UF MEN'S BASKETBALL
Gators guard against letdown in Orange Bowl Classic
Published: Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 1:24 p.m.
After three straight games against ranked teams, it would be easy for Florida to exhale a bit heading into Saturday's matchup with Fresno State.
Who: No. 16 Florida Gators (8-2) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (6-5)
When: 4:30 p.m.
Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV: FSN/Sun Sports
Gainesville-area radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM
That's the kind of attitude Florida coach Billy Donovan fears heading into Saturday's matchup with the Bulldogs at the Metro PCS Orange Bowl Classic. The Gators can't afford a letdown against a Fresno State team that's ranked 96th according to CBSSports.com's RPI rankings.
“We talk about that and that's something we try to get these guys to understand,” Donovan said. “The reality of the matter is every time you line up and play there is an opportunity and a potential that if you don't play well, there's a chance you could get beat.”
Florida survived a tough four-game stretch with Florida State, Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis by going 3-1, with wins over FSU and Memphis decided by 2 points or less.
“People want to put like you've got a four-game stretch,” Donovan said. “I've never looked at it like that. We've got a one-game stretch. We have one game coming and it happens to be against a very good team.”
Fresno State (6-5) has pulled out overtime wins against UC-Irvine (98-97) and Cal-Bakersfield (96-86). But the Bulldogs are 0-3 against high-major competition with losses at Pittsburgh, at Utah and at California. All three losses were by 10 or more points.
On offense, Fresno State lives and dies on the perimeter. The Bulldogs have attempted 236 3-pointers already this season, an average of 21.5 per game. Fresno State is shooting 34.3 percent from beyond the arc.
“The last three teams we've played haven't been high volume 3-point shooting teams,” Donovan said. “This team is going to take more three-point shots that anybody we've faced this year. They'll shoot it at certain times with five people on the floor. They're really good off the dribble with talented offensive players. They can get it by themselves.”
Defensive breakdowns against Memphis' quick guards were an issue in a 77-75 win Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
“When it's one guy, it can ruin the whole defensive possession,” Florida senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin said. “When you have a lot of breakdowns from one guy or two guys in a possession then adds up and makes it easier for the other team. We just have to stop having breakdowns.''
Florida is returning to the Orange Bowl basketball event in the South Florida area for the 15th time in the past 16 seasons. The game has helped Florida gain visibility in the area for recruiting and provided a chance for alumni from Palm Beach, Dade and Broward Counties to see the Gators play.
“From a recruiting standpoint, from a fan standpoint, being able to go to South Florida and play, I think is always important,” Donovan said. “We've even done it further north whether it be being in Jacksonville or if we go over to Orlando or Tampa/St. Pete. We've tried to spread ourselves out through the state. But I think going down there is a good thing, it's good for our program all the way around.”
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G Michael Frazier II 6-4 So. 12.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg
G Scottie Wilbekin 6-2 Sr. 12.6 ppg, 5.2 apg
F Casey Prather 6-6 Sr. 18.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg
F Will Yeguete 6-7 Sr. 4.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg
C Patric Young 6-9 Sr. 10.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg
FRESNO STATE PROBABLE STARTERS
G Marvelle Harris 6-4 So. 17.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg
G Cezar Guerrero 6-1 RSo. 14.4 ppg, 4.4 apg
G Tyler Johnson 6-4 Sr 14.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg
F Paul Watson Fr. 6-8 11.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg
F Alex Davis 6-9 Jr. 5.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg
Notes:Florida and Fresno State are meeting for the first time in program history. … The Gators are heading to the Metro PCS Orange Bowl Classic for the 15th time. Florida is 12-2 in previous Orange Bowl Classic games, including three straight wins. … The Gators are coming off back-to-back wins vs. Top 15 ranked teams (Kansas and Memphis). It's the first time in program history Florida has beaten two Top 15 teams in a row in non-conference play. … Florida is 4-2 this season in games decided by single-digits and 2-1 in games decided by 5 points or less. Florida was 2-9 in games decided by 5 points or less in its previous two seasons. … Florida has shot well from the perimeter of late, going 14 of 30 from 3-point range (46.7 percent) over its last two games. … Senior forward Casey Prather (22 points vs. Memphis) is coming off his fourth 20-plus point scoring game of the season and is sixth in the SEC in scoring at 18.7 ppg per game. …Fresno State returns two starters from a team that finished 11-19 last season and 5-11 in the Mountain West Conference. … A guard-oriented team, Fresno State is scoring 76.2 points per game and averaging 6.5 steals per game. … At 980 career points, senior center Patric Young is 20 points shy of becoming the 50th player in UF history to score 1,000 or more points in his career. … No. 22 Massachusetts (10-0) will play Florida State (7-3) in the opener of the doubleheader at 2 p.m. at the OB Classic, before the UF-Fresno State game.