This game matches up an apprentice with his former master, as Alabama's head coach Anthony Grant spent 12 seasons learning from Billy Donovan at Marshall and Florida. Alabama holds a 78-53 lead in the rivalry. Grant has yet to beat the Gators.
Florida is on its first two-game losing streak of the season after falling against Kentucky and Tennessee in its last two outings. Donovan's team is still 19-6 overall and second in the SEC with a 7-3 mark in league action. The loss on Saturday was the second to the Volunteers this season. The Gators can only blame themselves for the loss, as they missed nine free throws (19-28) and committed 15 turnovers in the contest. Florida is still one of the most feared teams in the nation, as the Gators are netting 78.8 ppg. Opponents have averaged 65.9 ppg on 42.6 percent shooting from the field on the Gators.
The Gators come into the game with all five starters carrying double-digit scoring averages. Kenny Boynton leads the charge with 17.5 ppg on 47.2 percent shooting from the floor. Freshman guard Bradley Beal is second on the team in both scoring (14.4) and rebounding (6.2). Patric Young does a good job in the middle and Erving Walker runs the show from the point position. Donovan was missing Mike Rosario (hip pointer) against Tennessee, and will be without Scottie Wilbekin (concussion) tonight against the Crimson Tide.
Anthony Grant made a bold move and suspended four starters for the team's last contest, which resulted in a 67-58 loss to LSU. Of the four players suspended for violation of team rules, Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele are expected to return, while Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green remain suspended indefinitely. While Alabama is considered on the bubble, a win over the Gators would be a huge step towards the postseason. Without Green and Mitchell, the team's top two rebounders, the Crimson Tide will need a breakout performance from one of their reserves on the glass tonight.
Releford is the top scorer expected to see the floor tonight, as he averages 12.4 ppg. The sophomore point guard also leads the team in steals (2.2) and assists (3.1). Alabama started four freshman and seldom used junior Ben Eblen against LSU. The highest scorer of group was Trevor Lacy, who contributes 6.6 ppg. Rodney Cooper took advantage of the opportunity and exploded for career- highs of 28 points and five steals.