Florida showed improved defensive intensity and execution in its home win over Mississippi State earlier this week.
The Gators will look to continue that focus on both ends of the floor when they travel to the Magnolia State to face guard-heavy Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday.
Led by the scoring of senior guard Deandre Burnett and junior guard Terrence Davis, Ole Miss ranks sixth in the SEC in scoring at 78.6 points per game. Memphis grad transfer Markel Crawford has also provided a spark off the bench for the Rebels, averaging 10.3 points and 2.0 assists.
“We’ve got to be very aware of who does what from what spot on the floor, and the difference of each of their five guards on the floor,” Florida coach Mike White said. “They’re very unique in that I don’t know how many teams in the country have five guards on the perimeter averaging nine points or more. They’re all true guards. And they have some capable front court guys, as well.”
Florida has won six straight and a win at Ole Miss would get the Gators off to a 5-0 start in SEC play for just the eighth time in school history. The Gators are coming off their best defensive effort of the season, limiting Mississippi State to 40-percent shooting from the floor in a 71-54 win. It was the first time this season the Gators held an opponent under 60 points.
“The confidence is sky-high right now,” Florida redshirt sophomore forward Keith Stone said. “But we gotta stay even-keel because if we get too high, we get overconfident and cocky and think we can just beat anybody.”
Ole Miss has struggled defensively and on the interior this season, giving up 75.1 points per game, But 12th-year Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy isn’t afraid to change defensive looks. Expect Kennedy to throw different defenses at Florida, including some 1-3-1 zone defense, in an effort to slow the Gators down.
“Ole Miss again is a little abnormal in that they change as much as anybody in the country and AK does a great job of keeping you off balance, play a bunch of different defenses and a couple of them are very unique,” White said. “You know, certain defenses that change what they are, the zone will change within a possession. We’ve got to be aggressive. We’ve got to understand the differences but at the same time, we can’t be very stagnant by over-thinking it as well.”
The Gators will look to get continued production inside from both Stone and junior center Kevarrius Hayes. Stone is averaging 13.7 points and 6.3 rebounds over his last three games, while Hayes is averaging 7.8 points, 6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in four conference games.
“Me and Kevarrius just gotta take our time when we’re down there,” Stone said. “They may fire double (teams) in the post, so we just gotta take our time, find open guys and don’t turn the ball over.”
Who: Florida Gators (12-4, 4-0 SEC) vs. Ole Miss Rebels (9-7, 2-2 SEC)
When: 1 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion at Ole Miss, Oxford, Miss.
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G;KeVaughn Allen;6-2;So.;10.6 ppg; 2.3 apg
G;Chris Chiozza;6-0; Sr.;12.9 ppg;5.9 apg
G;Egor Koulechov;6-5; GSr.;15.5 ppg;6.8 rpg
F;Keith Stone;6-8; RSo.;7.3 ppg;3.8 rpg
C;Kevarrius Hayes;6-9; Jr.;5.2 ppg;5.4 rpg
OLE MISS PROBABLE STARTERS
G;Devontae Shuler;6-2;Fr.;8.8 ppg;2.8 rpg
G;Deandre Burnett;6-2;Sr.;14.4 ppg;4.7 apg
G;Terrence Davis; 6-4;Jr.;13.5 ppg;5.9 rpg
F;Marcanvis Hymon;6-7;Sr.;5.2 ppg;5.8 rpg
C;Bruce Stevens;6-8;Jr.;9.0 ppg;4.6 rpg
Notes: Florida is 65-45 all time against Ole Miss and 3-0 against the Rebels under Mike White. It will be another homecoming for White, who was a former Ole Miss point guard from 1995-99 and former assistant coach with the Rebels from 2004-11. In his first game coaching against Ole Miss for Florida, White’s Gators won 80-71 in Oxford two years ago behind 27 points from guard KeVaughn Allen. As a freshman, Allen went 9 of 11 from the field and 6 of 7 from 3-point range. … Florida leads the SEC in turnover margin (plus-5.1), steals per game (7.6) and 3-pointers made per game (9.6), while ranking second in the league in free throw percentage (76.7 percent) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4-1). … Point guard Chris Chiozza has scored in double figures in eight straight games. The game also is a homecoming of sorts for Chiozza, who is from Memphis, about an hour’s drive from the Ole Miss campus. … Senior forward Egor Koulechov leads the SEC in free-throw percentage at 93.9 percent. … In nine starts and seven games off the bench, junior guard Jalen Hudson is leading the Gators in scoring at 16.6 points per game. … Ole Miss is coming off an 85-70 loss at Auburn on Tuesday. … Marcanvis Hymon has posted a team-high 20 blocked shots for the Rebels, while freshman Devontae Shuler has a team-high 25 steals.
— Kevin Brockway