Hapless Tigers hit road to challenge 13th-ranked Gators

Dec 29, 2013 - 4:03 PM Gainesville, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The 13th-ranked Florida Gators have only two non-conference games left on the docket, and they will entertain the Savannah State Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

Savannah State has really struggled to open the 2013-14 campaign, winning a mere two of its first dozen contests. The Tigers have lost their last eight games following a two-game win streak over little known clubs from Texas Temple and Florida National. SSU's most recent outing also occurred against a team from the Sunshine State, as it dropped a 68-51 home decision to Miami- Florida on Dec. 19. The Tigers, who have yet to win away from home this season and will play another ranked foe in Baylor on Friday, will open Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference action at home against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Jan. 6.

Florida brings a 9-2 record into this contest, one of only two remaining before opening SEC play against visiting South Carolina on Jan. 8. The Gators have won their last three games, the most recent being a 66-49 verdict against Fresno State on Dec. 21. Their two losses this season have come against ranked foes in Wisconsin and Connecticut, and they have signature wins over the likes of Florida State (67-66), Kansas (67-61) and Memphis (77-75).

Florida is 2-0 in the series with Savannah State, and the Gators are 24-0 all- time against teams from the MEAC. Last season, UF topped SSU in a 58-40 final.

Savannah State's issues this season stem from its inability to score with any degree of consistency, as the team averages just 61.9 ppg in hitting 41.4 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a 31.0 percent showing from 3-point range. The Tigers have only one double-digit scorers, and Deven Williams' 12.2 ppg certainly isn't going to scare anyone. Jyles Smith heads the team's rebounding effort, which unfortunately comes in at -4.2 versus the opposition, and the Tigers are guilty of 14.9 turnovers per game, while goading the enemy into nearly the same amount (14.7 tpg). Jeremiah Hill came off the bench to net 14 points, but that was pretty much it in the recent loss to Miami, as SSU shot just 39.2 percent from the floor, missing 15 of its 20 3-point attempts along the way. The Tigers' starting five accounted for only three field goals, while the bench tallied 17. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes put four players in double figures, drained 57.1 percent of their total shots, made half of their 3-point attempts (7-of-14), and easily won the battle on the boards (34-21).

Florida is a team that resides at the other end of the success spectrum, as it generates 71.7 ppg while permitting only 61.1 ppg. The Gators, who boast five double-digit scorers, led by Casey Prather and his 18.5 ppg, also own favorable margins in rebounding (+5.0) and turnovers (+2.8), while draining 45.7 percent of their field goal attempts, including 37.1 percent of their 3- point tries. Scottie Wilbekin (12.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.8 apg), Michael Frazier II (11.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Dorian Finney-Smith (10.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Patric Young (10.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg) have all performed well for Billy Donovan's club, which got 16 points from Prather and 11 from Wilbekin in the recent win over Fresno State. Will Yeguete nearly had a double-double as he scored nine points and grabbed 10 boards. UF started the game slowly, shooting just 29 percent from the field, which included a dismal 1-of-13 effort from beyond the arc, in the first half, but they turned it on after intermission, shooting 57.7 percent over the final 20 minutes while holding the Bulldogs to 32 percent for the game. The Gators controlled the glass (47-24), but forced only eight turnovers.

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