Gators' Defense Stymies Kentucky in Gainesville
Fresh off its convincing win over No. 25 Kentucky, the No. 7 Florida Gators seem to have regained their momentum and remain the team to beat atop the SEC.
But does a Tiger trap await them at the Auburn Arena against the Auburn Tigers ?
For the Gators, the SEC matchup on Saturday has all the ingredients of a classic trap game.
In defeating Kentucky earlier this week (69-52), the Gators earned their most important win of the season. They face another huge test on Tuesday when they play a tough Missouri team on the road in a nationally televised contest. Missouri will be seeking to avenge their blowout loss to Florida (52-83) earlier this year.
Sandwiched in between these quality opponents are the struggling Auburn Tigers (9-15, 3-8), who would like nothing better than to turn their season around with a home court victory over Florida. Auburn, has lost eight of its last nine conference games after beginning the SEC season 2-0.
On paper, it doesn't seem like a much of a contest for the Gators. With the exception of its one conference loss at Arkansas, Florida has dominated each of its SEC opponents with double digit victories.
While Saturday's game does have all the trappings for a potential upset, the Gators have a lot working in their favor.
Since losing on the road to Arkansas on February 5, the Gators have put together back to back impressive wins against Mississippi State and Kentucky. Perhaps most important, they appear to have overcome the loss of reserve forward Will Yeguete, who is out for the regular season after aggravating a knee injury in the Arkansas game.
In Yeguete's absence, the Gators have gotten strong play from forward Casey Prather, who is also coming off an injury. Prather has scored 12 points in each of the past two games and has stepped up defensively while providing valuable minutes off the bench.
It would seem that Florida's road loss to Arkansas could also work to the Gators' advantage in preparing for Auburn. This veteran team appears to be focused on more than just an SEC title and shouldn't need another wake up call from a team with less talent on its roster.
The Gators continue to win with balanced scoring and a suffocating defense. Four of the five starters are averaging double figures while the fifth starter, guard Scottie Wilbekin is averaging 9.5 points per game according to Gator Zone. The Gators are led in scoring by senior guard Kenny Boynton at 12.9 points per game, followed by senior forward Erik Murphy at 12.8.
The Florida defense ranks fourth nationally in scoring defense according to NCAA.com.
Look for this mature Gator team and its veteran coach Billy Donovan to keep the momentum rolling by avoiding the upset and coming away from Auburn with yet another double digit SEC victory.