Georgia Basketball: Florida Gators in for an afternoon of hate-hoops


A surging Florida Gator basketball team (10-6, 3-0) visits Athens to test a veteran Georgia basketball team (10-5, 1-2) recovering from early conference disappointments and injuries.

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Date: 1/17/2015

Tipoff Time: 2:00 PM EST

Venue: Stegeman Coliseum, University of Georgia

Radio: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network from IMG, in Atlanta WSB (750 AM) and WSBB (95.5 FM). In Athens: WRFC (AM 960) Sirius 119 and XM 192 – Scott Howard, Chuck Dowdle


Coach: Billy Donovan accepted the Florida Head Coaching position 19 years ago as the 17th Gator head coach. At the time a lightly regarded program that emerged occasionally from the college basketball backwater, Billy Donovan’s Florida program crashed the NCAA big-time mainstream with 2wo National Championships and three appearances in the title game, four Final Fours, six SEC Championships and four SEC Tournament titles, and 17 consecutive postseason appearances.

Drafted in the NBA third round out of Rhode Island in 1987 where he played for Rick Pitino , Donovan played a year in the CBA before joining Rick Pitino’s staff at Kentucky, accepted the head job at Marshall in 1994, serving two years before moving on the Gainesville..

Last year: The Gators’ 36-3 run ended in the Final Four in 2014. It was the first team in SEC history to remain unbeaten through an 18-game season. The Gator’s then won the SEC Tournament.

This year: Gator haters take heart that only one starter returns off the historic 2014-2015 team, Michael Frazier. Frazier was the team’s No. 3 scorer last season at 12.4 points per game one of the top 3-point shooters in the country at 44.7 percent, setting the season school record with 118 3-pointers.

And indeed, before conference play the Florida team appeared pedestrian, losing to Miami, Georgetown, UNC, Kansas, FSU and UCONN. The Gators did beat Wake Forest and handled upset specialists Texas Southern.

The Gators also sport pedestrian national rankings in points 174, rebounds 163, and field goal percentage 103. But with a 3 – 0-conference record entering Saturday’s contest, the likelihood that Florida’s numbers are more the product of a tough schedule than Gator inefficiency is growing.

Most recently, Florida pounded Auburn 75 – 55 in Gainesville. Florida Guard Eli Carter talked to AP Sports writer Mark Long Carter about how the Gators are playing. ”Everyone’s contributing at a high level,” Carter said. ”I think we’re good right now.”

The Gators are deeper than they’ve been most of the season, with center Jon Horford returning from suspension and forward Dorian Finney-Smith and Carter looking more comfortable the further they get away from early season injuries.

Coach Bruce Pearl of Auburn laughed at the prospect of a Gator decline.

"It’s funny, `they’re down this year?’  ‘It’s because people here are spoiled. That’s the bottom line. … Are they not as dominant as they’ve been the last couple of years? No, they’re not as dominant. They’re not. They’re still really good, though."

Georgia responded in Nashville to early conference losses and injuries with a gritty 70 – 67 win over Vanderbilt. The story line for the Dawgs is simple with a major subplot: will a veteran Georgia team continue to be tough and hard-nosed or fall back asleep and will enough injured Dawgs return to hold the fort against the surging Gators.

Nov 21, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators forward Jon Horford (21) shoots a free throw against the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks during the first half at Stephen C. O

The Gators are led by juniors Dorian-Smith with 14 points a game and Michael Frazier with 13 points per game. For the fourth consecutive night, Dawg veteran Marcus Thornton must defeat a team’s leading scorer in the post and give the Georgia guards a chance to pressure outside.

Do not be deceived by the Gator pre-conference schedule – this is a very good Florida team. Dawn of the Dawg suggests impressionable children be left at home – this will not be a pretty game as the Dawgs rank 42 nationally in field goal percentage defense, and the Gators 50.

Georgia’s advantage is at the free throw line, having tried a whopping 152 more free throws than Florida on the season. In Nashville, Thornton and Charles Mann missed only once between them. Repeat that effort and the Bulldogs have a great chance to beat Florida. Still, one must bleed red and black to pick the Dawgs over the Gators.

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