By: Jenna Ladd
The Florida Gators are hoping to bring the same level of focus and intensity that they displayed last week against Kentucky when they host the Rebels of Ole Miss this Thursday.
During Saturday’s game the Gators were playing with a fire that has not been evident for most of the season, managing to hold a lead over the No. 1 ranked Wildcats for the majority of the game. They ended up losing the game by seven points, but the heart, focus and intensity that they team exhibited was encouraging to the Billy Donovan and the coaching staff.
For the first time in a while, there were not just the typical two players, Dorian Finney-Smith and Michael Frazier, scoring in double-digits for Florida. The whole team stepped up. In this game Finney-Smith, Frazier, Eli Carter and Kasey Hill all were double-digit scorers, with freshman Chris Chiozza just four points shy of doubles with six points.
Unfortunately, the Gators will be without Frazier when they take on Ole Miss — due to a high-ankle sprain the two-guard suffered during the Kentucky game. The rest of the team will have to continue to work and step up to battle yet another impressive SEC matchup.
In the all-time series, Florida holds a 62-44 lead against Ole Miss and is 15-8 under Donovan. With six of the past seven games being decided by six points or fewer, the Gators can expect to have a close game against the Rebels, especially since Ole Miss is currently 16-7 this season and 7-3 within the Southeastern Conference.
The Rebels will bring their A-game on Thursday when they play in the Swamp, especially their leading scorers Stefan Moody and Jarvis Summers. Moody is averaging 15.5 points per game, but in conference play is up to 17.6 per game. Summers is not far behind Moody, with an overall average of 13.7
Coming into this game, Ole Miss is on a five-game winning streak that started with their last-second win of 72-71 over Florida on January 24. Just like a lot of close games for Florida, this loss to Ole Miss was decided by free throws in the final seconds that allowed the Rebels to take the victory.
When they last played, Frazier scored an impressive 27 points and Finney-Smith scored 15. This just reiterates the fact that without Frazier, the Gators will need to find another scorer – especially because this was a team that Frazier had already excelled against.
This game could go either way, but Florida definitely needs this win more than Ole Miss as the Gators are struggling to have more wins than losses this season. The momentum from the aggressive playing in the Kentucky game could continue moving in their favor, but that decision lies in the hands of the Gator athletes.
We will find out if the Gators have what it takes to conquer the Rebels in the O’ Dome at home in Gainesville, Florida on Thursday, February 12 at 7 p.m.