Previewing Florida

In a matchup suited for better than a fifth-place game, North Carolina and Florida take the floor Friday in the final day of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Tip-off at the Imperial Arena is set for 8 p.m. and will be televised by AXS.

North Carolina (4-1) vs. Florida (3-2)
Paradise Island, Bahamas - Imperial Arena
Friday, 8 p.m.
AXS TV (channel info) - Kenny Rice, Tom Walsh, Seth Davis


Season to Date: Florida enters Friday’s contest with a 3-2 record. The Gators won their season opener over William & Mary before getting upset at home by Miami, 69-67, on Nov. 17. After an overtime win over Louisiana-Monroe, Billy Donovan’s squad lost to Georgetown (66-65, OT) in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Wednesday. The Gators outlasted UAB, 56-47, on Thursday night to advance to the 5-6 game against UNC.

Frazier Florida’s Lone Returning Starter: Donovan has plenty of talent to work with despite having an relatively inexperienced roster. Junior guard Michael Frazier II is the only returning starter from Florida’s Final Four team in 2013-14, a season in which he set Florida’s single-season record with 118 3-pointers. The 6-foot-4, 194-pounder was named preseason first-team All-SEC and leads the Gators in scoring at 14.8 points per game.

Sixth Man Turned Starter: Dorian Finney-Smith, the SEC’s 2013-14 Sixth Man of the Year, has adjusted to his transition from the bench to the starting lineup. The 6-foot-8, 212-pounder is averaging 12.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. The junior forward has been limited thus far with a hand injury that he suffered in the season opener, but returned to action this week. UNC fans will likely remember Finney-Smith from his brief stint at Virginia Tech (6.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg) in 2011-12.

Gators Getting Defensive: Donovan’s squad has been aggressive in its attacking style this season. The Gators rank 30th nationally in field goal percentage defense and are currently holding their opponents to 38.6 percent shooting. Florida is averaging 7.2 steals per game and has forced 14 turnovers per contest.

Carter’s Availability Uncertain: Junior guard Eli Carter scored 21 points in Florida’s loss to Miami, but struggled against Georgetown (6 points on 2-of-14 shooting) and sat out Thursday’s win over UAB with soreness in his foot. His availability on Friday will be a gametime decision. Injuries have plagued the Gators in general this season, although Carter also missed the majority of the 2013-14 season due to a leg injury. He is averaging 11.7 points per game.

Rookie Theft: Freshman guard Chris Chiozza has provided some much needed relief off the bench as Florida navigates its injury issues. The Top-50 recruit out of Memphis turned in his best game of the season on Thursday night, scoring 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting (3-of-6 from 3) against UAB. His presence has been felt even more on the defensive end, where he’s totaled 14 steals through five games. His six steals against the Blazers were twice as many as both rosters combined.

Last Meeting: The Gators topped the Tar Heels, 71-59, in the Final Four in Indianapolis on Apr. 1, 2000. No. 8 seed UNC trailed 18-3 early before rallying to take a 50-46 lead with 13:31 to play. Ed Cota’s fourth foul shortly thereafter limited his effectiveness and the Gators’ pressure defense allowed them to pull away. Brendan Haywood led UNC with 20 points and Joseph Forte added 15.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series, 3-2. Friday’s meeting is just the second since 1965.

Projected Starters:
0 Kasey Hill (6-1, 182, So.) - 5.8 ppg, 3.8 apg
20 Michael Frazier (6-4, 194, Jr.) - 14.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg
30 Jacob Kurtz (6-6, 210, Sr.) - 4.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg
10 Dorian Finney-Smith (6-8, 218, Jr.) - 12.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg
21 Jon Horford (6-10, 245, Sr.) - 11.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg

Top Reserves:
11 Chris Chiozza (6-0, 160, Fr.) - 6.4 ppg, 2.8 spg
23 Chris Walker (6-10, 220, So.) - 5.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg
3 Devin Robinson (6-8, 178, Fr.) - 3.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg
*1 Eli Carter (6-2, 200, Jr.) - 11.7 ppg, 2.3 apg

* Sat out Thursday. Expected to be game-time decision on Friday.

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