Basketball takes center stage in Florida State-Florida rivalry (Dec 04, 2017)

In a change from the past, the Florida State-Florida basketball rivalry is more appealing this season than its football counterpart.

The football teams met less than two weeks ago at Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., with both teams having losing records and struggling to score points.

The basketball programs meet Monday at the O’Connell Center in Gainesville with high-scoring offenses and favorable records.

Florida State is 6-0 with five players averaging in double figures, led by guard Terance Mann’s 15.3 points a game and forward Phil Cofer’s 14.2 points a game.

Florida is ranked No. 6 in the country with a 5-1 record and is led by four players with at least 13 points a game, topped by guard Jalen Hudson (21.7 points a game) and wing player Egor Koulechov (17.7 points and 7.0 rebounds a game).

Florida State will attempt to build on its three-game winning streak against the Gators.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Mann told the Florida Times-Union.

Hudson was quoted by the Times-Union as saying, “We’re at home and we’ve got to protect our house. I’m excited about it.”

The combined 11-1 record matches the best for the two teams since 2014, when they each had the same records entering the game. They combined to start 9-1 in 2011.

“Every year they’re going to play deep and they’re long and athletic and they play really hard,” said Florida coach Mike White, whose team’s only loss is to No. 1 Duke. “It’s still early, just like us, to determine what will be their identity and how good they’ll be but they’re off to really good start.”

The Gators lead the nation in scoring with 99.5 points per game and are fifth in 3-point shooting percentage at .460. Florida has scored 100 or more points in four of its six games.

The Seminoles rank No. 22 in scoring with 88.8 points per game, and are shooting 51.7 percent, 11th in the nation.

“It’s probably going to be a track meet,” Cofer said. “They’re dogs, just like us. We’re going to go after each other and it’s going to be crazy.”

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton believes the 78-73 win at Rutgers last Tuesday will prepare the Seminoles for the hostile environment expected at Florida.

Hamilton’s team was led by C.J. Walker’s 24 points and Cofer’s 19 points. They combined to make 13 of 22 shots from the floor. Walker was 10 of 11 from the free-throw line and Cofer made four 3-pointers.

“It was a tremendous test for us,” Hamilton said. “This was the kind of game I thought we really needed.

“We’re accustomed to playing against crowds like this: passionate crowds in the ACC. But I thought our kids showed a lot of character. Obviously C.J. (11 points per game) stepped up a little bit.”

Both teams are perimeter-oriented. In the last four games, Florida has been outscored by an average of 36-27 in the paint and the opposing team’s top-scoring big men have averaged 28.7 points and shot 53.2 percent from the field.