Florida will face a version of itself when it travels to Missouri for its second straight SEC road game this afternoon.
Not only are the Gators and Tigers both averaging 9.8 point 3-pointers per game, but the two teams are nearly identical in 3-point shooting percentage. Florida is shooting 39.5 percent from 3-point range, while Missouri is shooting 39.4 percent beyond the arc.
Defending the 3-point line will be a priority for the Gators when they face the Tigers at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.
“They are really shooting the basketball from a high clip at a number of positions,” Florida coach Mike White said. “Shooting it with a lot of confidence. The floor is really spaced.”
The defensive scouting report will be a stark contrast from last Tuesday, when the Gators focused on stopping forwards Robert Williams and Tyler Davis inside during an 83-66 win at Texas A&M.
“No doubt, it’s such a different defensive scouting report,” White said. “I say that, but Missouri can score on the interior as well.”
Missouri is off to a strong start under first-year coach Cuonzo Martin. Despite losing the top rated incoming freshman in the nation, forward Michael Porter Jr., to a season-long back injury, the Tigers are off to an 11-3 start. On Wednesday night, Missouri won its SEC opener and picked up its first conference win on the road since 2014 with a 79-68 decision at South Carolina. Porter’s brother, freshman 6-foot-11 forward Jontay Porter, provided a spark off the bench, sinking five 3-pointers while finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds and four blocks before fouling out.
“Certainly, one of the best performances in our league at this point, if not the best,” White said. “To go to South Carolina and play the way that they did. And they play extremely hard. They’re very disruptive defensively. It’s going to be an enormous challenge for us.”
Graduate transfer guard Kassius Robertson is shooting 41.2 percent from 3-point range this season, while Porter has made 16 3-pointers and is shooting 35.6 percent from beyond the arc.
“He’s going to present a lot of challenges,” White said of Porter. “He can post you. I think he’s a really underrated passer, he’s a terrific passer for a 6-11 kid, you know and being a lefty it presents advantages inherently as well. And then closing out to a 6-11 stretch four as opposed to a 6-5 to 6-8 stretch four is a little bit different as well with his high release and his length. He’s a terrific talent.”
Florida 6-8 redshirt sophomore forward Keith Stone said the key for defending Porter and Missouri’s other long-range shooters will be to follow the scouting report.
“Just play as hard as you can, eventually something is going to happen for your team,” Stone said. “But there’s always a mismatch on the floor, so you can’t worry about it.”
Florida has regained its offensive mojo in SEC play, averaging 82 points while shooting 47.5 percent from the field (56-118) and 53.2 percent (25-47) from 3-point range in its first two conference games. Better ball movement has led to better looks at the basket. The Gators finished with 25 assists in its win last Tuesday at Texas A&M, one shy of their season-high 26 assists in their 116-74 season opening win over Gardner-Webb.
“Certain areas that have kind of come to the forefront, I thought that was something we were dealing with a lot heading into the break,” White said. “I think the break really helped us. I think the break helps a lot of teams. I think Missouri is another one of those teams. They weren’t playing their best basketball heading into the break, and we were really interested to see how they’d respond, and my goodness, did the break help them. They looked like a different team.”
Who: Florida Gators (10-4, 2-0 SEC) vs. Missouri Tigers (11-3, 1-0 SEC)
When: 1 p.m.
Where: Mizzou Arena, Columbia, Mo.
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM850
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G KeVaughn Allen, 6-2, So., 11.8 ppg 2.6 rpg
G Chris Chiozza, 6-0, Sr., 13.1 ppg 5.8 apg
G Egor Koulechov, 6-5, GSr., 15.0 ppg 6.6 rpg
F Keith Stone, 6-8, RSo., 6.6 ppg 3.4 rpg
C Kevarrius Hayes, 6-9, Jr., 4.8 ppg 5.3 rpg
MISSOURI PROBABLE STARTERS
G Kassius Robertson, 6-4 GSr., 15.6 ppg 2.4 apg
G Jordan Geist, 6-2, Jr., 7.1 ppg 3.8 rpg
F Jordan Barnett, 6-7, Sr., 15.1 ppg 5.9 rpg
F Kevin Puryear, 6-7, Jr., 9.9 ppg 5.0 rpg
C Jeremiah Tilmon, 6-10, Fr., 9.1 ppg 4.9 rpg
Notes: Florida is 5-2 all-time against Missouri, but just 1-2 all-time at Mizzou Arena … Florida and Missouri are tied for the SEC lead in 3-pointers made with 137 … Florida also leads the SEC in turnover margin (plus-5.4), while ranking second in the league in free throw percentage (77.5 percent), 3-point field goal percentage (39.5 percent) and steals (7.7) … Point guard Chris Chiozza has scored in double figures in six straight games, averaging 15.5 points, 5.2 assists during the span with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 32 to 9 … Senior forward Egor Koulechov leads the SEC in free-throw percentage (97.6 percent) and is 7 or his last 10 from 3-point range … Junior guard Jalen Hudson is averaging a team-high 16.9 points per game in eight starts and six games off the bench … Taking care of the ball could play an important role in the outcome of the game. Missouri is averaging 15.1 turnovers per game, while Florida has scored 10 or more points off turnovers in 13 of 14 games this season … Missouri freshman guard Blake Harris announced Friday he intends to transfer.
— Kevin Brockway