No. 3 Florida-Texas A&M preview: Bouncing back

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 4:00 p.m. EST

TV: SEC Network (Joe Davis, Joe Dean) [Affiliates]
SiriusXM: 113/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(3) FLORIDA GATORS TEXAS A&M AGGIES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Billy Kennedy
Record: 18-2 (7-0 SEC) Record: 12-8 (3-4 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -17.5 | O/U: OFF

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is 3-1 all-time against Texas A&M with a 2-0 record under Donovan. The Aggies are visiting Gainesville for just the second time – first as a member of the SEC – and last fell to the Gators at home by a score of 73-46 on Jan. 2, 1992.
» UF is currently riding a school-record 26-game home winning streak (third longest in the nation) with 12 wins in a row against SEC opponents in the O’Dome.
» The Gators have opened league play with a 7-0 record for just the fourth time under Donovan. The school record for best SEC start is 11-0, set in 2007.
» Florida is on a 12-game winning streak and has won 17 of its last 18 games.
» The Gators are 70-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» Florida is 8-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. UF is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» The Gators defeated top-15 teams in consecutive games for the fourth time in program history and first time ever in non-conference regular season play.
» Florida is 2-2 against ranked opponents this season with both losses coming in true road games and the victories occurring in a home contest and neutral-site game.
» The Gators are 5-2 in true road games this season.
» This is the second-straight Thursday-Saturday turnaround for Florida. UF’s senior class is now 12-1 overall in its last six Thursday-Saturday situations (counting last Thursday’s win) and can sweep its sixth-straight instance of playing two games in that three-day period with a victory on Saturday.


GATORS LOOKING TO BOUNCE BACK, PLAY BETTER AT HOME

Simply put, Florida did not look like a championship-caliber team on Thursday night. Yes, UF took down Mississippi State 62-51, outscoring its road hosts by 10 in the second half and holding MSU to 25 points in the final 20 minutes, but that finish was the result of the better team finally asserting itself when it mattered the most.

The Gators only had two players score in double-digits on Thursday and were a late stretch of three-straight made treys away from posting some poor shooting numbers. Florida finished 6-of-20 (.300) from beyond the arc and missed more free throws than it made, going 8-for-19 (.421) from the charity stripe.

Luckily for the Gators, which also saw a lot of easy layups miss their mark early in the contest, their defense stepped up in the second half to close the door on the Bulldogs.

“When you’re in a competitive situation, a competitive environment, there’s going to be breakdowns, there’s going to be mistakes,” said Donovan on Friday. “I just thought we had too many of them in terms of what we normally have done in the past. There’s areas for us to grow and get better from that. I thought our intensity was fine. I felt like our guys came out ready to play. … We had some breakdowns defensively. … Wish we could have closed the [first] half a little better.”

He continued: “It was one of those games on the road where we didn’t make maybe the number of shots we had a chance to, [and] we missed a lot of baskets in and around the rim. And I thought the same thing for them – they missed a lot of layups and shots inside the paint at point-blank range. So it was really, I think, both teams were affected. But I thought our defense, as the game wore on, got better and better, and we obviously I think held them … in the second half, which was a good job by us.”

Texas A&M enters Saturday’s game on a four-game losing streak. The Aggies will also be playing their fourth road game in its last five contests. Donovan thinks Florida will be challenged, noting that the Gators must continue to play with a high level of intensity.

“I think they’re a very good team. They have a lot of different pieces,” he said. “This league is difficult and challenging. You go on the road to play [and] it’s very, very difficult. To their credit, they got a big win at Tennessee. They beat Arkansas at home. And they’ve had some really good, quality wins throughout the course of the season. So this has been, my opinion, they’re a very good, talented basketball team.”

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