After back-to-back losses, the Arizona Wildcats rebounded nicely and came away with two much needed victories this past week over Northern Arizona and New Mexico State. While the team continues to improve on a daily basis, they will face their toughest challenge yet (and maybe toughest challenge all season) when they face the Florida Gators. And they will do so without freshman point guard Josiah Turner, who is suspended for the game after missing practice.
Florida enters the game with a record of 5-2 and is currently ranked No. 12, although their two losses came to two top-five teams in Ohio State and Syracuse. The Gators currently rank 4th in points-per-game (87.6), rebound the ball extremely well, do a great job of distributing on offense, and are shooing .484% from the field, which is 30th best in the country. Getting big defensive stops with the game on the line has been an issue, but Billy Donovan has done a great job with his program thus far in 2011.
The Gators are led by numerous guards who could all become All-Conference selections by the end of the season. Kenny Boynton leads UF with 19 points-per-game and is shooting a ridiculous .473% from behind the arc. If the Wildcats do not contest every shot he takes from the field, it could be a long night. Freshman Bradley Beal plays the most minutes of any Gator, scores nearly 16 points a night, and leads the team with seven rebounds per contest.
Senior point guard Erving Walker is the engine that makes Florida go and he will do it all for the program. Walker averages 14 points, four rebounds and more than five assists per game, and he is among the best and quickest defenders in the country. Mike Rosario, a junior, comes off the bench and provides instant-offense for the team whenever he steps onto the floor.
If UF has a weakness, it would be in the post. Erik Murphy and Patric Young are solid-yet-unspectacular in Gainesville, although their length and athleticism could cause problems for UA down low. Will Yeguete will not see a ton of minutes, but he is capable of rebounding at a very solid rate.
The absence of Josiah Turner:
As mentioned earlier, freshman point guard Josiah Turner did not make the trip after missing practice on Monday. Sean Miller has a strict team policy in place regarding practice and he will not make an exception for Turner, no matter how big of a game it is.
Expect Jordin Mayes to see a few more minutes on the floor, with Nick Johnson serving as the backup. Senior sharp-shooter Brendon could also be used in an emergency, although he will likely backup Fogg on Wednesday night.
TV Schedule: ESPN will carry the game nationally, with tipoff coming from Gainesville at 7:00 p.m.. That's 5:00 p.m. locally in Tucson.
Final Thoughts and Prediction:
This was going to be a tough game for the Wildcats to win even at full strength; they will be far from it without Turner in the backcourt and with Kevin Parrom's knee continuing to bother him. The Gators like to get out in transition and force turnovers, something Arizona has struggled with this season.
There's always a chance Arizona lights it up from behind the arc and uses the long-ball to carry them to a big road upset, but I can't see it happening. UA hangs tough early, but it gets ugly in the second half as Florida wins 82-67.