Jacksonville, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Sunshine State foes are set to do battle at Veterans Memorial Arena on Monday night, as the Jacksonville Dolphins play host to the Florida Gators.
The Gators had one slip-up on the young season in a road bout against fellow nationally-ranked squad Wisconsin, but other than that they have been as advertised with wins in four of their first five games. They just wrapped up an undefeated three-game homestand last Thursday with a convincing 79-59 triumph over Middle Tennessee.
Jacksonville has been an inconsistent squad in the early going, as it has won both of its home games while dropping all three road matchups. The Dolphins tipped off a three-game homestand on Saturday with a 76-72 triumph over Florida A&M, and while this matchup is certainly daunting, they get to play six of their next eight at home.
Florida has owned the all-time series with Jacksonville by winning 29 of the 34 previous matchups, including all eight bouts at Veterans Memorial Arena.
After shooting just 36 percent in the first half of its latest game, Florida improved to a lofty 64 percent after intermission as it cruised to a 20-point victory over Middle Tennessee. Six players scored in double figures in the balanced output, led by Patric Young's 16 points. Dorian Finny-Smith came off the bench to net 14, Michael Frazier scored 13, Casey Prather poured in 11 and Will Yeguete and DeVon Walker added 10 points apiece.
On the season, the Gators are shooting greater than 45 percent from the field for 72.4 points per game, but where they really stand out from most teams is how well they play defense. They are holding foes to just 40.2 percent shooting and 59.2 points per game while forcing more than 15 turnovers per tilt. Prather has been the standout performer with 17.6 points per game on nearly 60 percent field goal shooting to go with 6.2 rebounds per game. Frazier (13.4 ppg), Finney-Smith (13.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Kasey Hill (10.3 ppg) are also called upon for regular contributions.
Jacksonville led its latest game by as many as 10 points with under seven minutes to play, and while it saw that advantage disappear down the stretch as Florida A&M tied the game with 21 seconds remaining, Vince Martin was fouled with just three seconds left and drained a pair of free throws to lift it to victory. Three of its four leading scorers came in off the bench, as Marcel White (16 points), Tyler Alderman (13 points, six rebounds) and Sam Hunt (10 points) were all stellar in a reserve role, while starter Jarvis Haywood stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
The Dolphins have established themselves as a potent scoring team with 81.0 points per game, but the only problem is that they yield even more (82.4 ppg). Haywood (15.3 ppg) is off to a strong start from the field (.523), while Keith McDougald (12.0 ppg) and Vince Martin (10.8 ppg, 4.8 apg) are also integral pieces of the puzzle. The team has a deep bench, with six others scoring at least 7.0 points per game.