Florida is, in a word, loaded. The Gators are so deep that two freshmen, forward Matt Walsh and guard Anthony Roberson, have cracked the starting lineup. Of course, Brett Nelson's preseason injury helped pave the way for Roberson in the backcourt, but there's no denying the talent of the Gator newcomers.
In the backcourt, Roberson is tossing in 14 points per game, and is nicely complemented by big guard Justin Hamilton (6-3, 225 lbs.) who is averaging ten points per outing. They, along with Nelson and Rashid Al-Kaleem, key Florida's pressure defense, which hounds opposing guards and perimeter players all over the floor.
The front line might be even deeper, with Walsh, senior Matt Bonner and David Lee holding down starting spots. Walsh, perhaps due to the attention paid to Bonner, is tossing in almost 21 points per game, while Bonner adds 13 per outing and Lee nearly ten. Big Mario Boggan and Adrian Moss have both played in all five games up front to provide rebounding depth for the Gators.
WVU's Jo Herber vs. Florida's Brett Nelson
Nelson isn't listed on Florida's tentative starting lineup, but he'll be the focus of attention when he takes the floor. By default, WVU guard Jo Herber will be in the spotlight as well.
WVU 2-1, 0-0
UF 4-1, 0-0
|Tue 12/3 7:00 PM|
UF leads 3-2
|TV: Sunshine Net
ESPN FUll Court
WVU - 147
UF - 6
|Line: UF - 17|
Florida has a number of offensive weapons, so it's not as if the game is riding on this matchup. However, for WVU to have a chance to stay in this contest, Herber must keep Nelson from getting open shots on the perimeter.
UF: Christian Drejer (Ankle) Out, Bonell Colas (Groin) Out
The Gators are holding their opponents to a shooting percentage of 37.9% while stealing the ball ten times per game, so it's obvious they are doing a lot of things right on defense. WVU will provide an interesting matchup, as the Mountaineers are shooting 46% from the field, and averaging only eight turnovers per outing. Florida will, of course, turn up the pressure early on WVU's young backcourt, which has not been challenged much in the way of traps and full court looks this year.
The game will also provide a three point shooting contest of sorts, as both teams feature the three pointer as a staple of their offense. Florida gets many of their three point shots in transition off steals and defensive rebounds, while West Virginia's looks have tended to come from their halfcourt sets. It's an interesting contrast in styles that ends up in the same place: behind the three point line.
Head coach John Beilein noted after the James Madison game that WVU wouldn't face too many teams that put a pair of 240 pound players on the floor at the same time. He's right, but tonight won't be one of those times. Florida's Lee and bonner are both in the 240 pound range, and for variety the Gators can insert 310 pound Mario Boggan or 240 pound Adrian Moss into the lineup.
For the Mountaineers to stay in this game, they need to continue to improve their offensive execution. WVU's play on that end has been streaky -- several excellent trips have been followed by sequences that are littered with breakdowns. Improvement is definitely visible since the start of the season, but it will have to take another leap forward to keep West Virginia in the game.
Florida's Justin Hamilton usually takes the opponent's best scorer, so look for him matched up against Drew Schifino early.
* * *
Despite their lack of size, West Virginia is averaging six blocked shots per game.
* * *
Florida's freshmen have scored 56% of their team's points this year.
* * *
Florida has not lost a December game in four seasons.