Florida Gators hit the road again

After starting the season 2-0, Florida faces a difficult challenge this weekend.

The Gators open the weekend against Saint Joseph’s on Saturday at 2:30. Depending on the outcome, Florida will either face Old Dominion or Purdue on Sunday at 12 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. 

Saint Joseph’s brings a 3-0 record into Saturday’s game with home wins over Drexel, Niagara and Buffalo. The Hawks will challenge Florida with an unconventional lineup. They start 6-5 shooting guard Aaron Brown and 6-6 small forward DeAndre’ Bembry. The size on the perimeter will be a different look for the Gators, especially when Saint Joseph’s pairs them with forwards Isaiah Miles and Pierfrancesco Oliva, two big men that can step outside and hit three-pointers.

“St. Joe’s is a tall task,” Florida coach Mike White said. “Those guys are 3-0. It’s a program that has had a lot of success in the past. They are really playing well, they are really scoring the ball well, they’re a little bit different in that they have a pretty big lineup at the two, they play a big 3, and at the 4-5 they are unconventional in that both those guys shoot the 3.

“It would be like us playing Dorian Finney-Smith and Alex Murphy together at the 4-5. They have five guys that can step up behind the arc and shoot the three. They’re difficult to defend."

Bembry is the standout on the Hawks’ roster. He’s second on the team so far with 15 points per game, but he was voted to the Preseason All-Atlantic 10 First Team and Defensive Team before the year after being voted to the First Team following last season.

White made it clear that Florida won’t use one player to follow Bembry all over the court. They plan to know where he is at all times, but they’ll trust the team defense to keep an eye on him Saturday.

“Bembry will be defended by a number of guys on our team,” White said. “Personnel is most important to us, not necessarily the actions that they’ll run. We’ll probably spend a pretty good amount of time on those things. But Bembry’s tendencies offensively, as well as his teammates, will be very important for us to study and learn by the end of the week."

The Gators have already been on the road this season, opening the year with a win at Navy on November 13. The road trip won’t be new for them, but it will be a quick turnaround playing on back-to-back days.

Florida has played at least 11 players in the first two games this season, and White thinks their depth will help with the quick turnaround.

“If you looked at it on paper, we actually probably have an advantage with our depth and our ability to play two or three or four different ways in the halfcourt, in the fullcourt,” White said. “We can play a little bit small, we can play a little bit big.” 

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