While No. 1 Florida Gators football prepares to close out its regular season against the in-state rival Florida State Seminoles on Saturday, three other UF teams want to set the stage for a week of Gators domination. It begins Tuesday night at 5 p.m., when the swimming & diving teams square off against FSU in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Natorium. The day’s events do not stop there as Florida basketball (3-0) takes on Florida State (3-0) immediately after the swimming & diving match-up at 7 p.m.
The 61st meeting between the two teams, Florida leads the all-time series 38-22 though Florida State has won three straight and four of the last five meetings. FSU won 57-55 last year in Tallahassee, FL with now-senior forward Ryan Reid scoring 13 points. Reid now has a chance to become the first Seminoles basketball player in school history to beat the Gators four straight times. “That would be a good thing,” Reid said. “But it’s just another opportunity to play basketball and also get a good win on the road. I’m not really trying to get caught up in beating them four years in row. We’re just going to try to go hard.”
In order to pull out a much needed victory against FSU, Florida must play physical. The Seminoles bring one of the biggest frontcourts in the nation into the O’Dome, led by center Solomon Patton (7’1” 251 lbs.). “They are probably going to be one of the biggest and longest teams we will have played against,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “We have some guys who can hopefully match up. We don’t have anybody the size of those guys or the length of those guys, but neither do most teams in the country so it’s not like we’re drastically undersized playing against them.”
For Florida State, the key will be scoring on the gators defense, which has carried it to three straight wins so far this season. Florida is holding its opponents to just 51.0 points per game and held its first two opponents under 50 points for the first time since the 1949-50 season. The Gators finished 18-2 at home last season and are 72-8 in the House of Horrors over the past five years. This is good for second in the nation behind the Memphis Tigers (77 wins).
The Seminoles return three starters from last year’s team that advanced to the first round of the NCAA Tournament. FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton was named ACC Coach of the Year and has a chance to improve his team to 4-0 on the 2009 season.
Junior forwards Alex Tyus (sprained ankle) and Chandler Parsons (hip flexor) are expected to play Tuesday night, though Donovan said Parsons does have a chance of being held out on a game-time decision. Parsons has been the spark the Gators needed off the bench this season, averaging 14.3 points and a team-high 8.3 rebounds.