Hard charging Auburn up next for Gators

The Auburn Tigers are fresh off back-to-back wins over Kentucky and Alabama in the last week and heading to Gainesville looking for the upset.

 Florida Gators (12-6, 4-2) vs Auburn Tigers (9-8, 3-3)

Saturday, January 23, 2016; 9 p.m.

Gainesville, Florida; O’Connell Center

TV: SEC Network

Led by high scoring shooting guard Kareem Canty (19.4 pt., 5.4 asst.) and powerful forward Cinmeon Bowers inside, the Auburn Tigers were bound to be a team that got better as the season went along. It looks like the Gators caught them on the schedule at the wrong time.

Florida head coach Mike White knows his team is in for a tough contest. It all starts with Canty.

“We’ll start by showing our guys film,” White said on Thursday before they started preparation for Saturday night’s game. “You don’t call them Canty’s highlights, call them Canty’s clips. They are all highlights. Offensively, with the ball in his hands, he is one of the more talented guys in all of college basketball. He’s terrific, right hand, left hand, floaters, runners, getting guys shots, and of course his ability to separate and get himself three looks that are really, really difficult shots for most everyone else. He’s really good. We’ll start with film and get to show defense here this afternoon. It’s going to take a really good defensive effort for us to slow these guys down.

The Gators had a contest last week against Ole Miss’s Stafon Moody, another big time scorer and really quick player. White said although similar, Canty does present a little bit different challenge.

“I think they’re similar in a lot of ways,” White said. “Canty probably shoots it even better and can create for himself better in my opinion. Moody just lives at the foul line. They are a little different in those regards, different type of athletes, but both are guys that demand the brunt of the scouting report for sure.”

#

Florida Projected Starters

Ht. / Wt.

P/ RPG

24

F Justin Leon (JR)

6-8, 196

5.0/2.8

10

F Dorian Finney-Smith (SR)

6-8, 220

13.9/8.0

15

C John Egbunu (SO)

6-11, 255

11.0/6.6

4

G KeVaughn Allen (FR)

6-2, 183

11.3/2.7

11

G Chris Chiozza (SO)

6-0, 175

6.3/4.3a

 

#

Auburn Projected Starters

Ht./Wt.

P/RPG

5

F Cinmeon Bowers (SR)

6-7, 250

11.5/9.4

12

F Tyler Harris (SR)

6-10, 228

15.2/8.2

25

F Jordan Granger (SR)

6-8, 220

3.5/1.8

1

G Kareem Canty (JR)

6-1, 185

19.4/5.4a

3

G TJ Lang(SO)

6-7, 200

5.4/1.8

 

Auburn also comes to town with a very physical team. Three starters tip the scales at 220+ pounds and they go 6-8, 6-10, and 6-7 across the front with guard T.J. Lang also measuring in at 6-7 and 200 pounds. The muscle all starts with Bowers.

“We’ll talk about Cinmeon, he came in here last year and had a double-double,” White said of his team’s preparation for the big man. “They are a completely different team (from last year). Outside of him their three other best players weren’t on the team last year. They have several good players, but another three in addition to Simeon who are really good players. Cinmeon is a specimen and he moves. He has incredible feet and ability to move those feet for a guy that size.

The Tigers also have a dynamic head coach that is popular nationally and certainly animated whether coaching at the time or not. Bruce Pearl is a popular figure that has won a lot of basketball games in his time. White knows with a Pearl coached team they are in for a hard contest.

“I’ve never gone against him as a head coach, but in the system at Ole Miss, one of the things you had to prepare for was taking care of the basketball,” Florida’s head coach said. “They’ve always created turnovers in half court with the press, base line out of bounds, and sideline out of bounds. Those things we’ll have to consider as well.

“We have to be prepared. Any SEC team you are going to get a hard-fought, physical effort. That’s what we’ll expect. We expect a team coming in here playing with a lot of confidence. They have a bigger win than any of our wins with the win against Kentucky. They are coming off two really good performances in a row. They are defending well and shooting the ball well.”

The Gators are also coming off of two wins, albeit the win against Mississippi State on Tuesday could have easily gone in the other direction. White needs more consistency from players like freshman KeVaughn Allen who has been going hot or cold in different games.

He is getting that consistency from starting senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith who has three double-doubles in a row now and is always playing at a high level whether the stats reflect that at night.

His young team is starting to score from the three-point line and has slowly progressed in the rankings from last (14th) in the SEC to now 12th. But, the Gators are still last in free throw percentage and field goal percentage.

The Gators have only faltered once on the home court and seem to thrive when the Rowdy Reptiles are in their corner screaming. White knows they need it against Auburn.

“We’ll have to play with edge,” he said. “We’ll have to be excited about it. We have to find a way to get better against Auburn and play very well.” 


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