Gators preparing for Missouri frontcourt

The Gators know exactly what they’re going to see on Tuesday from Missouri. Stopping it will still be a challenge.

The Tigers (7-20, 1-13 SEC) will make it a priority to get the ball into the paint. They play physical and have the size to score in the paint. Missouri started forwards that are 6-7, 6-9 and 6-10, even adding a guard to the starting lineup that’s 6-5.

None of the Missouri players will challenge the Gators (13-14, 6-8 SEC) as much as Johnathan Williams III. The sophomore leads the Tigers with 12.4 points per game and seven rebounds. His 6-9, 225-pound frame could give the Gators a big test in the paint, especially with the lack of depth up front while Dorian Finney-Smith remains suspended and will miss Tuesday’s game (9 p.m., TV: SEC Network).

“Really a problem for us,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said about Williams. “It’s a real, real handful. He’ll be a handful for us because he’s a lefty, and I’m not saying his game is like (Jarell) Martin from LSU, but there are certain guys you can throw the ball to on any area of the floor and they can manufacture plays. He’s one of those guys. He can catch it behind the 3-point line and drive it. He can catch it with his back to the basket and go to post moves. He can catch it, step away from the basket and shoot 3s. There’s really nothing he can’t do wherever he catches the ball, he’ll go make a play.

“When you’re going against a forward like that, it’s difficult because then you start to worry about the 3-point line because once you start sending guys to him, when you send guys to him, his ability to pass and get the ball to the open man. A lot of times, if you don’t rotate correctly, you’re going to give up shots.”

The Tigers took a hit recently when starting guard Wes Clark was lost for the rest of the season with an elbow injury. His 10.1 points per game are second on the team, but he’ll be out when the Gators come to town. Without Clark, Missouri guard Montaqu Gill-Caesar will be second in points per game on the active roster, but he will likely bring his 9.4 points per game off the bench.

Keith Shamburger will take over at the point guard position and has averaged 8.5 points and 3.9 assists per game.

With Williams up front, the Tigers start forwards D’Angelo Allen (3.8 points/3.3 rebounds) and Ryan Rosburg (3.4 points/2.8 rebounds). Teams with size and strength in the paint have given the Gators issues this year, as Florida has struggled to play defense without fouling.

“The ball’s going to go inside,” Donovan said. “Certainly, the big thing is going to be can we defend without fouling? I mean, (Jarell) Martin took more free throws than our entire team did in the game. So our ability to defend without fouling is going to be really, really important.”

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