Gators Look To Go 3-0

The Florida basketball team has two virtually identical wins under its belt as the Gators prepare to host Southern Utah Thursday night. Florida opened the campaign last weekend with consecutive wins over Toledo (80-58) and Bradley (81-58) in games that were remarkably similar.

Florida showed it can shoot from long range, which is no surprise. The Gators made 41 percent of their shots from long range, even though those shots are a foot longer than they were a year ago. Florida also showed it will struggle to create low post offense in the halfcourt. Florida centers Alex Tyus and Kenny Kadji combined for just six baskets in the first two contests.

Next up is Southern Utah a team that may be hard-pressed to stay as close as Florida's first two opponents did. The Thunderbirds were 11-19 a year ago and are without their top scorer and rebounder from that team. The T-Birds beat Mesa State 85-73 in their season opener. Center John Clifford led the way with 24 points and seven rebounds while three others scored in double figures. They shot an incredible 34 free throws in the contest, making 28 of them providing the margin of victory and then some.

Florida Coach Billy Donovan shared his thoughts on Thursday's opponent.

"They're a team that runs a lot of motion. They space you, and they can really shoot the basketball. They've gotten out and shown some pressure and denied (the inbound pass). Bradley did some of that against us and I think we'll maybe see some of that here. The big thing is their movement and their spacing and the fact that they're going to have four guys on the floor every single time down the court that have the ability to shoot threes. I think that's something that is always dangerous when you talk about the three-point line. This will be a great challenge for our team. We played a Bradley team that concerned me because they took so many threes. Bradley's going to get into a game where they make 14 threes and we were happy it didn't happen against us on Sunday. Southern Utah is the type of team that can come in and make 8, 10, 12 threes and we got to make sure that we try to take the three point line away."

Donovan also addressed the challenge of dealing with the 6-10 Clifford.

"He's getting about 27 a game right now (including exhibitions). I know they haven't played a lot of games, but he's a good player and he's talented. Certainly he was the big scorer their first night and we gotta find a way to slow him down.

Another player to watch in this one is guard Dave Marek, a native of the Czech Republic. Marek averaged 8.8 points a game last season and led the team with 35 3-point baskets. He scored 11 in the win over Mesa State including 2-for-3 beyond the arc.

One area Florida might try to exploit is Southern Utah's ball handling troubles. The Thunderbirds committed 21 turnovers in their season opener.

Florida has never played Southern Utah, but last season the Gators played North Dakota State in their season opener, winning 75-65. North Dakota State and Southern Utah are both in the Summit League and split two games last season with each team winning at home. One key difference is that North Dakota State returned all of its key players a year ago while Southern Utah comes to Gainesville without its top player from last year, Geoff Payne who averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 rebounds.

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