Men's Basketball Clashes with Florida Saturday on SportSouth
While the Gators lost all five starters from last year’s team, they enter Saturday with a 9-1 record and are receiving votes in both the Associated Press and coaches’ polls.
“We need to be sure that we approach the game very confidently and have no signs of intimidation of who we’re playing and I don’t think our team will,” said head coach Jeff Price. “We already played some good teams and a lot of these guys have already played Duke and Illinois and people like that, so I don’t think that’s going to be the case at all. I think the more we hype it the harder it is for our players to play. So we’re trying to keep a low key on it and get better at what we do every day. It’s a cliche but you just approach it as another game. Even though, in our minds, we know it’s a great opportunity for us.”
While Florida has a stellar record, it has yet to leave its home state and has played away from home just once, a 25-point win over Vermont in Tampa. Price believes having the Gators away from home could be to the Eagles’ advantage.
“It certainly can’t hurt,” he said. “They’ve been on their home floor for every game except one - they played a neutral floor game in Tampa. So it’s certainly nice to get them on a different court. Whether or not that’ll make a difference, we’ll find out. I think our guys are a lot more comfortable not having to walk into Gainesville to play.”
Of Florida’s five starters, just one is older than a sophomore: junior guard Walter Hodge. The UF roster features no seniors.
“Everybody talks about how they’re young and it’s not the same team,” said Price. “Their young is first-team McDonald’s All-American. Their talent level is extremely high. They really shoot it well and they’re just really smart and all of their players are very skilled. They can all pass it and shoot it and make good decisions. They’re a very cerebral, skilled team.”
Florida has five players averaging 9.8 points per game or better and of the nine players averaging 10 minutes per game, just three are shooting below 50 percent from the field.
“They’re pretty balanced - I don’t think we need to focus on one guy,” said Price. “We need to do a good job with personnel and we’re going to work on who we’re guarding because each one of their guys are somewhat predictable in how they play. I think we need to do a good job of understanding who we’re guarding and how we’re going to play them - who we play to drive, who we play to shoot and how we play certain guys in the post.”
Leading the Florida offense is freshman Nick Calathes who tops the team’s scoring charts at 15.6 ppg, but is averaging 22.0 ppg in his last two outings. The rookie also leads the Gators in assists (60) and steals (15).
“He’s probably 6-7 and he’s a guard - skilled enough to play the point - shooting 42 percent from the 3-point line,” said Price. “He’s just a really balanced, all-around player that was a top-10 player in the nation. That’s how he plays - he does so many different things.”
Possibly working in Georgia Southern’s advantage is the fact that Florida hasn’t taken the floor since Dec. 5, a 91-52 victory over Florida A&M. GSU faced a similar situation in its last game, going nine days between games before Monday’s tilt against Fort Valley State, a game that saw Georgia Southern fall behind by six points in the first half.
“I hope it affects them like it affected us. It can hurt when you’ve been off that many days. I guess every team reacts differently. I think it’s got to affect them a little bit. It may not take them long to get into a flow but it could affect them a little bit, being off that long.”
Game time Saturday is set for 3 p.m. The game will be televised on SportSouth and FSN Florida.
- Category: Men's Basketball
- Published on Thursday, 13 December 2007 00:04