SE Louisiana-Florida Preview
Previously undefeated Florida found itself on the verge of what would have been its most impressive victory to date before coming undone over the weekend.
A visit from one-win Southeastern Louisiana could be just what the Gators need to regroup.
No. 8 Florida tries to get back on track and extend its home winning streak over non-conference foes to 16 games Wednesday night against the Lions.
After handily beating then-No. 22 Wisconsin, Marquette and Florida State, the Gators (7-1) nearly added a win at then-No. 8 Arizona to their resume Saturday but couldn't hold on. The Gators surrendered a six-point lead with under a minute to go, giving up the game-winning basket with seven seconds left in a 65-64 defeat.
"Obviously, that was a very painful and difficult loss," coach Billy Donovan told the school's official website. "But I think through struggle and pain you find out how important this all is to you, and how good you want to be.
"This could be a great, great catapulting thing for them, in terms of realizing the importance of how fragile this all can be. We all made mistakes the other night. Now we're going to see how we respond to them."
While the Gators held a 33-22 rebounding edge and shot a season-best 55.6 percent (10 for 18) from 3-point range, they committed 14 turnovers, including three in the final 56 seconds.
"You have to be focused and committed on every possession. When you're not, well, this stuff can happen, especially against a good team," said senior forward Erik Murphy, who matched a career-high with five turnovers. "It could be a blessing in disguise. You never know your weaknesses until they're exposed. Well, ours we're exposed and hopefully, in the long run, it'll help us out."
Florida has to like its chances of bouncing back at home, where it's taken 15 straight against non-conference schools by an average of 25.2 points. The Gators are 4-0 all-time against current members of the Southland Conference but have never faced Southeastern Louisiana (1-7).
The Lions, whose only win came 91-49 over Division III school Louisiana College on Nov. 20, saw their skid reach four with Sunday's 45-40 setback at North Texas.
Senior Brandon Fortenberry had 19 points and a career-high 11 rebounds for Southeastern Louisiana, which limited the Mean Green to 29.5 percent from the field but shot a season-low 25.0 percent. Forward Antonnio Benton was the only other player to score more than four points, adding nine off the bench. Junior guard Jeffery Ricard, who's second on the team in scoring at 9.9 points per game, went 0 for 16 from the floor.
Averaging a woeful 58.5 points, the Lions could be in for a long night against a Gators defense surrendering 50.4 per contest - one of college basketball's best marks.
Southeastern Louisiana has lost 19 of 20 road games, including all six this season by an average of 20.8 points. The Lions fell 87-47 at then-No. 23 Wisconsin on Nov. 11 in their only matchup against a ranked program since the start of 2009-10.
While Southeastern Louisiana might usually have its hands full with Kenny Boynton, the senior guard is averaging just 10.8 points and shooting 29.6 percent over Florida's last five games. He averaged 17.3 points and shot 51.6 percent in his first three.