Georgia at Florida in Prime Time on ESPN2

The Georgia Bulldogs (18-8; 7-5) head to Gainesville on Thursday night for a rematch with the #13 Florida Gators, who beat the Dawgs in Athens earlier this season 104-91.  The first meeting between these two teams was one of the better college basketball games of the year, with Georgia coming from behind to send the game into overtime only to have Florida’s Erving Walker hit a three-pointer to force a second overtime.  The Gators were the only team interested in playing in the second overtime as they outscored the Dawgs 19-6 en route a big SEC road victory.

Florida (21-5; 10-2) is undoubtedly the best team in the conference this year, and they are currently riding a five-game winning streak.  The Gators, however, could be playing once again without their preseason All-SEC Second-Team forward Chandler Parsons.  Parsons sustained a deep thigh bruise in Florida’s win over Tennessee on February 12th, forcing him to sit out the second half of that game as well as the LSU game last Sunday – a game that the Gators won 68-61.

Florida coach Billy Donovan did not sound positive about whether or not his star forward would play during Monday’s press conference.

“Right now, I’m not personally, overly optimistic that he’ll play,” coach Billy Donovan said. “I think in his mind, he’d like to try to play. … The last time he did anything physically was this past Friday and he couldn’t do much at all.  We’ll prepare for the game without him and if he plays, it’s a bonus.”

Georgia coach Mark Fox didn’t seem to be buying it though, saying that the Dawgs would “prepare like he is going to play”.

Whether Parsons plays or not remains to be seen, but either way this game is still a difficult road test for a Georgia team that has not won a game in Gainesville in nine years.

That being said, this year’s Bulldogs squad seems to prefer life on the road.  Following the Dawgs’ huge win last Saturday in Knoxville over Tennessee, Georgia now holds an 7-2 record in true road games on the season, and they are 4-2 in SEC games played away from Athens.

In the first game between these teams, the Dawgs did not have an answer for Florida’s dynamic guard tandem of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton.  Walker and Boynton scored 24 points apiece, and they shot a combined 24 free throws (connecting on 20 of them).  Both guards used a plethora of high screens to get themselves into the paint where they were able to create at will.  Georgia’s bigs must do a better job of stopping penetration off the pick-and-roll, and making it more difficult for Walker and Boynton to get into the lane.

Florida center Vernon Macklin, who is a load inside at 6’10” and 245 pounds, is having a solid senior season for Coach Donovan, averaging 12.7 ppg and shooting over 57% from the field in conference play.  Macklin shot 10 of 15 from the floor and scored 23 points in the game in Athens, his highest scoring output in an SEC game this season.  With the way Trey Thompkins has been defending lately – 15 blocks in his last six games – I would not be at all surprised to see Coach Fox put him on Florida’s big center (and move either Jeremy Price or Chris Barnes on to Alex Tyus).

Though Trey has been playing some inspired defense lately, he has struggled to find offense since the first game against the Gators (the last time he went for 20 points or more).  In the seven games since the Florida one, Thompkins is shooting just 37.3% from the floor and averaging only 12.3 points.  Despite Trey’s offensive woes, the Dawgs have gone 4-3 in this same span of games.  Imagine how dangerous Georgia would be if Thompkins could get his shot going again?

Georgia has two home games left this year on their conference slate – South Carolina and LSU.  If they win those (as they should), they’ll finish with a winning SEC record and will most likely earn an at-large berth into this year’s NCAA tournament.

That means, in a way, that the pressure is off for the game on Thursday (another perk from the win against the Vols).  Mark Fox’s team should play as if they have nothing to lose, and treat this game as a bonus opportunity to upset a conference rival on their home court (and to possibly improve their NCAA seeding – last “Bracketology” had the Dawgs as a 10-seed).

The Gators are 12-3 this year in Gainesville, and again, they haven’t lost one to Georgia in the Oconnell Center in 9 years.

Georgia’s victory in Knoxville last Saturday was their first at Tennessee in over a decade.

It might be time for the Dawgs to end another streak.

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9 thoughts on “Georgia at Florida in Prime Time on ESPN2

  1. The Gators are definitely the best team in the SEC and they have been underrated nationally all season (and still are underrated at #13).

    But Florida does not have as much to play for here as the Dawgs do. Without Parsons I like Georgia’s chances. If we can defend the pick and roll as you mentioned and not allow offensive rebounds Georgia can win.

    Win this and we could shoot up to a 6 or 7 seed by tourney time.

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  2. I’m loving the roll the Dawgs are on now… playing with confidence. Could see a sweep of the final games and a few wins until they meet Florida again the SEC Tourney. The first half defense is astounding of late, but they’ll have to overcome the run UF will make in the 2nd half. Trey will get closer to 20 than 10, and it will start with a nationally televised slam dunk by Leslie at about the 10-minute mark. Come on Dawgs… shock the SEC-Hoops World! Woof-woof!

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  3. Aren’t we also still playing for a bye in the SEC Tourney? Still a lot to be determined in the next week and a half. (Probably a pipe dream but even with their big lead in the division, the Gators better be careful. Their winning the East is not a foregone conclusion at this point – they play UGA, at Kentucky, Bama, and at Vandy.)

    All I really want right now though is a W in Gainseville. Go Dawgs!

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    1. With Vandy’s collapse in Nashville last night, the #2 East seed and accompanying bye are definitely up for grabs. Gainesville is a tough place to play but so are Knoxville and Oxford.

      I agree that the pressure is now off the team with the win on Sat. With or without Parsons, I think the Dawgs have the confidence to win the game. Beat Flori-DUH.

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      1. Making the tournament would be fantastic, obviously, but to the extent that he looks ahead I hope CMF has the team focused on SEC tournament seeding. From the first week of January through the second week of March, the only goal is a conference championship. Worry about the Dance before and after.

        Go Dawgs!

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    2. East #2 looks like the best seed in the SEC tournament. Right now the East 2 would get a bye and then play either S Carolina or Missy St. East 1 would probably have to play Kentucky or Tennessee in their first game.

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  4. Parsons will play and play a lot, bank on it- he absolutely killed us in Athens especially in overtime. He is too quick for Leslie, and too tall for Leslie- If we can win the battle of the boards, I like our chances- just amazing to me how the Vols controlled the glass against Vandy the other night and how Vandy dominated us last week. A win tonight and first is not out of the question- the Gators still have @Uk, Alabama at home , and @Vandy- A loss tonight and we could still finish 5th- a big game to say the least.

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