Florida defense to be tested by Georgia

The Gators have started Southeastern Conference play 3-0 for the third straight season, and yet again, it has been fueled by defense.

Saturday will be the group’s biggest test yet.

Florida has averaged allowing 56.7 points in three conference games this season, but those games came against teams that rank 7th, 11th and 14th in the league for scoring average.

The Gators will face Georgia, who ranks 5th in scoring in the league, on Saturday at 2 p.m. (TV: CBS) in Athens. With four starters averaging double figures, the Bulldogs start two senior, two juniors and one sophomore, the most experienced team head coach Mark Fox has had in years.

“Mark has been at Georgia now for a while,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “They’ve got older, veteran guys. They’re further along in terms of their system and execution. My opinion, what we did yesterday is not good enough going into tomorrow’s game, especially with the short turnaround we have.”

The Bulldogs are top-five nationally in fouls drawn per game. In his press conference after Thursday’s win over Auburn, Donovan voiced his concern about how much his team was fouling. The Gators have played well defensively this season, but that’s still the problem on that end of the floor and could be exploited by a veteran Georgia team.

Senior forwards Nemanja Djurisic (11.3 points) and Marcus Thornton (13.8 points) have plenty of experience, but the experience of the junior guards Kenny Gaines (12.1 points) and Charles Mann (11.8 points) is an important part of what has helped the Bulldogs to a 10-5 record this year.

"Two physical guards,” Donovan said. “Mann's a tremendous driver and finisher at the basket. He's really good using pick and rolls. The one area where Gaines has really jumped as a player has been his ability to shoot the three. I think he made five in the second half against Vanderbilt. He's explosive athletically. He can put it on the floor. He can create shots. His offense has evolved. I think what Mark does offensively, it's enabled him to take advantage of some of his athleticism.

“Those two guys have been through it. They've been through a lot together. They got thrown into the fire right away as freshmen. They struggled. It was a learning and growing process for those guys, and now as veteran guys, they have a much better understanding of what goes into it."

Djurisic can present the matchup problems. He’s 6-8 and averaging 5.1 rebounds, but he can step outside and hit a three-pointer. It creates a difficult matchup for opponents, especially with Thornton leading the team in points. But Djurisic is also having increased success in the post this year.

He’s a stretch four, shoots it, is posting up better,” Donovan said. “I thought some of his things early in his career was he was not a great finisher around the basket. He's really improved. He's gotten stronger. He knows how to use his body. He's very crafty. Like Thornton, he's a good driver, can put it on the floor. They're not playing an enormous amount of guys, but they're very, very efficient the guys they're playing."

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