(17) Missouri (13-3) at (10) Florida (13-2)
Saturday, January 19, 2 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Stephen C. O'Connell Center (11,548) -- Gainesville, Florida. Television: ESPN. Home Record: UM 10-0, UF 7-0. Away Record: UM 0-2, UF 4-2. Neutral Record: UM 3-1, UF 2-0. Conference Record: UM 2-1, UF 3-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The 17th-ranked Missouri Tigers make their first trip to the Sunshine State in more than 35 years when they challenge the 10th-ranked Florida Gators to an SEC duel at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville.
Missouri is 13-3 overall, and it has won two of its first three SEC bouts. The Tigers, who prior to this season called the Big 12 Conference home, took out visiting Georgia on Wednesday night, 79-62, which came on the heels of an embarrassing 64-49 loss at Ole Miss last weekend. Mizzou already has one win over a top-10 foe this season, as it downed No. 10 Illinois in an 82-73 final on Dec. 22.
Florida has lost just twice in 15 opportunities this season, with both setbacks coming against nationally-ranked foes in Arizona (65-64) and Kansas State (67-61). Since the setback to the Wildcats on Dec. 22, the Gators have reeled off five straight wins, the last three coming against SEC rivals Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M. Like the Tigers, the Aggies are also playing their first season as a member of the SEC after previously residing in the Big 12.
The Gators are 7-0 at home this season, while the Tigers are 0-2 in true road games, and this bout marks the first meeting between the two.
Missouri is one of the more potent offensive teams in the SEC, averaging 77 ppg to rank fourth, and the Tigers lead the league in both free throw percentage (.720) and rebounding margin (+10.3). Mizzou boasts five double- digit scorers, although Laurence Bowers (team-high 16.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is nursing a sprained MCL in his right knee, and his status for this contest is questionable. That leaves guys like Jabari Brown (13.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Phil Pressey (12.9 ppg, 7.3 apg), Alex Oriakhi (10.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Earnest Ross (10.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg) to pick up the slack, which they've done since Bowers suffered the injury 10 days ago. Brown and Ross each tallied 15 points, Keion Bell had 14, Oriakhi 13 and Tony Criswell chipped in 10 in the Tigers' recent win over Georgia. Missouri made good on 48.1 percent of its total shots, including 9-of-22 from beyond the arc, while laying claim to an 18-10 edge in points from the foul line and scoring 19 points off 19 UGA turnovers.
Florida ranks first in the SEC in 3-point field goals per game (8.1), doing so at a 37.2 percent clip, which ranks second. Overall, the Gators rank second in the conference in field goal percentage (.484) and free throw percentage (.720). The Gators play some of the stingiest defense you're going to see, permitting the opposition a mere 51.7 ppg and a field goal percentage of only .363, both are which are by far the lowest yields in the league, and among the lowest in the country. As a result, UF owns the No. 1 scoring margin in the SEC and the second-best nationally (+21.5). Florida currently has four double- digit scorers, with less than two points separating the first, Kenny Boynton (13.2 ppg), from the fourth, Patric Young (11.5 ppg). Mike Rosario was high man for the Gators in their recent win over Texas A&M, netting 19 points on the back of four 3-pointers, while Young tallied 18 points and Erik Murphy tacked on 16. Florida drained half of its 50 field goal attempts, while holding the Aggies to 34 percent and goading them into 16 turnovers.
Even though both teams are capable of putting a ton of points on the board, expect more of a defensive struggle, particularly if Bowers can't go for Mizzou. When the final second ticks off the clock, the Gators should be the ones smiling.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 68, Missouri 62
01/19 10:41:45 ET