Florida-Alabama Preview

The Associated Press

Coming off back-to-back defeats for the first time in almost two years, Florida could find getting back on track in Tuscaloosa all the more difficult with its top two reserves sidelined.

While Alabama will again be without its top two leading scorers, it should be getting a couple of key pieces back for Tuesday night's SEC showdown against the 14th-ranked Gators.

After getting blown out 78-58 at No. 1 Kentucky last Tuesday, Florida (19-6, 7-3) saw its 19-game home winning streak end with Saturday's 75-70 loss to Tennessee.

"I think these are the experiences where you get kind of hardened a little bit and our team needs to be hardened a little bit," coach Billy Donovan said. "We need to be more battle-tested, battle-weary, so to speak."

Saturday's loss also came at a cost. Third on the team with 6.1 rebounds per game, forward Will Yeguete suffered his second concussion of the season and will likely sit out through Saturday's matchup at Arkansas.

With starting big man Patric Young continuing to play with a sore ankle, Donovan is more than a bit concerned about his frontcourt situation.

"Dire is probably a pretty good word," Donovan said. "We're going to have to do some different things both offensively and defensively. There is a tremendous void for us defensively at the basket. ... We're going to have to do things about our energy (and) our passion."

While they might normally have had their hands full with the Crimson Tide (16-8, 5-5) down low, the Gators won't have to worry about trying to contain forwards JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell. Green and Mitchell, who will be held out for a second and third straight game, respectively, due to suspension, are averaging a combined 27.2 points and 14.2 rebounds.

Guards Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele, who along with Green were suspended just hours before Saturday's 67-58 loss at LSU, are most likely to return Tuesday according to coach Anthony Grant. Releford is third on the team with 12.4 points per game while Steele is averaging 5.8.

"The main thing right now for our guys to understand is the importance of making good decisions and understanding the consequences when you make poor decisions and then moving on from that and learning from that," Grant said. "So we're dealing with that. It's disappointing and unfortunate that we have to deal with this in the middle of the season.

"It is what it is, so right now as a team we have to focus on the things we can control, and we have a very challenging game here against a very talented opponent in Florida. We have to get ready to play the game."

Second in the conference with 56.9 points per game surrendered at home, the Crimson Tide have won 10 of 12 at Coleman Coliseum.

The Gators have gone 2-5 on the road while averaging 68.9 points compared to 81.4 at home. Florida, however, has taken three of the last four meetings at Alabama and 14 of 17 in the series overall.

In addition to Yeguete's absence, the Gators will be without injured guard Mike Rosario - averaging 7.9 points - for the fifth consecutive game.

While the injuries continue to pile up, Florida knows it needs to pick up the pace.

"Where we're going we might be in the NIT if we don't just turn around right now," freshman Bradley Beal said. "If that didn't fit into our minds and really stick in our minds, then I don't know what's going to happen. We really have to turn around, and I think we'll do that."

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