) out on Saturday. The senior is averaging 16.8 points and 6.9 rebounds this year.

Senior center Alex Oriakhi leads the Tigers with 8.6 rebounds per game. The Connecticut transfer is also averaging 10.4 points and will be a challenge for Florida center Patric Young because of his 6-9, 255-pound frame.

The outcome of the rebounding battle will play a big role in the outcome on Saturday.

"They're a big, strong and physical team," Donovan said. "They rebound the ball very well. A lot of times, teams that are good rebounding teams are teams that get you into a lot of rotation. Pressey has the ability to put you in rotation. When you're in rotation and having to cover different parts of the floor, it takes away a lot of your block out responsibilities. You have to do a good job of rotationally blocking out."

It's still status quo for the Gators on the injury front. Casey Prather (high ankle sprain) will be out on Saturday and is expected to be out for at least Wednesday's game at Georgia. Erik Murphy (fractured ribs) and Will Yeguete (knee tendinitis) continue to play through their injuries. Mike Rosario (ankle sprain) returned on Thursday at Texas A&M and led the team with 19 points. He was walking around the basketball facility without a limp on Friday and will start against Missouri.

The hope for Florida is that the nagging injuries get continuously better, but if they don't, young players could get into the game earlier. That's a concern after how the freshmen closed the game in College Station. Texas A&M closed the game on a 9-0 run against a lineup with Florida's four freshmen and Jacob Kurtz on the floor.

"Our young guys have got to realize they're a man or two away from being in a significant role," Donovan said.


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