The 13th-ranked Florida Gators close out a three-game road swing on Sunday when they face off against the Yale Bulldogs at the John J. Lee Amphitheater in New Haven.
Florida proved why it is one of the nation's top teams early this season by winning each of its first seven games, but it has stumbled in recent weeks against a pair of very good teams. The Gators lost two of three a few weeks back on the road against nationally-ranked foe Arizona (65-64) and Kansas State (67-61), but they were able to get back on the winning track last Saturday, downing Air Force, 78-61.
Yale's season has been a struggle from the very start, as it has lost twice as many games as it has won and has yet to win back-to-back tilts at any point, although it is coming off a road win on Friday at Holy Cross, 61-54. The Bulldogs have been able to win two of three on their home floor, but those triumphs came against much inferior teams in Army (86-83 in 2OT) and Albertus Magnus (112-63).
The teams met for the first time on Dec. 31, 2011, with the Gators coming away with a convincing 90-70 victory.
The Gators have had plenty of success shooting the ball this season, as they connect on 47.3 percent of their field goal attempts for nearly 73 ppg, but the biggest reason for their success has been their stout effort on the defensive end of the floor. They rank fourth in the nation in scoring defense (52.2 ppg), having held six of their 11 opponents to 50 points or less, while having yet to allow a team to net 70 against them. The effort was stingy yet again in the 17-point win the last time out, as Florida outshot Air Force from the floor, 53.8 percent to 40.4 percent. Erik Murphy was nearly perfect from the field (8-of-10) on his way to 21 points, while adding seven rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. Kenny Boynton added 14 points on 3-of-7 from 3- point range, while Patric Young chipped in 13 points. The Gators typically implore a balanced effort offensively, with eight players averaging at least 6.1 ppg. Boynton leads the way with 12.5 ppg, but he does so on just 36.3 percent from the field. Murphy (12.1 ppg) has been much more efficient at 57.3 percent, while Mike Rosario (11.6 ppg) and Young (11.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.0 bpg) round out the double-digit scorers.
Conversely, Yale has not been especially strong on either end of the floor, shooting only 40 percent from the field for 64.8 ppg, good for a scoring margin of minus-3.5. It was able to shine on the defensive end against Holy Cross however, forcing more turnovers (23) than field goals made (19). The relentless attack in the turnover battle helped mask a poor shooting night for the Bulldogs (.322), but Armani Cotton was able to rise above his teammates' mediocrity by tallying a double-double from off the bench with 20 points and 12 rebounds (both career-highs), shooting 5-of-7 from the floor and a perfect 10-of-10 from the foul line. Typically, it is Austin Morgan (12.1 ppg) who does most of the heavy lifting for Yale. Although he makes just 35 percent of his field goal attempts, he connects on 2.2 treys per game and makes just shy of 90 percent of his free-throw tries. Justin Sears has been solid in the frontcourt, averaging 10.5 ppg and 6.6 rpg.