Gators ready for physical test from Tennessee

Despite the recent success Florida and Tennessee have had on the basketball court, both programs will be quick to forget this season.

Both programs bring a 6-9 record in Southeastern Conference action into Saturday’s matchup (6 p.m., TV: ESPN2). Florida (13-15) comes into the game loser in five of its last six games while Tennessee has lost six of its last seven games.

The numbers are ugly, but Florida coach Billy Donovan still sees something his team can learn from the film on the Volunteers (14-13). They’re aggressive, attacking the boards despite being undersized. Tennessee is 12th in the league in rebounding, but they’re fourth in the SEC with 12.4 offensive rebounds per game.

Of the seven Tennessee players that see the most minutes, none are taller than the 6-8 Willie Carmichael III. For a team that lacks ideal size, Donovan has seen how aggressive they are on film.

“It’s a huge key,” Donovan said. “There’s no question what they can do on the glass. They’re a phenomenal rebounding team and give a lot of effort. They rebound with quickness and strength. Relentless, that’s the word I would use on their offensive rebounding.

“It has nothing to do with size. It has everything to do with determination. There’s a relentless spirit, and I think those guys at Tennessee have that.”

Forward Armani Moore is Tennessee’s leading rebounder despite being 6-5, 215 pounds. He plays with energy on the floor, and there’s never a shot that Moore doesn’t think will end up in his hands. Averaging 10.5 points, Moore can be a factor scoring, too.

But when the Volunteers need points, there’s no question where they will come from. Senior Josh Richardson leads the team and is sixth in the SEC with 15.9 points per game.

“Clearly they have one of the better players in our league and the country in Richardson,” Donovan said. “He’s had a terrific year and is a terrific player.”

Under first-year head coach Donnie Tyndall, the Volunteers lean on their zone defense to suffocate opponents. It has helped Tennessee to second in the SEC with 7.4 steals per game.

“They’re really good in their zone,” Donovan said. “They do a great job in their zone, force turnovers and they’re a high steal team.”


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