Emotions run high when Florida and Florida State play in any sport.
The No. 6 Gators should have no shortage of emotion when they host FSU tonight after an eight-day layoff. Florida State has won three straight in the series between in-state rivals.
Florida State is off to an undefeated start despite losing standout freshman forward Jonathan Isaac (first round, Orlando Magic) and sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon (second round, New Orleans Pelicans) to the NBA draft. The Seminoles are coming off a 78-73 win at Rutgers in the Big Ten-ACC challenge in which sophomore guard CJ Walker scored 24 points and dished three assists.
“Every year, they’re going to play deep and they’re long and athletic and they play really hard,” Florida basketball coach Mike White said. “And every year their defensive numbers are really good. They can really spread the floor this year with multiple three-point shooters, and they’ve got an emerging young point guard in Walker, who was really good the other day in a big road win at Rutgers.”
Florida’s last win against FSU came on Nov. 29, 2013, when former UF forward Dorian Finney-Smith hit a game-winning free throw in a 67-66 decision. Two seasons ago, Florida State beat Florida 73-71 in the O’Connell Center on a game-winning shot by Bacon. Florida junior guard KeVaughn Allen, then a freshman, scored 32 points in the loss. Last season, Florida State beat Florida 83-78 in Tallahassee.
White said he’s not the kind of coach who plays the rivalry card when it comes to games against in-state opponents.
“I don’t know whether that’s right or wrong, and I’m not sure how our fans will take to that,” White said. “I know it’s a big game in our fans’ minds. I don’t know if you make a game really emotional, I don’t know how that puts you in the best place mentally to play really well.
“If you really, really want to make a three more in this game than in the last game, does that help you make the three more? I don’t know. It probably makes you shoot it longer, shorter. Who knows? Probably makes you foul a little bit more, you know. Who knows? I know it’s the next game and it’s an ACC opponent. It’s a good team, it’s a team coming off an NCAA Tournament run.”
Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson said he’s looking forward to his first matchup as a Gator against FSU. Hudson has prior experience facing the Seminoles when he was in the ACC with Virginia Tech, averaging 7.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in four games against FSU.
“It’s another kind of rivalry,” Hudson said. “ I’m more familiar, obviously, with the UVA-Virginia Tech rivalry coming from there. But, obviously, playing Florida State, sometimes even twice a year while I was there, so I’m a little bit familiar with how they play and their coach and their coaching style a little bit.
“But I’m just excited to play them with the guys that I’m with now and the coaching that I’m with now just to get the win. We’re at home, we’ve got to protect our house. I’m excited just to get to it.”
Who: Florida State (6-0) vs. No. 6 Florida (5-1)
When: 9 p.m.
Where: O’Connell Center
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G;KeVaughn Allen;6-2;So.;13.5 ppg; 3.7 rpg
G;Chris Chiozza;6-0; Sr.;13.2 ppg;6.8 apg
G;Egor Koulechov;6-5; GSr.;17.7 ppg;7.0 rpg
G;Jalen Hudson;6-6; RJr.;21.7 ppg;4.8 rpg
C;Keith Stone;6-8; RSo.;5.8 ppg;2.3 rpg
FLORIDA STATE PROBABLE STARTERS
G;CJ Walker; 6-1;So.;11.0 ppg;3.0 apg
G;Brian Angola;6-6; Sr.;11.3 ppg;4.5 apg
G;Terrance Mann; 6-6;Jr.;15.3 ppg;5.2 rpg
F;Phil Cofer;6-8;Sr.;14.2 ppg;4.7 rpg
C;Ike Obiagu;7-0;Fr.;2.8 ppg;4.0 rpg
Notes: Florida is 43-25 all-time against Florida State and 21-7 at home. … The Gators are 12-1 in 13 home games following the $64.5 million interior renovation of the O’Connell Center, which was completed in December of 2016. … Florida freshman 6-5 swingman Deaundrae Ballard is averaging 8.3 points off the bench for the Gators. … Florida junior guard KeVaughn Allen became the 53rd player in UF history to score 1,000 points when he scored 17 points against Duke. With 1,004 career points, Allen is 42 points shy of tying Vernon Maxwell (1,046 points) for 51st on UF’s all-time list (the last two seasons of Maxwell’s career were stripped from the record book due to NCAA sanctions). … Florida is shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 46 percent from 3-point range. The Gators are averaging 1.45 points per field goal attempt, currently ranked 13th in the country. … Florida State is averaging 88.8 points per game, shooting 51.7 percent from the floor and 35.8 percent from 3-point range.
— Kevin Brockway