Florida’s defense has been exposed by the two ranked teams it has faced. The Gators won’t be facing a Top 25 team on Saturday, but their opponent isn’t a pushover either.
After an eight-day layoff due to exams, No. 13 Florida returns to action Saturday night to face Richmond at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., in the Orange Bowl Classic.
Florida (8-1) saw its perfect start end Dec. 10 with an 85-73 loss to then-No. 7 Syracuse. The Gators allowed the Orange to shoot 52.5 percent.
That’s the same figure Michigan State shot Nov. 27 when ranked No. 2, but Florida escaped with a 77-74 win over the 2009 NCAA tournament finalist. Unranked foes are shooting 36.7 percent against the Gators this season.
“I think these early games like this, when you play really good teams, the things you don’t do well in a particular game generally get really, really exposed,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “Some things that I think came out to light, transition defense, rebounding.”
One area in which Florida has excelled is its perimeter defense. The Gators lead the nation with opponents shooting 21.5 percent on 3-pointers against them.
That should be a major factor against a Richmond (7-3) team that ranks near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 in 3-point shooting at 32.4 percent.
It’s unlikely the Spiders will be intimidated by facing the Gators. Richmond has already faced two SEC foes, beating Mississippi State 63-62 on Nov. 27 and losing 76-58 at South Carolina on Wednesday in its last game.
The Spiders led the Gamecocks 32-24 at halftime before giving up 52 points after the break. Richmond allowed South Carolina to make five of its last six 3-pointers after forcing the Gamecocks to miss their first eight.
“It was just losing focus,” forward Justin Harper said. “You got to keep attacking. Being on the road, you can’t afford to let your focus slip at all.”
Harper scored a team-high 15 and leading scorer Kevin Anderson matched a season low with 12. Both of Anderson’s 12-point efforts have come against SEC teams.
The Gators annually play in this event in south Florida, a key area where they like to recruit. Freshman guard Kenny Boynton, who hails from nearby Pompano Beach, will get to play close to home for the first time.
Boynton has 22 assists and just one turnover while averaging a team-high 14.6 points. Backcourt mate Erving Walker is second with 12.0 points per game, but his shooting percentage is down to 36.1 percent after Walker shot 43.4 percent as a freshman in 2009-10.
Forward Chandler Parsons is expected to play despite a torn muscle in his right leg. The junior excelled in last season’s game at the BankAtlantic Center with a team-high 17 points in a 74-45 win over Winthrop.
This is the third meeting between the teams, with Florida winning 66-52 on March 19, 1992, in the last one.