Gators face 2 new SEC foes
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 6:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 12:12 a.m.
Florida will get a first-hand look at the two newest teams in the Southeastern Conference this week.
Judging from early results, the No. 10 Gators (12-2, 2-0 SEC) are concerned about both Texas A&M and No. 17 Missouri. Florida will travel to College Station, Texas, for a nationally televised Thursday night game at Texas A&M before returning home to face Missouri on Saturday.
“Both of these programs, at least from a basketball perspective, add value to our league,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.
Texas A&M (12-3, 2-0 SEC) has made waves early in its first SEC season. The Aggies pulled off a surprise 83-71 win over defending national champion Kentucky last Saturday at Rupp Arena. Senior Texas A&M guard Elston Turner scored 40 points in the win to earn SEC player of the week honors.
“The thing that was impressive to me, half his number of shots didn't even equal the amount of points he scored,” Donovan said. “He scored 40 points on 19 shots. You score like that when, one, you get to the free-throw line and you shoot a high percentage from the 3-point line, and then you have the ability to play inside of the 3-point line, whether it's pull-up jumpers or drives to the basket or runners or floaters. From the scoring standpoint, that game was pretty efficient.”
The 6-foot-5 Turner scored 20 points against Florida last season in UF's 84-64 win over Texas A&M at the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise. But Florida junior center Patric Young expects a much tougher game for the Gators on the road.
We can't go in there underestimating them,” Young said.
“Kentucky, even though they are not playing as great as everyone predicted, they are still a talented team. We're just going to have to be ready for Texas A&M because they can win games. They are just as capable of winning the league as we are or anybody else. We just have to come in with the right mindset.”
Young admitted he wasn't aware of the impact both Texas A&M and Missouri would have on SEC basketball when both schools joined the league.
“I thought it was basically for football reasons,” Young said. “I'm glad to have some more teams here in the league. They're two very good teams, so they raise our standard in the SEC in basketball as well, just like they do in football.”
Missouri (12-3, 1-1 SEC) is coming off a 64-49 loss at the Ole Miss. But the Tigers, under second-year coach Frank Haith, have already posted wins this season over Illinois, Virginia Commonwealth and Stanford. Missouri finished 30-5 last season in Haith's first year as coach, which ended with an upset loss to Norfolk State in the NCAA Tournament.
“Last year, Missouri was a team that was ranked, really, in the top five nearly the entire time,” Donovan said. “They've had great, great basketball tradition there for a long time.”
Missouri is led by junior point guard Phil Pressey, who leads the SEC in assists at 7.4 per game. The Gators will be facing their first and only Thursday-Saturday turnaround in league play this season. Florida went 4-0 in Thursday-Saturday games last season.
“Being a veteran guy now, I'm used to it,” Young said. “My freshman year, I was like, ‘Wow, I can't believe I have another game already.' Now I just understand you have to really take into account and be focused on scouting because that's what saves you most of the time. Coach Donovan is going to make sure we have our legs ready for Saturday.”