On Tuesday, for the first time ever, No. 5 Florida (21-3, 11-1) will play at Mizzou Arena.
The last matchup between the two teams was also their first meeting ever — and while the Gators’ 31-point victory was welcome by Florida fans, the loss left a bad taste in the Tigers’ mouth.
By game time on Tuesday night, the host Tigers (18-7, 7-5) will be salivating at the chance to knock off the Gators, and in turn, score their first signature win of the season.
Before their first meeting, Missouri was still thought of as one of the nation’s best teams, and a sure challenger to the SEC crown. The Tigers came into the contest minus their leading scorer Laurence Bowers, and were quickly dispatched of by Florida in front of UF’s raucous home crowd.
This time around, it’s the Tigers who will enjoy a home court advantage. The Tigers have yet to lose a game in Mizzou Arena all season, and Tuesday’s sold out affair has already been officially dubbed as a “blackout”.
The Tigers will also have Bowers back in the fold, while the Gators will be without a forward of their own in Will Yeguete, who tallied 13 points and six rebounds in the teams’ first meeting.
“(Bowers is) a guy that has been referenced by their team and coaches as the heart and soul guy of their team,” Donovan said. “He can rebound, score from the low post, shoot threes, he’s crafty, good defensively and he’s a very smart player. I think anytime you take a player like that off the team, your team is going to be a little different.”
Donovan didn’t seem overly concerned with the environment the Gators will step into on Tuesday, citing a number of previous Florida road games where his team encountered hostile crowds. Instead, Donovan expressed the ways his team will deal with Missouri’s size and physicality.
“We’ve got a hand that we are dealt and we have to figure it out,” Donovan said. “Going into the Kentucky game in the second half with four minutes to go, I had (Casey) Prather at the center spot and Frazier at the power forward spot. Someone is going to go into the game that is going to be undersized, that’s probably the extent of it right now.”
Gators Hanging on to the Ball
If you’ve taken a look at Florida’s final box score after the past few games, you may have noticed the Gators’ dwindling turnover numbers.
Donovan has noticed too.
“We’ve made better decisions,” Donovan said. “I think we went through the first half there against Auburn with only a couple … It’s making good decisions. It’s making right passes. It’s being strong with the ball. We have had our moments where we have done a really good job and there have been moments we were have done a really poor job. Last game, we were pretty good against Auburn doing that.”
Florida Well-Represented During All-Star Weekend
The NBA’s All-Star weekend has become a shell of its former self to some, but Florida fans had a reason to catch the festivities over the weekend, as UF saw five former players (six if you count transfer James White) take part in various events.
Former Gators Chandler Parsons and Bradley Beal kicked off the weekend for the Gators, as both participated in the BBVA Rising Stars challenge, a game featuring the league’s best first and second-year players. Parsons would finish with 13 points and Beal would score 12, as Beal’s “Team Chuck” which was coached by Charles Barkley, took the game by a final of 163-135.
Former Gator Matt Bonner has been one of the league’s best three-point shooters during his nine-year career, and he finally got a chance to prove as much over the weekend, coming in second place during the three-point competition on Saturday.
The marquee event of the weekend was Sunday’s All-Star game, which featured first-time selection Joakim Noah and second-time selection David Lee. Lee would finish with six points as his West team took the victory, but Noah would flash the same every game intensity has become known for in his eight point, 10 rebound night.
Donovan, who coached all five players during their time at Florida, was able to watch a little of his former protégées over the weekend.
“I watched a little bit,” Donovan said. “I watched a little bit of Noah and a little bit of Lee. I didn’t watch a whole bunch of it. My son was more locked into the game than I was … I was happy those guys could have that kind of experience for the weekend.”