UF faces balanced Missouri
Published: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 12:16 a.m.
Florida had a simple defensive mission in its convincing 68-47 win Thursday night at Texas A&M.
Who: No. 10 Florida (13-2, 3-0 SEC) vs. No. 17 Missouri (13-3, 2-1 SEC)
When: 2 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center
It won't be quite as easy today when the Gators return home on a 36-hour turnaround to face No. 17 Missouri.
To beat the Aggies, the Gators blanketed senior guard Elston Turner, who was held to just four points on 1-of-10 shooting. Turner had scored 40 points in his previous game against Kentucky.
But Missouri features a more balanced team with four healthy scorers in double figures. Also, the Gators must figure out how to minimize the impact of one of the best point guards in college basketball.
Missouri junior Phil Pressey leads the Southeastern Conference in assists at 7.3 per game, accounting for more than half of the Tigers' total assists (14.4 apg).
“He's terrific at what he does,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I think the thing that he does that's the sign of a great player is a player who can make other people around him better, and certainly he does that as well as anyone in the country.”
Missouri comes into the game without leading scorer Laurence Bowers (16.8 ppg.), who is out indefinitely with a knee injury. But the Tigers still have plenty of offensive firepower, led by guard Jabari Brown (13.9 ppg), Pressey (12.9 ppg), Connecticut transfer Alex Oriakhi (10.4 ppg.) and Auburn transfer Earnest Ross (10.3 ppg).
Donovan said Missouri's scoring balance begins with Pressey's court vision and decision-making ability.
“He understands rotations,” Donovan said. “He understands how the floor is moving. And then he finds people and he gives a lot of their players a lot of opportunities to take a lot of open shots, whether it's Oriakhi rolling to the basket for dunks, or whether it's finding Brown or anybody else on the perimeter for 3s.”
Scottie Wilbekin will get the initial defensive assignment on Pressey, like he did against Turner. But Donovan said Wilbekin will get plenty of help from his teammates. And Florida's approach defensively will be different than what it was against Turner, considering Pressey's ability to create as well as score.
“One of the things that makes them a great team in my opinion is the ability of Pressey to find people that are open,” Donovan said. “So you can sit there and give him a lot of attention and then all of a sudden he's finding people for wide-open shots, and that becomes really challenging.”
It helps the Gators are returning home. Florida, a 13.5-point favorite according to Latest Line, is expecting its first sellout of the season at the 12,000-seat O'Connell Center for its first meeting with Missouri.
“That's cool,” Florida senior guard Mike Rosario said. “It's going to be a great atmosphere and we're going to be ready.”
Missouri's physicality up front has taken a blow due to the injury of Bowers (6-foot-8, 227 pounds), who is out with an MCL sprain. But the Tigers still come into the game leading the SEC in rebounding margin at plus-10.3. Oriakhi, the starting center on UConn's 2011 national championship team, is third in the SEC in rebounding at 8.6 per game.
The battle royal in the paint between the 255-pound Oriakhi and 249-pound Florida junior center Patric Young should be worth watching.
“They are going to come in here fired up,” Young said. “They believe they have a chance to win the conference just like we believe we have a chance to win the conference.”
Florida will be playing its first and only two-day turnaround in league play this season. But the Gators have had success preparing quickly under Donovan. Florida went 4-0 in Thursday-Saturday turnarounds in SEC play last season and is 14-1 in Thursday-Saturday games since the 2009-10 season.
“We have a lot of veteran guys that are used to it,” Young said. “We'll take care of our bodies to make sure we get our rest. When the ball is tipped, we'll be ready. There won't be any excuses.”