Florida vs. No. 20 Missouri
* When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
* Where: Exactech Arena/O’Connell Center / Gainesville, Fla.
* Records: Florida (9-7, 2-2) / Missouri (13-3, 2-2)
* TV: SEC Network (Mike Morgan and Daymeon Fishback)
* Radio: Gator Sports Network from LEARFIELD (Sean Kelley and Lee Humphrey)
|Florida||Position||Height / Weight||Class||Statistics|
|Alex Fudge||F||6-7 / 240||Sophomore||7.5 pts / 5.2 reb|
|Colin Castleton||F||6-11 / 231||5-Senior||14.9 pts / 7.4 reb / 3.1 blk|
|Will Richard||G||6-5 / 206||Sophomore||9.8 pts / 4.4 reb|
|Trey Bonham||G||6-0 / 170||Junior||9.5 pts / 2.8 reb|
|Kyle Lofton||G||6-3 / 188||5-Senior||9.1 pts / 2.4 reb / 3.3 ast|
|Missouri||Position||Height / Weight||Class||Statistics|
|Ronnie DeGray||F||6-6 / 225||Senior||2.4 pts / 1.8 reb|
|Kobe Brown||F||6-8 / 250||Senior||15.3 pts / 5.6 reb|
|Tre Gomillion||G||6-4 / 210||Junior||5.2 pts / 2.8 reb|
|D’Moi Hodge||G||6-4 / 188||Grad||15.5 pts / 3.9 reb|
|Nick Honor||G||5-10 / 200||Senior||9.6 pts / 1.9 reb / 3.6 ast|
Setup / Series / Last Meeting
Florida and 20th-ranked Missouri face off in an intriguing early season Southeastern Conference game between one of the best offensive teams in the country and one of the best defensive teams. … The Gators have won two straight, with the latest Tuesday night’s 67-56 road win at LSU, while the Tigers were undressed Wednesday in their road game at Texas A&M in an 82-64 loss that represented, by far, the team’s the most lopsided defeats of its three. … Make it two straight games pitting Florida’s first-year coach Todd Golden against another first-year coach, this time Dennis Gates, the longtime Florida State assistant who spent the last three seasons flipping Cleveland State from one of the worst programs in the country to a two-time postseeason team. Gates, like the last coach the Gators faced (LSU’s Matt McMahon) was reported to be on the short list of possible candidates for the Florida opening last March. … UF is searching for its first win over a ranked opponent this season (0-2), as well as a first win over an opponent ranked in the Top 50 of the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), the metric used to seed the NCAA Tournament. … The Gators lead the all-time series 8-4, with all 12 meetings coming since the Tigers joined the SEC for the 2012-13 athletic season. The last came Feb. 2, 2022, when UF snapped a two-game losing streak against UM in a crazy game at Columbia that was moved up six hours due to a wicked snow storm and played basically in an empty Mizzou Arena on a Wednesday afternoon. Fifth-year senior point guard Tyree Appleby dropped two free throws with 7.9 seconds to give the Gators a 66-65 victory, as Florida erased a nine-point deficit in the second half, despite making just six of 20 field goals, but hitting all 17 of their free throws over the final eight minutes and defending at a high level. Guard Myreon Jones scored 18 points, thanks to five first-half 3-pointers, while Appleby tallied all 17 of his points in the second half, including 10-for-10 from the free-throw line. … UF is 4-1 against Missouri at the O’Dome, with the lone loss coming in the Tigers’ last visit, a 72-70 defeat on March 3, 2021.
Tale of the Tape
|.402||Field-goal percentage defense||.447|
|.332||3-point percentage defense||.356|
|49th||KenPom.com overall ranking||52nd|
|94th||KenPom.com offensive efficiency||6th|
|22nd||KenPom.com defensive efficiency||200th|
|46th||KenPom.com adjusted tempo||31st|
|57th||NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) ranking||46th|
|21st||Overall strength of schedule ranking||104th|
After losing two in the final minutes to start the SEC season, the Gators have won two straight, fending off a late charge to beat Georgia last Saturday at home, then chasing that one with a feel-good road win at Baton Rouge, where the Gators trailed by five early in the second half and outplayed the Tigers, mostly behind a defense that held the home team to just 32.2 shooting from the
floor, including 0-for-11 from the 3-point line after the break. Defensively, Florida has limited the last six opponents to under 40 percent shooting, including a combined 37.1 percent versus four SEC foes to date. UF also forced 15 turnovers that led to 23 points last game. For a team that struggles mightily at times to put the ball in the basket (especially from 3), the Gators definitely have an area (defense) they know they can excel. That said, Missouri is one of the top offenses in the country (despite what happened Wednesday in College Station) and plays at a frenetic up-and-down pace that will challenge Florida’s transition defense that has vastly improved the last six weeks. … Forward Colin Castleton was held to just three field goals at LSU, but was the most dominant player on the floor. The Tigers opted (unlike almost every other opponent this season) to defend him with single coverage and Castleton made them pay by drawing 10 fouls that led to 12 of 15 makes from the free throw line. He finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and two assists. … UF’s ball movement against the Tigers was as good as its been all season, with the backcourt combination of fifth-years Kyle Lofton and backup Myreon Jones taking charge, both in the half court and transition opportunities, as the Gators shot 55 percent in the second half to seize control. Both players finished with eight points, but in nearly 62 combined minutes on the road totaled just two turnovers between them. … Backup wing Kowacie Reeves (10.2 ppg) was the only other Gator to finish in double-figure scoring (and the only other besides Castleton currenly averaging in doubles), with seven of his 11 points coming in a first half his team shot a woeful 28.6 percent. Reeves helped keep his team in the game, but still finished just 3-for-12 from the floor and one of eight from deep. Though one of the best shooters on the team, Reeves is just two of 22 from the arc in SEC play (9.1 percent). … Guard Will Richard, taking increased turns at the “4” spot for a second straight game, was limited to five points, but had five boards and played solid defense. … Forward Alex Fudge had seven points and three rebounds in his return to LSU, where he played as a freshman last season. … Guard Trey Bonham started his 11th straight game, but yielded the bulk of his minutes to Jones, the veteran. Bonham hit a first-half 3, but played just over a minute in the second half. … Freshman guard Riley Kugel (5.7 ppg) scored seven at LSU in nearly 19 minutes and hit his first 3-pointer since Dec. 7. In the last two games, Kugel has made six of 12 shots and played the best defense of his young career, as he continues to gain the staff’s confidence since his DNP at Auburn to open the league season late last month.
