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(10) Florida (12-2) at Texas A&M (12-3)
Thursday, January 17, 7 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, College Basketball Senior Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reed Arena (12,989) -- College Station, Texas. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Florida 7-0, Texas A&M 9-1. Away Record: Florida 3-2, Texas A&M 2-0. Neutral Record: Florida 2-0, Texas A&M 1-2. Conference Record: Florida 2-0, Texas A&M 2-0. Series Record: Florida leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: Two teams off to fast starts in SEC play will collide in College Station on Thursday, as the 10th-ranked Florida Gators take on the Texas A&M Aggies at Reed Arena.
Billy Donovan's Gators are an impressive 12-2 on the season with the two losses coming against now nationally-ranked opponents on the road in Arizona and Kansas State. The team has since posted four straight wins, including both league bouts with lopsided victories over Georgia (77-44) and most recently, LSU (74-52).
Billy Kennedy's Aggies have followed a similar path with 12 wins in their first 15 games. Texas A&M also boasts of a current four-game win streak, topping both Arkansas (69-51) and defending national champion Kentucky (83-71) in SEC play.
This is just the fourth meeting between these two new conference foes. Florida has won two of the previous three matchups, including an 84-64 decision in last year's Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Florida.
Florida is one of the top defensive teams in the country this season, ranking third nationally in scoring defense (52.0 ppg) and eighth in field-goal percentage defense (.365). The Gators have also enjoyed a +8.8 rebounding margin. In terms of scoring punch, the team averages a modest 73.6 ppg, but has balance, as four of the five starters are averaging double figures. Kenny Boynton leads the way with 13.8 ppg. Mike Rosario is next in line at 12.3 ppg, followed by Erik Murphy and Patric Young with 12.0 and 11.1 ppg, respectively.
The Gators used a 10-1 run to close out the first half to provide some breathing room and then ran away with the contest at LSU last weekend. Boynton led four players in double figures with a game-high 20 points. Young added 14 points, while Murphy and Will Yeguete chimed in with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Aggies have also thrived with strong defensive play, holding opponents to a mere 59.4 ppg and an even .400 shooting. A good portion of the scoring for A&M comes from a trio of double-digit performers. Elston Turner is the best of the bunch and one of the top snipers in the SEC. The 6-foot-5 senior guard is averaging 17.1 ppg and is shooting .442 from 3-point range (42-of-95). Senior Ray Turner is a strong frontcourt presence at 11.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Fabyon Harris adds 10.5 ppg and is another asset from behind the arc (.435 - 20-of-46).
In the road win at Kentucky, Texas A&M used a strong shooting performance to distance themselves from the Wildcats. The Aggies converted 52.5 percent from the floor, including 9-of-19 from 3-point range. Turner was unstoppable in the win, posting a career-high 40 points, on 14-of-19 shooting, including 6-of-10 from behind the arc. Harris added 14 points in support, while Kourtney Robinson just missed a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Gators haven't shown many weaknesses this season, but the team has had some issues in close road games against top-notch competition. Following that trend, the Aggies have a real shot at making a statement in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas A&M 68, Florida 65
01/17 10:39:35 ET