Gators Visit Winless Dawgs

If a team loses a game on the road in the final seconds and then has to go on the road the next time out that can be quite a challenge. The enormity of that challenge is directly proportional to the quality of the next opponent. From that perspective the Gator basketball team has as fortunate a scheduling situation as it could hope for.

Florida heads to Athens, Georgia Saturday afternoon to take on the Bulldogs. Georgia is winless in nine SEC games, while the Gators are one of four teams sharing the top spot in the SEC East at 6-3.

Florida beat Georgia 83-57 just less than three weeks ago behind a triple-double from Nick Calathes. However, that margin is a bit deceptive. The Gators used a 20-9 run to end the first half up 12 and followed with the first eight points after intermission to put the game away. That rout turned out to be the last game for Georgia Coach Dennis Felton. Since that setback the Dawgs have lost four straight, all by double figures and are coming of a 31-point blowout loss to Tennessee.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said his players know that Georgia has the potential to make things difficult for them.

"I think that they understand how capable Georgia is," Donovan said. "They've gone through a transition period with Dennis not being there. I've known (interim coach) Pete Hermann for a long time and he's a very good basketball coach and a great guy. Anytime you go on the road and have an SEC game you're going to have to play well."

Another factor is that the Dawgs have to be desperate for a win. I asked the Gator coach if he was concerned that the Georgia players may be viewing this game as a season saver.

"I always go into every game and every situation expecting a team's best performance. Georgia's in a place right now where they've played pretty good basketball at certain times of the season and in certain games. They played Tennessee really well at home (an 86-77 loss)."

Donovan also pointed out that Florida's 26-point win in the first meeting doesn't really tell the whole story.

"People look at the final score of our game and they fail to realize that with four minutes to go in the half it's 22-21. We made 11 three point shots in the game. "

The Gators hope to shoot the ball as well in Athens, because in their five losses Florida has made just 30 percent from beyond the arc. Donovan said the Gators aren't alone in their need to shoot it well in order to win.

"We're no different from a lot of teams (in that) we do rely on shooting. When we shoot the ball really well we can play with anybody, but when we don't we're genuinely in for battles."

Georgia is led by a senior and a freshman. Veteran Terrence Woodbury (13.4/4.5) has been productive, but has really struggled (.294) shooting from behind the arc. Newcomer Trey Tompkins (12.9/7.0) is one of the top rookies in the SEC.

Georgia is a poor shooting team (.384 vs. SEC) which is a big part of why they are last in the SEC in scoring (58.7). The Dawgs will have to slow the game down in order to stay in it. The problem with that is to slow the game you have to control the ball and Georgia is averaging almost 20 turnovers in SEC games.

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Walter Hodge will tie Lee Humphrey and Chris Richard for the most wins in school history (112) if Florida is successful in Athens.

The Gators have won 11 straight over Georgia with four straight in Athens.

With a win Florida will have reached the 20-win mark for the 11th straight season. Only four other schools (none in the SEC) have longer streaks.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi projects Florida as a No. 6 seed in his latest edition "Bracketology". Ironically he has the Gators facing UNLV and former Florida coach Lon Kruger in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

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