North Florida-Florida Preview

BY foxsports • November 16, 2011

Facing a top 5 opponent on the road, a loss wasn't totally unexpected in Florida's last game.

A loss in its return to the O'Connell Center, however, would certainly be embarrassing.

The seventh-ranked Gators look to bounce back from a difficult defeat Thursday night when they face North Florida, which has had virtually no success on the road against non-conference opponents since becoming a Division I program six years ago.

After opening the season Friday with an easy 99-59 victory over Jackson State, Florida (1-1) got a much stiffer test in its second game. Facing No. 3 Ohio State in Columbus on Tuesday, the Gators started strong, jumping out to an 11-4 lead in the first five minutes, but ultimately lost 81-74.

"This is going to be good for us because they're a very good team," coach Billy Donovan said.

Florida outrebounded a Buckeye team led by preseason All-American forward Jared Sullinger 38-29, but turned the ball over 16 times - leading to 11 Ohio State points. The Buckeyes only committed seven turnovers.

"I'm really thankful that we had this challenge early in the season so we can work on some things,'' said Patric Young, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds for his second double-double this season and in his career. "Rankings really don't mean anything in basketball as much as they do in football. So it really helps our team to understand what we need to work on and help us move forward.''

The Gators shouldn't have much trouble moving forward against North Florida (1-1).

Florida has cruised to victories in its only two previous meetings with the Ospreys, winning 86-40 in 2006 and 102-51 in 2007. The Gators were ranked in each of those meetings, and North Florida has been outscored by an average of 32.9 points in losing all 10 of its games against Top 25 teams since becoming a Division I program in 2005-06.

The Ospreys opened this season shooting 23.3 percent in Friday's 64-44 loss to then-No. 19 Alabama, falling to 0-4 all-time against SEC opponents.

North Florida bounced back with Monday's 62-57 win over Savannah State. Andy Diaz, the only player on the team to average in double figures in scoring (12.5), scored 16 for the Ospreys, who are 2-35 on the road against non-conference opponents since making the jump to Division I.

That doesn't bode well for facing the Gators, who have won seven straight home games and are 22-1 against Atlantic Sun opponents under Donovan.

Florida is led by guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker, who were both named to the preseason all-SEC second team.

Boynton, a junior, is averaging a team-best 17.0 points - one of five Gators to average in double figures - and has made 7 of 13 shots from 3-point range.

Walker scored 10 points against Jackson State, but struggled versus the Buckeyes, finishing with four on 1 of 6 shooting. The senior led Florida in scoring last season at 14.6 points.

Freshman guard Brad Bradley has made an immediate impact for the Gators, ranking second on the team at 15.5 points per game.

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