After a week off following their gut-wrenching 87-84 loss to No. 1 Duke, No. 6 Florida returns to the floor to host rival Florida State in the Fresh from Florida Sunshine Showdown on Monday. The Seminoles have won their last three meetings with the Gators and they come in with their first 6-0 start since 2008-09 after defeating Rutgers 78-73 Tuesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The Seminoles’ balanced offensive attack hung more points on a stingy Rutgers defense that came in surrendering just 47.2 points per game than any other team this season, and Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said after the win that it was “a tremendous test for us ... just the kind of game (they) really needed.” The Seminoles needed the tuneup before they are forced to contend with a Gators team that has been scoring almost at will with an average of nearly 100 points per game (99.5), tops in the nation entering Sunday, after hitting in triple-digits in four of their first six games. But while Florida is scoring at a prolific pace, it was defensive breakdowns, particularly in the low post against Blue Devils star freshman forward Marvin Bagley III, that proved costly in the loss to Duke as the Gators blew a 10-point lead in the final 4:35. “Our lack of focus. Our lack of physicality. ... Our overall toughness on the interior,” coach Mike White said about the defensive issues after the loss. “Every opposing big we’ve played has had a field day against us.”
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2.
ABOUT FLORIDA STATE (6-0): With an average of 88.8 points per game, the Seminoles have no problems putting the ball in the basket and five players are averaging in double figures. On any given day, any of the Seminoles can lead the team in scoring, and against Rutgers, it was CJ Walker with a career-high 24 points and Phil Cofer with 19, but for the year, guard Terance Mann has been the top threat, hitting 66.7 percent of his shots for an average of 15.3 points per game, followed by Cofer with 14.2 points per game on 64.2 shooting from the field. Before slipping past Rutgers by just five points, the Seminoles had won their first five games by an average of 23.0, with each of their wins coming by at least 17.
ABOUT FLORIDA (5-1): The high-scoring Gators attack is spearheaded by junior guard Jalen Hudson, the team’s leading scorer with 21.7 points per game and he recorded his first career double-double against Duke with 24 points and 10 rebounds. The Gators have proven especially proficient from beyond the arc as they ranked fifth in the country in 3-point percentage (46.0) through Saturday, but their offensive proficiency has had to make up for a defense that is giving up an average of 80.7 points per game. “We’re a talented offensive group for sure,” White said. “Our skill level is what was expected. And then we’re about where we thought we were defensively, and that’s not good enough.”
1. The Gators lead the all-time series with the Seminoles 43-25 but the Gators are 0-2 under White, including 0-1 at home.
2. Florida’s four 100-point games are tied for third most in a season in school history as the Gators had five such games in 2000-01 and 2001-02 and they also had two prior seasons with four (1986-87, 2003-04).
3. Walker’s 24 points against Rutgers was the highest point total for a Seminole this season.
PREDICTION: Florida 95, Florida State 84