The Florida Gators basketball team (6-1) will get their first true road test of the season as they travel south to take on in state rival, the No. 17/20 Miami Hurricanes (7-1) on Tuesday night.
This will be the second ranked team that Head Coach Mike White and team will face so far this season. Their first ranked opponent—No. 21/23 Purdue—also handed the Gators their only loss of the season so far, a 70-85 game.
It’s easy to compare the two matchups and White isn’t shying from doing so.
“Miami is really good, like Purdue,” says White.
“They’re the third-ranked, according to the Ken-Pom numbers, offensive team in the country. That’s a huge test for us defensively. It’s of course a road game against an ACC opponent that I think will be very competitive in their league. Early on in the season, it’s an opportunity for us and it’s also a test to see where we’re at and what we need to continue to work on, strengths and weaknesses.”
After having nearly two weeks full of games, leaving no time for rest, the Florida Gators got a bit of a breather during the past week. This will be their first game since last Tuesday’s 76-56 win over Richmond. They’re going to need all the energy they’ve built up as they prepare to take on the Hurricanes—and specifically Guard Angel Rodriguez.
The redshirt senior put up 24 points during the Canes 69-67 win over the Gators in 2014 in Gainesville, something sophomore forward Devin Robinson remembers well and doesn’t want to see a repeat performance.
“We’ve just got to be locked down and focused,” explains Robinson, “play great team defense on him. Make it a hard night for him from the beginning.”
The beginning is only part of the game though, and Mike White has a game plan that involved staying on Rodriguez for the entire game.
“It starts with knowing where he is at all times, and that’s collectively, not just the guy who is assigned to guard him,” admits White.
“We all need to know where Angel is for 40 minutes when you’re guarding Miami because he’s capable of stepping up, hitting a couple threes in transition as he did last year in the O’Dome and getting himself going. Wow was he unbelievable in that game.”
As players, Robinson included, have continually stated, they want a big part of the Florida Gators basketball team’s identity to be defense that creates offense. If the defense on Angel does it work, it can help create fast breaks and turnovers for players like Dorian Finney-Smith, John Egbunu and Devin Robinson, all of whom have notched multiple double-doubles.
Finney-Smith is also one point shy of a hitting the 1,000-point career mark.
He, along with his Florida Gators basketball teammates will have a chance to hit the milestone and improve a resume that is seeing an uptick in credibility.
The game tips off at 7pm in Coral Gables, Florida and broadcast on ESPN2. You can also follow along with GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gators coverage.