Florida Gators Basketball Preview: Keys To Defeating Florida State Seminoles

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team will square off against the Florida State Seminoles on Sunday, December 11. What must Florida do to secure the W?

Dec 29, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators guard Kasey Hill (0) defends Florida State Seminoles guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) during the second half at Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Florida State Seminoles defeated the Florida Gators 73-71. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 29, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators guard Kasey Hill (0) defends Florida State Seminoles guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) during the second half at Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Florida State Seminoles defeated the Florida Gators 73-71. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team is off to one of the best starts in program history. Through nine outings, it’s 7-2 and playing at a contending-caliber level with both wins and losses that reflect it.

On Sunday, December 11, the Gators will look to make their biggest statement yet when they travel to take on the rival Florida State Seminoles.

No matter the sport, games between the Gators and Seminoles come with an extra layer of tension. The schools are rivals both on and off of the playing surface, which brings the fans even closer to the action.

Considering Florida State has secured victories over Florida’s football and women’s basketball teams within a span of two weeks, the men’s basketball team needs to step up.

The Gators can’t lose three consecutive sporting events to Florida State and expect to maintain a high level of morale amongst the fans. The men’s basketball team has played well during wins over Miami, Seton Hall, and Florida Gulf Coast, and close losses to Duke and Gonzaga.

The question is: what must the Gators do in order to go on the road and defeat their bitter rivals from Tallahassee?

Nov 21, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Florida Gators guard Canyon Barry (24) shoots a granny shot free throw during the second half against the Belmont Bruins at Amalie Arena. Florida Gators defeated the Belmont Bruins 78-60. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

5. Get To The Foul Line

If the Florida Gators are going to win this game, they’re going to do so by slowing the pace and grinding it out. One of the key areas of focus for Florida should be to create penetration, get to the rim, and draw contact.

As Quinton Rose and the Temple Owls proved during their 89-86 victory over the Florida State Seminoles, the best way to hurt FSU is by getting to the charity stripe.

Temple attempted 27 free throws against Florida State and converted 20 of those attempts. That was one of the most critical aspects of the game, as the Owls got the Seminoles in foul trouble and came as close as possible to controlling the pace.

Florida isn’t as explosive offensively as Florida State, which makes getting to the free throw line one of the most critical points of emphasis.

The Gators have attempted at least 20 free throws in every game thus far, which is reason to believe they’ll continue to have success in that regard. Their efficiency has wavered, but their volume has remained consistent.

Florida needs to get to the foul line and convert if its offense is going to maintain the pace with Florida State’s.

Nov 21, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Florida Gators center John Egbunu (15) dunks the ball against the Belmont Bruins during the first half at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

4. Offensive Rebounding

One of the great advantages that the Florida Gators men’s basketball team has is the presence of John Egbunu. Underrated as any center in the country, Egbunu is a physically dominant force who’s beginning to find his niche.

One of the areas in which Egbunu must lead the charge for the Gators will be crashing and creating via the offensive glass.

Florida State is eager to get out in transition, which is why it plays a starting lineup with three guards, a small forward, and a center. That leaves the Seminoles vulnerable to offensive rebounds, which the injury to Jonathan Isaac only exacerbates.

Florida starts a relatively big frontcourt with Justin Leon, Devin Robinson, and Egbunu, which gives it a chance to impose its will down low.

Florida ranks on the outside of the Top 100 in points per game, which is why this is so important. The Gators won’t make their first shot attempt as often as they’d like, which makes offensive rebounding the best shot at it has at offensive sustainability.

Florida must find ways to extend possessions and get second chances, and exploiting the power advantage down low is a great place to start.

Nov 24, 2016; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Florida Gators guard KeVaughn Allen (5) shoots a layup over Seton Hall Pirates forward Michael Nzei (1) during the second half at HP Field House. Florida Gators defeated the Seton Hall Pirates 81-76. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

3. KeVaughn Allen

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team may have a star on its hands with shooting guard KeVaughn Allen. He’s still working through some early issues, but there have been tantalizing flashes of stardom.

Between the games against the Seton Hall Pirates, Gonzaga Bulldogs, and Duke Blue Devils, Allen proved he can be a star.

Allen stepped up with an explosive 21-point performance against a projected NCAA Tournament team in Seton Hall. He used his craftiness as a ball-handler to create penetration and his range as a shooter to hit three 3-point field goals.

Allen also scored 15 points against Gonzaga and poured in another 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field against Duke.

The Gators don’t necessarily need one player to take over, but it’d behoove Florida to get Allen going early. Mike White needs a closer and Allen is the best candidate to step into that role and thrive in 2016-17.

Florida will need to play and execute as a team on offense, but it’s Allen who could help the Gators secure the victory.

Nov 24, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Temple Owls forward Obi Enechionyia (0) blocks Florida State Seminoles guard Dwayne Bacon (4) during the second half of the first game of NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center. Temple won 89-86. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

2. Transition Defense

As previously alluded to, the Florida State Seminoles like to go small, space the floor, and get out in transition. Florida State is one of the most explosive offensive teams in the country for that very reason.

The Florida Gators make offensive execution laborious for the opposition, but Florida State may be the most explosive offensive team they’ve faced.

Duke and Gonzaga struggled against Florida, but ultimately put the Gators away by getting key buckets late in the game. The Gators’ inability to match them shot-for-shot was an issue, but one of the primary reasons Duke and Gonzaga won was the ability to push the pace against tired legs.

It’s hard to ask any team to play a perfect game, but if Florida is keeping it close, it cannot afford to let the Seminoles build confidence with quick buckets in the second half.

Whether or not Jonathan Isaac is at 100 percent, Florida State is a team with explosive athletes and remarkable finishers. They move the ball well, play unselfishly on the fast break, and easily finish above the rim.

Dwayne Bacon is a one-man fast break on his own, but containing the Seminoles’ up-tempo offense will have to be a true team effort.

Nov 21, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Florida Gators guard Canyon Barry (24) shoots against the Belmont Bruins during the second half at Amalie Arena. Florida defeated Belmont 78-61. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

1. 3-Point Shooting

In order to defeat the high-octane Florida State Seminoles, the Florida Gators will need to defend and convert the 3-point shot. The 9-1 Seminoles are averaging an unbelievable 90.3 points per game—a number heavily influenced by the 3-point shot.

Florida doesn’t need to look like college basketball’s Golden State Warriors, but it must be able to convert with efficiency.

Florida State is averaging 7.8 3-point field goals made per game on 38.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The Seminoles’ schedule hasn’t been especially strong, but the personnel exists for explosive displays against any caliber of opponent.

The one game that Florida State lost was to the Temple Owls, when they made eight 3-point field goals and allowed 11.

Florida State does an excellent job of creating ball movement and has superb finishers on the end of those passes. Dwayne Bacon, Jonathan Isaac, PJ Savoy, and Xavier Rathan-Mayes are all dynamic playmakers, and a number of their teammates can shoot with range.

If Florida is able to contain Florida State’s 3-point shooters, the next step will be for the likes of KeVaughn Allen and Canyon Barry to light the Seminoles’ lackluster defense up from distance.

This will be no easy task, but if Florida can defeat Florida State, it’d help fans survive what’s been a grueling year in Gators sports.

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