BASKETBALL

Florida Basketball: 3 questions for Gators heading into home SEC opener against Texas A&M

Kevin Brockway
The Gainesville Sun
Florida Gators head coach Todd Golden goes off on an official after a call in the first half. The University of Florida menÕs basketball team hosted the University of Connecticut at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. OÕConnell Center in Gainesville, FL on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

Florida basketball (7-6, 0-1 SEC) will open a critical two-game homestand Wednesday when it hosts Texas A&M (7 p.m., ESPNU).

The Gators will look to break a two-game losing streak and pick up their first conference win of the season. After Texas A&M, Florida will host Georgia and former head coach Mike White on Saturday (1 p.m., SEC Network).

"I look at it as a great opportunity," Florida coach Todd Golden said. "Obviously two really tough clubs in Texas A&M and Georgia coming in but in a weird way our schedule has been Top 30 (KenPom) teams and below 150 and for the first time we're playing someone in that 75-125 range. So, when you are trying to figure out what our team really is, it's another opportunity to learn who we are."

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Texas A&M (8-5, 0-0 SEC) takes a two-game winning streak into its SEC opener. The Aggies knocked Florida out of the SEC Tournament in overtime in the last meeting between the two schools last March.

Here's a look at three questions for the Gators heading into the matchup:

Can Florida get its perimeter game back on track?

Florida is mired in a 5-for-41 slump from 3-point range (12.2 percent) during its two-game losing streak. The Gators have relied heavily on center Colin Castleton and forward Alex Fudge for inside production but will eventually need perimeter production to provide more balance to the offense. A return home could help cure Florida's shooting woes. The Gators are shooting 44.6 percent (50-112) from 3-point range at the O'Connell Center this season.

“We just need to stay the course,” Golden said. “The encouraging thing for us is early in the year when we were playing the better opponents on our schedule, we struggled to get good shots. The last two games against Oklahoma and on the road against Auburn, I don’t think that was the case. We did a really good job of manufacturing good looks. We just didn’t knock them down.”

Can Florida get more production from the point guard position?

Starting point guard Kyle Lofton finished with 8 points and 2 assists in his SEC debut against Auburn with a plus-minus ratio of minus-8 in his 29 minutes on the floor. Lofton is averaging 8.4 points and 3.7 assists on the season with solid on-ball defense. But Florida could use more scoring and playmaking from the St. Bonaventure transfer who is getting healthier after dealing with injuries early this season.

Can the Gators control the glass?

Florida was outrebounded 40-28 against Auburn. Golden has preached the importance about being more physical on the boards since the beginning of camp, but the Gators surrendered 17 offensive rebounds against the Tigers, including three on missed box outs out of free-throw misses. Texas A&M enters the UF matchup 9th in the SEC in rebounding margin (+4.08) while Florida is 13th (+1.00). Simply put, the Gators are going to need to be tougher on the glass as they progress in conference play.