Gators take on No. 2 Spartans in Legends Classic

By Adam Silverstein
November 27, 2009

Facing their toughest test on the court since the 2006-2007 season, the Florida Gators basketball team (4-0) will take on the No. 2/2 Michigan State Spartans (4-0) in the opening game of the 2009 Legends Classic on Friday at 8 p.m. in Atlantic City, NJ. Florida will then face either the UMass Minutemen or Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday at either 5:30 p.m. or 8 p.m.

This is the sixth meeting between the Gators and Spartans, with Michigan State holding a 3-2 lead in the series. The Spartans won the last meeting 68-56 in Tampa in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament and also defeated the Gators 89-76 in the 2000 National Championship. Florida head coach Billy Donovan and Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo are contemporaries, having known each other since the early 1990s.

Much more on the Florida vs. Michigan State game as well as some notes on women’s basketball and volleyball after the jump…

“I’ve got great respect for Tom,” Donovan said. “We’ve always had a very good relationship. We became head coaches right about the same time. When I was an assistant at Kentucky and he was an assistant at Michigan State, we saw each other a lot on the road, and certainly he’s done a terrific job there at Michigan State.”

Since then, both have had their share of success. Donovan won back-to-back National Championships in 2005-06 and 2006-07 while Izzo won one against Donovan (1999-2000), was a runner up in 2008-09 and made the Final Four on another occasion (2004-05). However, their teams are vastly different as Izzo returns three starters from last year’s squad that went 31-7 and won the Big Ten title while Donovan has not taken his team to March Madness since its last championship. Izzo thinks better days are coming for Donovan and the Gators.

The 2009 Gators team is all about defense, having held its four opponents to just 32.6 percent from the floor and 17.8 percent from three-point range. Opponents have made only eight more field goals (75) than they have committed turnovers (67) on the season. Florida is also out-rebounding opponents by +8.8 boards per game. Junior forward Chandler Parsons is one of the brightest stars for the Gators. He is second on the team in scoring with 13 points per game and is the leading rebounder with eight boards per game, all while coming off the bench as the sixth man.

Should Florida end up facing Rutgers on Saturday, the team will be playing Jonathan Mitchell, a former member of the team who transferred out of Gainesville, FL, after his sophomore season. “I’m hoping to be able to show Coach Donovan something that he lost out on,” Mitchell said.

Also on the docket Friday, the Florida women’s basketball team (2-2) will take on the St. John’s Red Storm (3-0) in the FIU Thanksgiving Classic at 7 p.m. in Miami, FL. But first, the No. 15/15 volleyball team (21-5, 15-4 SEC) play host to the South Carolina Gamecocks (14-15, 5-14 SEC) at 4 p.m. in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Head coach Mary Wise looks for her 600th career win in the match, which is the first of a two-game weekend series. The Gators will face the No. 25 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

One Comment

  1. Mr2Bits says:

    Nice work on the win tonight, definitely an unexpected treat.

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