Ole Miss brings scoring to Gainesville

The third best offense in the Southeastern Conference will change a Florida team that’s searching to bounce back.

The Gators continue to sputter on the court, but the defense has been solid in recent games. Florida has held its last five opponent below its points per game average, and the Gators will have to do that against Ole Miss on Thursday (7 p.m., TV: ESPN) if they want to break a two-game losing streak.

The Rebels average 74.3 points per game, behind only Arkansas (79.3) and LSU (74.5). The Gators have seen the Ole Miss offense already, dropping a 72-71 game in Oxford on January 24.

In that game, it was Ole Miss guard Jarvis Summers that led the Rebels with 16 points and clinched the game by hitting two free throws with four seconds left to secure the one-point win. Combining with the SEC’s sixth leading scorer Stefan Moody (15.5 points per game), Summers will have Florida’s attention again on Thursday.

“We’ve just got to play good team defens, be bought in to our system, and not worry about one player in particular,” Florida freshman guard Chris Chiozza said. “Just play against them, and not just one player.”

Florida coach Billy Donovan has been pointing out to his team what happened weeks ago in Oxford. Leading scorer Michael Frazier scored 27 points while Moody, Ole Miss’ leading scorer, went 2-10 from the field and struggled on offense. The Rebels still won the game to give Florida its third straight loss.

Frazier’s big night and Moody’s slow night would point towards the Gators having an advantage, but it didn’t go that way. Now on Thursday, the Gators are expecting to be without Frazier after he suffered a high ankle sprain in the first half against Kentucky on Saturday.

When Moody struggled against Florida, it was Summers that took over and carried the load.

“The thing about Summers that I’ve always admired and respected is that great players make people around them better,” Donovan said. “So you can try to talk Summers out offensively, if you want, by trying to trap and do those kinds of things, but at the end of the day, between Snoop White and Moody and a lot of other guys they have in the front court, it’s leaving those guys open. That’s why they’re a balanced, well-scoring team.”

The offensive end of the floor has been a challenge for the Gators. Florida is 11th in the SEC with 65.8 points per game, and 13.2 of those points likely won’t be on the floor since Frazier is expected to miss the game. Donovan didn’t say it was definite for his junior to miss the game, but he was in a boot and didn’t practice earlier in the week, causing Donovan to plan for the game without his leading scorer.

Without Frazier, the Gators will have to get multiple players to handle the scoring load.

“It’s going to be difficult because he’s one of our main scorers, a big leader, when he’s on the court,” Chiozza said. “His experience, he knows when he’s not playing, he can still be a great leader while he’s not playing, he can give us a boost, some energy, just being on the bench.”

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