Florida St.-Florida Preview

The Associated Press

One of the nation's highest-scoring teams, Florida certainly has no issues getting out and running, while Florida State would prefer a more deliberate pace.

That slower tempo dominated the last two times the area rivals met - but it didn't help the Seminoles.

The 11th-ranked Gators try to stay perfect in Gainesville on Thursday night as they look for their third straight win over Florida State, which hasn't fared well away from Tallahassee.

Florida (9-2) is averaging 86.1 points to rank near the top of Division I, with a large chunk of that scoring coming from the 11.2 3-pointers per game the Gators make - most in the nation.

The backcourt trio of Erving Walker, Bradley Beal and Kenny Boynton hit three apiece in an 82-54 rout of Mississippi Valley State on Monday. Five of those 3s came during a game-opening 33-8 run that pleased coach Billy Donovan, who made his players run sprints after they looked sluggish in layup lines.

"The strength coach just said we were being lackadaisical and that we always start off halves bad so he wanted to try something new," said Walker, who finished with a game-high 19 points as Florida improved to 5-0 in Gainesville.

The Gators' pace and perimeter acumen - they're shooting 40.3 percent from beyond the arc - could get a serious test from Florida State (8-3), which is once again getting by on outstanding defense.

The Seminoles led the nation in field-goal percentage defense at 36.3 last season and are right near the top again, holding opponents to 34.2 percent - including 25.8 percent on 3s.

Florida State frustrated the Gators from 3-point range the last time it visited Gainesville, holding Florida to a 5-of-17 effort, but committed 23 turnovers and lost 68-52 on Nov. 24, 2009.

The Seminoles limited Florida to 16 of 42 (38.1 percent) shooting overall Nov. 28, 2010, in Tallahassee, but the Gators knocked down 17 free throws to Florida State's six in a 55-51 win.

"They played us all zone and they don't do that very often," Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said after last season's meeting. "They were a lot more aggressive attacking the basket. We didn't attack."

Florida State attacked the glass in its latest game, outrebounding Loyola Marymount 49-32 in a 77-61 win Sunday. Bernard James led the way with 17 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.

The Seminoles have won their seven home games by an average of 20.7 points, but they're 1-3 outside of Tallahassee, averaging 59.7 points and shooting 38.5 percent.

To have a chance to knock off the Gators, they'll likely need Michael Snaer to shoot better than he has recently. The junior guard, Florida State's leading scorer at 13.2 points per game, has made 36.5 percent from the field over his past five contests.

Hamilton would certainly settle for a similar performance to what Snaer provided against Florida last season. He came off the bench to go 5 of 6 from beyond the arc, and in his coach's words, "brought us back (from 13 points down) basically by himself."

As long as the Seminoles can limit Walker's productivity, though, they could at least find themselves in a close contest. In Florida's three games decided by single digits - two losses and an overtime win - Walker has been held to 11.7 points and 28.6 percent shooting per game.

Walker has averaged 8.0 points and shot 30.0 percent in three contests against Florida State.

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