With No. 4/5 Florida Gators basketball (21-3, 11-1 SEC) set to begin a challenging week of action including a road game at Missouri and a home contest against Arkansas on Saturday, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Monday to provide updates on his team heading into its next two games.
MISSOURI: A DIFFERENT TEAM AT HOME
Florida trounced Missouri 83-52 back on Jan. 19 in Gainesville, FL, but the Gators had plenty of things working for them that day. Not only was the home crowd as loud and rowdy as it had been in recent memory, the Tigers took the court without their best player as forward Laurence Bowers was sidelined with a knee injury. Donovan explained that Bowers being back in the fold makes Mizzou a completely different team.
“[He’s] a guy that has been referenced by their team and coaches as a heart and soul guy to their team. He’s a very good player,” he said. “He can do a lot of different things. He rebounds, he can score from the low post, he can shoot threes. He’s very crafty, he’s good defensively, [and] he’s a very smart player. I think anytime you take a player like that off your team, your team is going to be a little different. Certainly, as an older guy, a veteran, an experienced guy, him being back only makes their team better.”
Tuesday’s hosts also play significantly better on their home court. Missouri is 14-0 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, MO this season, boasting a 6-0 mark in Southeastern Conference play and winning those games by an average of 14 points. Conversely, the Tigers are 1-5 against league opponents on the road. The last time UF faced a team with such an extreme difference in their level of play based on location, the Gators were upset 80-69 at Arkansas on Feb. 5.
“You go play in Rupp [Arena], you go play at Arkansas, you go play in certain places around the league, a tough environment is going to be a tough environment. The noise level at any place on the road is going to be loud,” Donovan said. “Our guys have played on the road. We played at Arizona; I thought that was a very, very difficult place to play. We went to Kansas State [and] they had a great turnout. Our guys have played in difficult situations. I don’t think that there’s anything that we’re going to talk about environment-wise that is going to [catch] our guys off-guard.”
That is not to say Donovan is unaware of Missouri’s proficiencies in the friendly confines of their home gym. He has studied up on those variances, which means Florida’s players will be on high alert come Tuesday.
“They certainly feel more comfortable shooting the ball at home,” Donovan said of the Tigers. “The biggest numbers are what they’re shooting from the field, which is right around 48 percent, and what they’re shooting from three, which is about 42 percent. So they’ve been a team that has been extremely explosive offensively at home. … Now you’re dealing with a very, very explosive offensive team that can score in bunches in a lot of different ways, in a lot of different situations and they have back a key guy in Bowers that we didn’t see when we played against them last time.”
Read what else Billy Donovan had to say…after the break!
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