Marquette-Florida Preview

Florida has staked an early claim as one of the nation’s best

teams with its first 5-0 start since the 2009-10 season. But after

their first five wins came by an average of 23.8 points, the

seventh-ranked Gators will likely learn much more about themselves

during a tougher three-game stretch.

It begins Thursday night when they host Marquette in an SEC/Big

East Challenge matchup and a rematch of a regional semifinal in

last season’s NCAA tournament, which Florida won 68-58.

After facing the Golden Eagles, Florida will play games at

Florida State and at No. 9 Arizona.

“After November and December are done, we’ll look at our

non-conference schedule and say there isn’t a style, system or

situation we haven’t really had a chance to get exposed to,” coach

Billy Donovan said. “I’d think ours has to be one of the more

challenging non-conference schedules in the country.”

The Gators appear to have more stability at point guard after

Scottie Wilbekin registered career highs with 17 points, eight

assists and five rebounds in a 79-66 home win against UCF on

Friday.

Wilbekin was expected to be the team’s starter entering the

season but was initially suspended for an undisclosed violation.

His performance against the Knights in his third game back might

have been enough to vault him into the starting lineup.

Mike Rosario’s spot could be in jeopardy after he struggled

again. He has 13 assists and 12 turnovers while starting all five

games, but he played only four minutes in the second half against

UCF after two quick turnovers.

“I’m at a point with him right now where I just can’t deal with

the turnovers,” Donovan said. “There’s good and bad turnovers.

There are turnovers where you’re trying to make the right play, and

for whatever reason you don’t quite execute the pass. But then you

have what I would consider a high-stepping, one knee up, look away,

up in the air, that’s in the third row.

“We’re not going to tolerate it.”

Marquette (5-1) is coming off a 79-46 win against

Maryland-Baltimore County on Monday in which it trailed 31-30 with

16:52 left. The Golden Eagles went on a 37-5 run and shot 71.4

percent in the second half to coast to victory.

“(Coach Buzz Williams) just came in the locker room and said

everybody’s watching us and everybody’s watching this game,” said

freshman Steve Taylor Jr., who scored a season-high nine points.

“So play like us and we’ll get it done.”

Jamil Wilson scored a game-high 15 points and is 14 of 17 from

the field over his last two contests. Marquette’s formidable bench

– averaging 35.0 points – came up big again, totaling 39. Davante

Gardner continues to lead the team with 14.0 points per game

despite not starting.

Scoring against Florida’s stingy defense, which ranks among the

country’s best allowing 33.7 percent field-goal shooting and 48.4

points per game, could be a challenge, though Vander Blue’s return

should help. Williams sat Blue against UMBC after he sprained his

knee last week at the Maui Invitational. Blue ranks second on the

team with 11.4 points per game.

Florida leading scorer Kenny Boynton (16.2 ppg) scored a

season-high 24 against UCF three days after spraining his ankle. He

played with a tightly taped ankle and received a pain-killing

injection before the game.

Boynton shot 2 of 10 and scored 11 points in these teams’ NCAA

tournament matchup as Florida held Marquette to 30.8 percent

shooting. The top three scorers in that game – Florida’s Bradley

Beal and Marquette’s Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom – are now

gone.

“Two totally different teams,” Donovan said. “The one thing

that’s going to be the same for Marquette is Buzz Williams has got

a system and a style of play that he wants to play. … For us,

that’s what you’re getting prepared and ready for.”