Florida-Florida St. Preview
Dominating opponents on the defense end, Florida is looking more and more like one of the best teams in the country.
The same can't be said for a Florida State program coming off one of its more embarrassing results in recent memory.
The No. 6 Gators try for a fourth consecutive victory over the rival Seminoles, who hope to avoid losing three straight at home for the first time in five seasons.
Second nationally with 48.5 points allowed per game, Florida has outscored foes by an average of 25.3 during its 6-0 start - its best since opening 8-0 in 2009-10.
With an impressive 74-56 win over then-No. 22 Wisconsin already under their belts, the Gators made another big statement Thursday against Marquette, limiting the Golden Eagles to a season-low 41.2 percent shooting in an 82-49 rout.
"I've never been beat this bad in my entire career - 179 games as a head coach," said Marquette's Buzz Williams, whose team was outrebounded 37-23. "That's the worst loss. Not close. I think they're good enough to win the whole thing."
While Florida continues to roll, Florida State (4-3) finds itself in a state of disarray. The defending ACC tournament champion dropped out of the AP Top 25 after a season-opening 76-71 loss to South Alabama, then went on to win four straight before posting their two lowest-scoring outputs of the season.
Florida State fell 77-68 to then-No. 21 Minnesota on Nov. 27 and shot a season-worst 35.4 percent Sunday in a shocking 61-56 loss to Mercer.
"There's no reason we should be losing to Mercer at home," senior Michael Snaer told the school's official website. "We don't want to do that."
Snaer, who leads the team with 14.1 points per game, was limited to a season-low seven on 2-of-6 shooting. Junior Okaro White was the only Seminoles player to score in double figures with 14.
"That energy, that intensity, that junkyard-dog mentality that has been the characteristic of our team the last several years seems to be missing from this team," coach Leonard Hamilton said.
Given the way things have gone of late, Hamilton knows the Seminoles could be in for another long night Wednesday. Florida State has been outscored by an average of 12.6 points during its skid against Florida.
"That's a challenge for us to right the ship before they come to town," Hamilton said. "Whether we can correct everything, probably not. But I just think if we play up to our potential and the execution of our defensive and offensive schemes, and if we can be consistent with that, then we'll take what happens after that."
Florida had dropped three straight at Florida State before pulling out a 55-51 victory Nov. 28, 2010. The last three matchups in Tallahassee have been decided by a combined 10 points.
"It's a rivalry game and they are going to be ready to play no matter what, no matter how many games they have lost," forward Will Yeguete told Florida's official website. "We are ranked pretty high and that's going to give them a chance to get a good win for their resume."
While the Gators are looking forward to their first true road game, they could be short-handed with senior Erik Murphy uncertain to play due to a hip pointer. He's averaging 12.3 points and 4.2 rebounds.
"This is our first road test," guard Mike Rosario said. "We've just got to be in tune with what's going on with our team and focused on what (coach Billy Donovan) is telling us to do. I feel like the guys are ready."