Gators Need This Game

Every game is important for these basketball Gators. Standing at 12-3, just one game up on Alabama (11-4) and Kentucky (11-4) in the SEC race, the Gators have to finish the last three games of the season with both teams. Florida has a lot going for it outside of losing two of their last three games. They will rely on a home court advantage that sees them undefeated in Gainesville so far this year.

When Billy Donovan takes to the sidelines Saturday at noon against Alabama, he will be coaching against one of his former assistants. Anthony Grant has the Crimson Tide poised for another post season run and as mentioned above is in the race to win the SEC outright.

In the Gators' favor is the undefeated mark at home and Donovan's 17-5 record over Alabama as the Gator head coach. Donovan has never lost to the Crimson Tide in Gainesville and sports an 8-0 record at home.

Donovan thinks highly of Grant's team and throws all of that other stuff out.

"I think it's really between both teams," he said shrugging off the coach and pupil question handed to him. "Both teams are going to go out there and play. Anthony has got a terrific team. They play very, very well at home and on the road, so we know going against Alabama's team it's going to be a real challenge.'

"I look at it as two teams playing right now. That's it. I mean, (our) relationship really has nothing to do with the fact that our team and their team are going to get on the court and play against each other."

Donovan talked a little bit about Alabama and specifically their terrific junior point guard Trevor Releford who is one of the best players in the entire conference if not country.

"I think they are a very good team. They guard very well. They're a team that holds teams to low numbers of points. Releford I believe since he's been in this league is one of the better point guards in this league. Lacey is playing very, very well for them. (Rodney) Cooper is a mismatch problem for a lot of teams at the power forward spot. I think (Nick) Jacobs continues to improve. (Andrew) Steele is kind of a glue guy. So they've got a very good team.

Releford sits third in the conference in scoring (15.6 pts. Per game) and is the highest scorer in the contest for Saturday. He teams with Trevor Lacey and both guards rank among the league's best in steals. Releford sits second with 2.2 per game and Lacey is sixth with 1.6.

Florida is starting to get some players back from injury. Will Yeguete is expected back after almost seven complete games on the sideline due to a knee injury. He won't be pushed too hard, but is a tough-nosed player inside for Florida. Casey Prather missed the end of the Tennessee contest on Tuesday, but will be fine for the contest. Freshman sharp-shooter Michael Frazier missed the Tennessee game with a concussion and started back practice on Thursday but had to leave early with back spasms, a recurring problem for him.

The Gators have been trying to steal some minutes from a couple of freshmen in the meantime and Braxton Ogbueze and DeVon Walker have been getting on the court.

"I thought actually DeVon and Braxton gave us some pretty good quality minutes off the bench," Donovan said. "I thought those guys did a pretty good job at Tennessee. Braxton got in pretty quickly. DeVon got in probably toward the end of the first half. I thought both guys did a good job for us."

This should be a defensive match up with Florida's offebnse having the edge. The Gators are tops in the conference defensively and Alabama is second. The Crimson Tide averages 4.7 blocked shots per game, the fourth best mark in the conference.

Florida should be able to take advantage in rebounding, especially with any help from Yeguete. The Gators are currently third in the conference in rebounding margin collecting 5.4 more rebounds per game than their opponent. The Crimson Tide struggle and are 12th in the 14 team conference and giving up 1.3 more rebounds per game than their opponent.

Florida is the most unselfish team in the conference dishing out 15.8 assists per game whole Alabama sits at 12th, dishing out 11.0 assists per game. Florida Junior PG Scottie Wilbekin is second in the conference in assists at 5.4 per game. The Gators will be challenged from the two guards that are steal kings for the Tide. But, both Scottie Wilbekin (1st) and Kenny Boynton (4th) rank among the leagies best in assist to turnover ratio.

Tipoff is at noon and the game will be televised live and nationally on ESPN.

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