Florida has tumbled from No. 5 in the nation right out of the top 25 of the Coaches Poll during a difficult five-game stretch and looks to begin getting back on track when it hosts James Madison on Wednesday. The Gators dropped games to No. 3 Duke, No. 25 Florida State and Loyola Chicago before knocking off No. 22 Cincinnati, but coughed up a lead in the final minutes of a 71-69 setback against Clemson on Saturday.
“We couldn’t get stops the whole second half and they drove us at will and lived at the free-throw line,” Florida coach Mike White told reporters after Saturday’s defeat. “We played and looked decent at times. … But, again, we are a team that when we’re not scoring at a high rate, our defensive deficiencies can be exposed.” The Gators led 66-57 with under five minutes to go against Clemson, but allowed 10 straight points and could not make enough plays down the stretch to recover. “We are not the most mentally tough team,” White told reporters. “We need to grow in that area.” James Madison had dropped four of five games before defeating Florida International 76-67 on Saturday with 28 points from leading scorer Stuckey Mosley.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network
ABOUT JAMES MADISON (4-8): Mosley, a junior guard, has recorded at least 25 points in four of his last five contests and averages 20.7 overall while draining 45.8 percent from 3-point range and 85.2 percent at the free-throw line. Senior guard Joey McLean is the only other player averaging in double figures scoring (13.3), but finished in single digits four of the past five games. Matt Lewis (9.7) and fellow freshman guard Darius Banks (9.0), who is averaging 14.5 points over his last four games, have also contributed on the offensive end for the Dukes.
ABOUT FLORIDA (6-4): Junior guard Jalen Hudson has been a consistent force on the offensive end for the Gators, averaging 19.5 points after scoring a team-high 23 against Clemson, and is shooting 50.8 percent from the field overall. Senior transfer Egor Koulechov, who opened his Florida career with a 34-point game, has cooled off considerably by scoring in single digits three times in the last six contests - including eight on 2-of-8 shooting Saturday. Senior guard Chris Chiozza has scored 29 points combined in the last two games to push his average to 12.
1. Florida junior G KeVaughn Allen, who led the team in scoring last season, is averaging just 11.8 in 2017-18 on 35 percent shooting from the field.
2. James Madison junior F Develle Phillips leads the team in rebounds (8.3) and blocks (1.8) while shooting 53.8 percent from the floor.
3. The Gators have won two of the previous three meetings, including the last matchup 64-62 in the 1994 NCAA Tournament.
PREDICTION: Florida 82, James Madison 64