Gates was a hotshot assistant coach from 2011-19 at FSU and helped lure some of Leonard Hamilton’s best recruits to Tallahassee over eight seasons. In 2019, Gates got his first head job at Cleveland State, where he took over a program with four straight losing seasons and an entire roster that entered the transfer portal. Gates managed to keep a couple guys and go
11-21 his first season, then in Year 2 went 19-8, won the Horizon League regular-season title and conference tournament to claim only the third NCAA Tournament berth in program history. After guiding the Vikings to the NIT last year, Gates was a hot commodity during the 2022 coaching-search cycle and got plucked by the Tigers to replace Cuonzo Martin, who went 12-21 last season with a 5-13 mark in SEC play. … Gates used his first offseason to rebuild the Tigers almost entirely through the portal, fetching seven Division I transfers (including four of his Cleveland State guys), two junior college players and two freshman signees, and plays a more uptempo brand of basketball than his predecessor, with an emphasis on scoring fast. At No. 6, Mizzou is the top-rated offense in the SEC, by KenPom standards, 10 spots ahead of Alabama, but the Tigers, who opened the season with nine straight wins, are coming off their worst offensive performance in scoring a season-low 64 points and shooting just 36 percent (7-for-31 from 3, also) in the loss at A&M. … Only three holdovers from Martin are back, but one happens to the best player on the team in forward Kobe Brown, who is on track for a first-team All-SEC kind of season. Brown is shooting 57 percent from the floor and 43 from 3. Earlier this season, in back-to-back wins over Illinois and Kentucky, both ranked at the time, he scored 31 and 30, respectively. … Forward Ronnie DeGray is another Martin holdover, but came from Massachusetts two seasons ago. He’ll start, but eventually give way to 6-6, 235-pound senior Noah Carter (10.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg), who was also one of the first portal players Golden sought last spring after he helped lead Northern Iowa to the Missouri Valley Conference title. … Guard D’Moi Hodge was the best of Gates’ Cleveland State tag-alongs. He was two-time Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year, leads the team in scoring and is making 50 percent overall and 40 from deep. Hodge has 44 steals (2.8 per game), tops in the SEC, so the Gators need to beware his hands in the passing lanes. Guard Tre Gomillion is the other former Viking starting for the Tigers. He passes well and defends. … Point guard Nick Honor came from Clemson and 6-5 backup guard DeAndre Gholston (10.8 ppg, third on the team) from Milwaukee. He had five points and two rebounds in UF’s 81-45 win over UWM on Nov. 18, 2021 at the O’Dome. … Backup point guard Sean East II (8.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg) started his career at Bradley, then transferred to John A. Logan College in Illinois, where he was the national junior college player of the year in 2022.
Numbers of Note
* 5.0 — Castleton’s blocks per game in SEC play, which leads the league.
* 6th — Where Florida, despite playing terrific defense through four SEC games, ranks in overall defensive efficiency in conference play. Though the Gators are No. 22 in that category, these league teams are better: Tennessee (1st), Alabama (10th), Mississippi State (11th), Arkansas (14th) and Auburn (21st). Guys guard in this conference.
* plus-21 — Kugel’s plus/minus ratio in the first SEC road game of his career, the best by any Gator at LSU (Castleton was next at plus-16).
* 83.9 — Career free-throw percentage for Appleby, who sank all 10 of his free throws to beat the Tigers in Columbia last season, and exited his UF career ranked fifth all-time (based on on a minimum 140 attempts) behind KeVaughn Allen (.878), Anthony Roberson (.864), Taurean Green (.856) and Michael Frazier II (.854).
* 2013 — The first year the Gators and Tigers played in men’s basketball. UF was ranked 10th and Mizzou came to Gainesville ranked 17th. The Gators absolutely vaporized the Tigers, 83-52, with junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin leading his team with 13 points, equaling his career high of 10 assists and harassing Mizzou counterpart Phil Pressey, the league’s preseason SEC Player of the Year, into a 1-for-7 shooting afternoon and a career-worst 10 turnovers.
The Gators are looking for first three-game winning streak of the season (and first since winning four straight from Jan. 29 to Feb. 9 in ’21-22).