Mizzou Arena from the North facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A great test tonight, Gator Nation.
On the road again at Missouri which promises to be more exciting than our game at Auburn. Missouri has been the tale of two teams. On the road they have been completely demolished (including an 83-52 shellacking at Gainesville). At home it is quite a different story. They are 14-0 at Mizzou Arena and completely dominated Ole Miss, Miss State, Alabama and Vandy. “What?!?” I hear you say. “So have we?!?” Of course, we have, but that is not the point. The point is that we are facing a much different team than we did a month ago at home. One that could provide a much needed test for our Gator basketball team.
Last time we played they had just lost Laurence Bowers who was the heart and soul of their team. He’s back this time around and they have an explosive offense to go with it. They have six players averaging double figures. They are also #2 in the nation of rebounding. It is also unlikely that their point guard, Paul Pressey, will have the same 10 turnovers he did last time….though I’m still counting on Scottie Wilbiken to shut him down. It’s going to be a closer game and it’s going to be good. We need a battle on the road to test our mettle and to really see if the Gators learned something from that Arkansas game. Mizzou is going to come out with guns a blazin’ and they are going to try and amp up the crowd with some high intensity offense. It will be good to see how the Gator defense can react to an initial blitz and if they can completely shut them down again.
I don’t really like close games any more than the next Gator fanatic, but the truth is leading up to the SEC and NCAA tournament, we need some on the court tests away from home. It might cause misfirings of some pacemakers, but when it is all said and done, I believe this Gator team will prevail. They’ve come a very long way this year and have matured quite well as the season rolled along.
Now, it must be said, that being without Yeugete tonight will be difficult. Missouri brings Alex Oriakhi in with almost 9 rebounds a game to go with his 6’9″, 260lb frame. Will Yuegete is a great equalizer there. We’ve seen Casey Prather and Michael Frazier II step up in recent games. Tonight will be a much interesting assignment for both. They do not have to have monster nights, but if Prather can battle down low and grab some more rebounds and MFII can nail 2 or 3 three-point shots, then they will add a consistency to an already steadily performing team. It’s not about being all-stars…it’s all about team contribution and working together. This has been one of the best seasons ever to watch because this Gator team has serious chemistry and really likes going out and lacing them up and getting on the court. If someone is down, another steps up. It is great to watch. Who would have ever thought we would have Kenny Boynton around 13 points per game instead of 16…and still clobbering teams. The fact is he doesn’t have to do it alone anymore. His assists per game are up and he is still a legitimate threat from the outside. Just having him on the floor puts enormous pressure on the opposing team. An opponent, quite frankly, has to account for every Gator on the floor including those off the bench. Plain and simple.
It’s a late game tonight, but well worth staying up and watching….or at least put it on the DVR and watch it tomorrow. This has been an exciting season and one you will want to see through to the end.