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Game preview: Florida Gators need a road win against Missouri Tigers

The Florida basketball squad has faced plenty of adversity coming into the new year, starting 1-3 in conference play and losing credibility with bracketologists by failing to hang with the Tennessee Volunteers.

Florida paid a visit to Knoxville and got shut down offensively while being exposed on defense by the sharpshooting of Volunteers guard Dalton Knecht, leading to an 85-66 road loss.

So now the Gators continue its long road trip with its first-ever trip to Missouri under the leadership of head coach Todd Golden. The Tigers visited Gainesville last season when Florida pulled a 73-64 upset. Missouri is coming into Saturday afternoon’s matchup unranked this time around (compared to its No. 20 ranking in 2023).

Here’s how both teams will line up on Saturday night.

Starting lineup: Florida Gators

Player

Pos

H/W

Class

Min.

Pts.

Reb.

Walter Clayton Jr.

G

6-2/195

Junior

29.9

15.9

3.8

Zyon Pullin

G

6-4 /206

Sophomore

30.4

14.9

3.6

Will Richard

G

6-4 /206

Junior

28.7

10.6

3.5

Tyrese Samuel

F

6-10/239

Graduate

27.3

13.4

8.6

Micah Handlogten

C

7-1/235

Sophomore

18.0

6.3

7.3

 

Starting lineup: Missouri Tigers

Player

Pos

H/W

Class

Min.

Pts.

Reb.

Noah Carter

F

6-6/235

Graduate

28.1

12.8

5.7

Connor Vanover

C

7-5 /230

Graduate

11.8

4.2

2.3

Tamar Bates

G

6-5 /195

Junior

21.7

11.3

1.8

Nick Honor

G

5-10/200

Graduate

30.7

10.8

1.4

Sean East II

G

6-3/180

Graduate

33.4

16.5

3.5

 

Key Player: Zyon Pullin

Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images
Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

Gators guard Zyon Pullin has been shining since being named a full-time starter on Dec. 12, and has made a lasting impact in all 14 appearances this season. Pullin currently leads the SEC in assist/turnover ratio (4.1) and rates at second in assists (4.9). The graduate has also recorded double digits in points for every appearance.

Pullin will be seeking a comeback game on Saturday after only recording 11 points against the Volunteers and only making two of his 11 field goal tries, his lowest since the matchup with Pittsburgh on Nov. 22.

Key Player:

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Shutting out Missouri guard Sean East II was pivotal to taking down the Tigers last season, and it’ll be just as substantial this time around. East II is the leading scorer for the Tigers this season.

East II has started every game for Mizzou this season, recording double-digits in 11 of the Tigers’ last 12 games, missing the milestone in Missouri’s last contest against the Alabama Crimson Tide and only scoring six points.

The graduate brings plenty of experience to the hardwood and has found chemistry with his teammates, distributing the ball 3.8 assists a game. The Tigers will be reliant on East II to break the current four-game losing skid while he finds his way back to double-digit consistency.

Prediction

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

The Gators are looking to find their way back into contending for national championship glory, but so is Mizzou. Florida has struggled on the road, going winless in all three away contests this season while Missouri’s crowd has supplied visiting teams with a hostile environment. The Tigers are the hungrier team going into Saturday’s meeting, hoping to break a four-game losing streak while Florida is back on the losing side of the scoreboards.

The Gators defense exposed a lot of wrenches in the gears against a Quadrant 1 team like Tennessee and unless head coach Todd Golden cleaned it up since Tuesday, it could be a nail-biting loss in Columbia, Missouri.

Missouri 81, Florida 78

BPI Prediction

Using the Basketball Power Index, ESPN is giving the Florida Gators 58.3% odds to come out on top by a projected 2.3 points over the Tigers. The matchup quality earns an 83.7-point grade, putting it in the top quarter of the games being played on Saturday.

Florida basketball narrowly favored at Missouri Tigers by ESPN’s BPI

How to watch

Read more

Florida falls in NET rankings after road loss at Tennessee

Gators stand pat in Basketball Power Index rankings after Vols loss

KenPom rankings drop Gators a few spots after Tennessee defeat

Florida still outside of The Athletic’s bracketology after Tennessee loss

Florida out of ESPN bracketology picture following loss to Tennessee

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire