Texas A&M-Florida Preview
The 13th-ranked Gators (7-2) are facing a ranked opponent for the third time after losing by a combined 11 points on the road to then-No. 3 Ohio State on Nov. 15 and then-No. 4 Syracuse on Dec. 2.
The Gators have won their last two since falling 72-68 to the Orange, beating Rider 90-69 last Friday. Kenny Boynton scored 18 of his season-high 26 points in the second half, connecting on 5 of 9 3-pointers.
Boynton, who grew up less than an hour from the BankAtlantic Center, leads a balanced offense that is fourth in Division I with 86.8 points per game. The Gators have four players averaging at least 11.6 points, with Boynton scoring 18.7 per game.
Florida's guard play is a big part of its offense. The Gators are tied for third in the nation with 28.1 3-point attempts per game, but they're also developing an inside game.
After scoring 25 points in a 78-72 overtime win over Arizona on Dec. 7, sophomore center Patric Young had 12 points and 10 boards against Rider.
"I feel bad for the other teams because they have to try and decide who they're going to stop - do you watch Pat inside or concentrate on the guards from 3-point range?" freshman guard Bradley Beal said.
However, those guards could have trouble matching up against Texas A&M's size. The 22nd-ranked Aggies (8-1) are giving up 51.4 points per game - fourth in the nation - and feature three forwards in their starting lineup.
They've been particularly efficient at shutting down teams' outside games, holding opponents to 23.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc - third in Division I.
"They are really balanced and they can do a lot of different things," said Florida coach Billy Donovan, who signed a three-year contract extension Friday that should keep him in Gainesville through the 2015-16 season.
"When you're going into a game like this, it's not just doing one or two things, you've got to do a lot of things to play well."
With his Aggies averaging 64.4 points, coach Billy Kennedy said they cannot allow Florida to set the pace.
"They're averaging 86 points per game, we're averaging 64," Kennedy said. "When you look at the two losses Florida had, they were in the low 70s. We have to be somewhere in between there. I would love to tell you we could beat them 87 to 86, but I don't want to try that."
Texas A&M has won six in a row since a 69-60 loss to Mississippi State on Nov. 17. The Aggies have since welcomed back junior forward Khris Middleton, who played in his second game in a 67-54 win over Louisiana-Monroe last Saturday.
Middleton, who hadn't played since Nov. 9 because of a torn meniscus in his right knee, scored 24 points - 14 in the second half - while adding six rebounds.
"It felt good to be back," he said. "Just sitting there and watching practice for three weeks and seeing where I could be helping my teammates - I just wanted to be out there."
The 6-foot-7 Middleton averaged a team-high 14.4 points last season. His return helps Texas A&M inside, where it has a plus-10.3 margin on the boards.
This is the third meeting between these programs after each won on its own court. The Aggies came away with a 57-54 victory in overtime in the last matchup in December 1992.