Georgia’s football players got to celebrate a rare win in Jacksonville this past season against Florida.
Now the Bulldogs’ men’s basketball team gets its shot in the Sunshine State tonight at a venue that’s been difficult for it to break through with a win: the O’Connell Center in Gainesville.
Georga (9-6, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) plays its first conference road game at a place where it has lost nine straight.
The Gators (12-4, 0-1) should have a chip on their shoulder too after dropping its SEC opener at Tennessee Saturday. Florida slid six spots to No. 19 in the AP poll after its 67-56 loss.
“We’ll have to play a lot better against Georgia than we did against Tennessee,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said Monday.
Florida is 8-0 at home this season including wins over Arizona (in overtime) and Florida State and has won 14 straight there. The Gators are 0-4 on the road, losing to top-five teams Syracuse and Ohio State, but have lost their last two to Rutgers and Tennessee.
Georgia played three true road games losing at Xavier and Colorado and winning its last game away from Athens at Southern California, 63-59, on Dec. 17.
The Bulldogs, coming off a home loss to Alabama Saturday, have played their last three games without top rebounder Marcus Thornton, who remains out with a knee injury.
“I think for us it’s good for these young guys to understand what the road is like and have some success out at SC, but we’re a different team now,” said Georgia coach Mark Fox, whose team also split neutral court games in the CBE Classic, falling to California and beating Notre Dame. “With Thornton’s injury we’ve had to change so much. The team that played those road games their roles are a little different now. I’m glad we’ve been on the road and had to play away from home, but we’re going to play two great teams. We’re going to play the two best teams that we’ve seen all year and both on the road.”
The Bulldogs play Saturday at Vanderbilt, which crushed Auburn by 30 Saturday in Nashville.
Every SEC road team lost on the opening weekend on Saturday, except for Alabama, which beat Georgia by 15 in Athens.
“We’ve got to put it behind us now and saddle up and go get the next one,” senior guard Gerald Robinson said after Saturday’s loss.
While Florida has handled Georgia at home in recent years, it lost at Georgia in 2009 and 2010 and needed double overtime to get out of Athens with a win last year.
Florida made a season-low seven three pointers on 22 attempts against Tennessee. Its 35.7 percent shooting percentage from the field was its lowest of the season.
“When you go on the road and play, you’re probably not going to shoot the ball nearly as well,” Donovan said. “You’ve got to be able to have something to hang your hat on. I think being able to defend and get good shots, those things become important, but I think regardless of who you’re playing on the road, especially now we’re in conference play, every road game is difficult. I think every home game is difficult. I don’t think there’s any easy games per se where you just show up and play.”
The Gators rank sixth nationally in scoring at 83.6 points per game.
“Florida has a very explosive offensive team,” Fox said. “They’re one of the few teams when you go into a game, you look at the stat sheet and say `OK who’s playing well on this team.’ You look at Florida and you just pick your poison because there’s just so much scoring everywhere on the floor and you’ve got everybody averaging in double figures and they bring guys off the bench who can make plays.”
The Gators make more 3-pointers than anyone in the nation at 11 per game and all five starters are averaging in double figures led by guard Kenny Boynton’s 19.1 points per game.
“We’ll have to defend extremely well on the perimeter because they shoot the 3 so well,” Fox said, “but you just can’t defend one area against them because they’re just too complete of an offensive team.”
GEORGIA AT NO. 19 FLORIDA
WHEN/WHERE: 7 p.m. today, Stephen. C. O’Connell Center.
TV/RADIO: ESPN/AM-960 The Ref.
RECORDS: Georgia (9-6, 0-1 SEC); Florida (12-4, 0-1 SEC).
PROBABLE STARTERS: Florida — G Erving Walker (Sr., 5-8, 177, 13.4 ppg, 5.1 apg); G Kenny Boynton (Jr., 6-2, 189, 19.1 ppg, 3.1 apg); G Bradley Beal (Fr., 6-3, 1207, 14.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg); F Erik Murphy (Jr., 6-10, 230, 10.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg); C Patric Young (So., 6-9, 247, 12.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg). Georgia — G Vincent Williams (Jr., 6-0, 160, 4.8 ppg, 2.0 apg); G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Fr., 6-5, 200, 14.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg); G Gerald Robinson (Sr., 6-1, 180, 13.6 ppg, 3.3 apg); F Nemanja Djurisic (Fr., 6-8, 230, 6.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg); F Donte’ Williams (So., 6-9, 220, 7.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg).
SERIES: Florida leads 105-98, including 60-33 in Gainesville.
LAST MEETING: Florida, an Elite Eight team last year, beat Georgia 71-62 on Feb. 24, 2011 in Gainesville. The Gators, who overcame a seven-point halftime deficit, had four players in double figures led by Boynton’s 18.
SEASON AT A GLANCE: After starting the season 10-2. Florida has lost two of its last four games. It lost tough road games at Syracuse and Ohio State and seemingly not so tough at Rutgers and Tennessee. The Gators are 10th in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage at 40.9 and their 11 3-pointers per game are best in the nation. Georgia saw its five-game winning streak snapped with a 74-59 loss to Alabama Saturday night. Caldwell-Pope scored a career-high 22 points and had a career-high four steals in the loss.
NOTEWORTHY: Donovan, the dean of SEC coaches, is 372-151 in 16 seasons, including 22-7 against Georgia. “Since I’ve been here at Florida, there’s been some different coaches come through,” he said. “Tubby (Smith), Ron Jirsa, Jim Harrick, Dennis Felton and now Mark Fox. I always felt the guys that have been there, there’s been a good relationship in terms of myself and the other head coach. No different with Mark. I’ve got a great deal of respect for him. He’s a terrific coach. He does things the right way.” Donovan aid it’s a different rivalry in football since the teams play twice a year, but because of the border rivalry aspect “there’s always going to be a level of excitement.”…Sophomore guard Casey Prather left the Tennessee game with a sprained right ankle. Donovan told reporters in Gainesville Monday that he’s doubtful for tonight’s game. … Florida was upset 67-56 on Saturday to get off on the wrong foot in conference play. Donovan said that Tennessee played harder than his team. “I thought we were a step slow,” he said. “I didn’t think our awareness, our alterness was good. We got beat off the dribble too much, we got beat inside too much.” … …Florida scored a season-low in points and allowed the Volunteers to shoot 51 percent from the floor, the highest given up by the Gators this season. …Florida has hit 10 more 3-pointers in 12 games this season. Georgia is eighth in the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage defense (33.3 percent) …Murphy (.511), Boynton (.458), Mike Rosario (.407) and Walker (.404) are all shooting better than 40 percent from t3 -point range. Florida’s trio of starting guards are averaging a combined 46.6 points per game. …Georgia is 0-2 against ranked opponents this season. …Florida leads the SEC in scoring (83.6) while Georgia is last (62.9).