Jackson State (0-0) at (8) Florida (0-0)
Friday, November 11th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: O'Connell Center (12,000) -- Gainesville, Florida. Television: FSN-FL. Home Record: Jackson State 0-0, Florida 0-0. Away Record: Jackson State 0-0, Florida 0-0. Neutral Record: Jackson State 0-0, Florida 0-0. Conference Record: Jackson State 0-0, Florida 0-0. Series Record: Florida leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The eighth-ranked Florida Gators begin the 2011-12 season with high execrations, and the lidlifter will take place this evening against the Jackson State Tigers in Gainesville as part of the Global Sports Shoot-Out.
Jackson State ran through the regular season in 2010-11, racking up 16 SWAC wins, but that did not translate into a trip to the NCAA Tournament because the team fell short in the league tournament. The Tigers welcome back their best player from that team, so another run at the conference crown is fully expected.
Billy Donovan's team scored twice as many points as Catholic University in the lone exhibition game for the Gators, so they appear to be ready to go. Florida had won a grand total of seven NCAA Tournament games before Donovan took control of the program, and he has guided the Gators to 25 more. With that in mind, UF fans have complete faith in the successful architect, who has a top-10 team despite several key losses from the 2010-11 squad.
Florida won its only previous meeting with Jackson State by a 112-69 final in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament.
Jackson State is thrilled to welcome back Jenirro Bush, who has been tabbed as the preseason pick to win the Player of the Year award in the SWAC. Bush is a pure scorer, and he is coming off a 14.2 ppg campaign. There is little doubt that Bush is going to put up numbers even against elite competition like Florida. Where help is going to come from, however, is still unclear. Bush is the only senior on the roster, but there are a few juniors who should contribute, notably guard Kelsey Howard. In a recent exhibition game, Howard racked up 16 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes of action. He shot 6-of-7 from the field in that game, and the team will benefit tremendously if he can be a consistent second scorer.
Significant talent was lost from last year's Florida club, with Alex Tyus, Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin all moving on, so the frontcourt needs a player or two to emerge as consistent performers to replace the 32.0 ppg and 19.4 rpg that those three players brought to the table. Erik Murphy and Patric Young figure to log plenty of minutes, but it remains to be seen if either is a true scorer. Fortunately, plenty of points figure to come from the backcourt duo of Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker. Last season, Walker netted 14.6 ppg to go along with 125 assists and 41 steals, while Boynton pitched in with 14.2 ppg despite his disappointing 38.5 percent field goal efficiency. Florida fans are most excited about the addition of another guard, freshman Bradley Beal, the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year who averaged 32.5 ppg as a high school senior.
Expect the backcourt to carry the Gators both in this game and all season long. Boynton, Walker and Beal will be a tough trio to contain.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 95, Jackson State 61
11/11 10:36:21 ET