Florida got a close call against one in-state foe last week. That shouldn’t happen on Friday.
It’s hard to imagine the fifth-ranked Gators having trouble keeping their perfect season going as they host lowly Florida A&M.
This is the last of three consecutive games against intrastate rivals for Florida (11-0), which routed Jacksonville 101-58 on Dec. 18 before having a tough game at Miami on Dec. 22.
The Gators went into the game as the nation’s top field-goal shooting team, making 54.4 percent, but was held to 38.6 percent and struggled to beat the Hurricanes 77-67. Florida trailed 64-59 with 6:32 to play, but went on an 18-3 run to pull out the win.
Joakim Noah and center Al Horford keyed that game-closing burst as the Gators recorded the best start in school history. Noah was named SEC player of the week on Monday after finishing with 18 points, eight rebounds and six blocks against Miami.
“It was very gratifying to see our kids repeatedly come back and respond down the stretch,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “(Noah) was great. He blocked shots. I thought our big guys were very active.”
This contest is not expected to be so close.
Florida A&M (4-7) had lost six of seven before beating Division II Hawaii Pacific 74-67 last Friday.
These schools have met five times in the last six seasons and the Rattlers have lost them all, falling to the Gators by an average of 44.2 points. Florida is 6-0 in the all-time series.
Plus, the Gators have won 13 consecutive home games, dating to an overtime loss to Tennessee on Jan. 18. They have lost just three home games in the last two seasons, facing a Florida A&M squad which is 0-6 on the road this season.
All five Florida starters have double-figure scoring averages, led by Corey Brewer with 14.7 points per game. The Gators are averaging more than 80 points per contest and shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range.
As much credit as the offense gets, Florida has played solid defense. The team is averaging 10 steals and forcing 18.4 turnovers per game while holding opponents to 39.9 percent from the field. Brewer tops the team with 2.5 steals per game.
Florida A&M has changed its lineup several times this season, starting 11 different players, with little success. The Rattlers are shooting 39.9 percent from the field.
Tony Tate leads the team in scoring with 13.9 points per game.