The top two teams in the SEC clash at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Saturday, as the fourth-ranked Florida Gators put a lengthy win streak on the line against the 16th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels.
Billy Donovan's Gators continue to climb the polls thanks to stellar defensive play. Florida was at it again on Wednesday with a 75-36 rout of South Carolina. The win was the ninth straight for the Gators, who moved to 7-0 in the SEC and 9-0 at home this year.
Andy Kennedy's Rebels are one of the real surprises in the 2012-13 season. Ole Miss is an impressive 17-3 on the season and has really played well on the road, winning five of six true road tilts. However, Ole Miss did have its own nine-game win streak halted on Tuesday in an 87-74 loss to defending national champion Kentucky. The loss was the first in SEC play for the Rebels, who sit a game behind the Gators in the conference standings at 6-1.
Florida holds a 60-42 advantage in the all-time series, including wins in four straight and 10 of the last 11 meetings, overall. The Gators have also won six straight matchups with the Rebels in Gainesville.
Ole Miss boasts of a +14.9 scoring margin and has played extremely well on both ends of the floor, averaging 80.0 ppg, while limiting foes to just 65.1 ppg, on .392 shooting, including a mere .279 from behind the arc. The team is led at the offensive end by Marshall Henderson, who despite shooting just .380 from the floor, leads the SEC in scoring at 19.3 ppg. Murphy Holloway is the only other Rebel currently averaging double digits at 14.6 ppg, but Reginald Buckner and Nick Williams aren't far off the mark at 9.7 and 9.4 ppg, respectively. Holloway has also found great success on the boards, leading the conference with 10.3 rebounds per game. Buckner is another contributor on the glass, hauling in 8.0 rpg.
The Rebels got 22 points from La Darius White and 21 from Henderson, but it wasn't enough to keep their perfect conference mark intact. Ole Miss was down huge with about 10 minutes remaining, but cut a 17-point lead down to a single points before falling to the Wildcats. Holloway and Jarvis Summers joined White and Henderson in double figures with 10 points apiece.
The Gators may be averaging a modest 73.8 ppg on the year, but the team shoots the ball efficiently at .495 from the floor, including .392 from behind the arc. The team is also enjoying a +8.9 rebounding margin and is averaging 15.1 apg. Florida's strength though, is at the defensive end, as the team ranks third nationally in scoring defense at a meager 51.2 ppg and fifth in field- goal percentage defense (.359). Scoring depth is apparent with four of the team's five starters averaging double figures, led by Kenny Boynton's 13.6 ppg. Erik Murphy is next in line at 12.6 ppg, while Mike Rosario and Patric Young come in at 11.9 and 11.0 ppg, respectively.
The Gators held the Gamecocks to a mere 36 points, the lowest scoring total the team has yielded in the shot-clock era. The game was put out or reach early on, as Florida limited South Carolina to just 10 first half points, and took a 23-point lead into intermission. Meanwhile, Florida shot .528 from the floor in the game, including 12-of-21 from behind the arc. Boynton and Rosario led the way with 15 points each. Michael Frazier II was instrumental off the bench, with 12 points.