Athens, GA – The eighth-ranked Florida Gators put their flawless SEC record on the line on Wednesday as they take on the Georgia Bulldogs at Stegeman Coliseum.
The Gators are peaking, with a six-game win streak in tow. Florida is coming off its most impressive win of the season, an 83-52 rout of nationally-ranked Missouri this past weekend, giving head coach Billy Donovan his 400th victory at Florida. He is now one of just three coaches to have amassed 400 wins at an SEC school, joining Adolph Rupp (Kentucky) and Dale Brown (LSU).
Mark Fox's Bulldogs have certainly struggled this season, coming in with a mere 7-10 overall record. The team opened league play with three straight losses, but ended that skein with Saturday's 67-58 win over LSU. All seven of Georgia's wins have come at home this season.
Florida, which has won 16 of the last 19 meetings with Georgia to take a 107-97 lead all-time, is seeking the regular-season sweep after posting a 77-44 lopsided victory in Gainesville on Jan. 9 in the SEC opener for both squads.
The Gators dominated play in the paint, outscoring Missouri 48-14 down low in rout of the Tigers this past weekend. Erik Murphy led four players in double figures for Florida with 15 points. Kenny Boynton added 14, followed by Scottie Wilbekin and Will Yeguete with 13 points apiece. Wilbekin recorded his first career double-double with 10 rebounds. Due to the inside dominance, Florida shot a sterling .593 from the floor in the game and held a 35-25 edge in rebounding.
The Gators' strength is defensive tenacity. Florida ranks third in the country in scoring defense, limiting foes to a meager 51.7 ppg, while allowing them to shoot .361 from the floor (fifth nationally). The team has also benefited from efficient shooting, knocking down just under 50 percent of its own shots (.491). There is scoring depth with four of the five starters averaging double figures, led by Boynton's 13.3 ppg. Mike Rosario and Murphy are next at 12.5 ppg each, while Patric Young chips in 11.4 ppg, also leading the team on the boards (6.5 rpg).
Georgia has played strong defense as well this season, with opponents managing a mere 62.8 ppg on just .404 shooting. However, the Bulldogs have had their own problems generating offense, averaging just 60.1 ppg. While Florida boasts of several scoring threats, Georgia has just one in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is netting a respectable 17.1 ppg to rank fourth in the SEC. A 6-foot-5 sophomore guard, Caldwell-Pope is also the team's top rebounder (6.2 rpg). Fellow sophomore Nemanja Djurisic (6-foot-8) is a distant second in the scoring column at just 8.1 ppg.
The Bulldogs used a strong defensive effort against LSU to finally break into the SEC win column, forcing the Tigers into 21 turnovers and holding them to just 36 percent shooting. Caldwell-Pope went 7-of-14 from the floor and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line to tally a game-high 22 points. Donte' Williams joined Caldwell-Pope in double figures with 14 points.