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Getting Ready for the Dawgs

The Gators hoops team takes to the road tomorrow night to take on the Georgia Bulldogs in the Stageman Coliseum.  Game time is set for 7:30 pm, and for some odd reason will only be shown on Sun Sports Tape Delay, with your only other option to watch the game being PPV.

Why the #1 team in the nation is not on television in Gainesville of all places is beyond me, but I don't make the rules.  I'll just keep an ear tuned into Mick and Mark tomorrow evening.

Back on topic, though -- the match up with the SEC East rival Georgia Bulldogs.  The Gators will be attempting to improve their conference record to a perfect 9-0 with a second win over the Dawgs this season, and will be trying to win their 22nd game overall.  The Gators will also be trying to win their 15th straight game, which will be the 2nd longest consecutive wins streak in school history.

A Tale of Two Halves
Although the Gators are seeing an unprecendented amount of success early on in their conference schedule, they still have found it hard at times to play a complete 40 minutes all-out. Over the last two weeks, for instance, the Gators have only won both halves in one game -- the impressive win over Auburn.  In the other wins over Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Tennessee the Gators have only found a way to dominate one half of play.  Against Ole Miss and Tennessee they grabbed huge leads early on and lost focus in the second frame, while against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State they were forced to put together a solid second half to make up for early deficits.

Now, I know it may be too much to ask for these guys to win both halves of basketball against higher levels of competition, but at some points they have just looked bad.  Here are how the Gators have fared half-by-half against their conference opponents this season, as well as the "big" non-conference games they played against Kansas, Florida State, Ohio State and UAB:

Halves Won                       Halves Lost                     Won Both           Won One
Kan 2nd 39-33           Kan 1st 31-37          Ohio State     Kansas (L)
FSU 2nd 35-34           FSU 1st 31-36          S. Carolina    FSU (L)
OSU 1st 38-29           UAB 1st 33-40          Auburn         UAB          
OSU 2nd 48-31           Mis 2nd 34-44          Arkansas       Ole Miss
UAB 2nd 42-30           Van 1st 30-41                         Vandy          
UGA 2nd 42-25           Ten 2nd 44-54                         Tennessee
Ark 1st 37-36           UGA 1st 25-26                         Georgia
Ark 2nd 42-36           MSU 1st 29-33                         Miss St
USC 1st 41-33          
USC 2nd 43-17          
Mis 1st 45-26          
MSU 2nd 41-34
Aub 1st 51-36
Aub 2nd 40-30
Van 2nd 44-23
Ten 1st 50-24
Looking at the above data, it's not very easy to declare that the Gators aren't doing their jobs when it comes to winning halves.  They have obviously won more than they have lost having such an impressive record at this point in the season.  But look above at some of the halves the Gators lost this season -- including deficits of 7, 10, 11 and 10 -- the kind of halves that usually equal losses in the record book.  However, thanks to either huge early leads or great comebacks, the Gators have found ways to win these games.  It seems as if they can "turn it on" when need be, whether it's early or late in the game.  In the games where the Gators haven't put together a half where they outscore the opposition by 10 or more, they struggle -- including a loss to Kansas, a loss to FSU and a narrow victory over Mississippi State.

Call it losing focus in the second half or coming out sluggish to start:  either way, the Gators must find a way to avoid having these bad halves, because one of these days it's going to bite them. Whether that comes during tournament time, we shall see.

The Georgia Bulldogs
Once again, back to the point at hand -- the Georgia Bulldogs hoops squad.

The Gators have won 6 in a row against their rivals out of Athens, who come into tomorrow night's game with a 5-4 record in the SEC.  The Dawgs have dropped their last two contests in the state of Tennessee last week to the Vols and Commodores.  The two losses dropped their record to 13-8 on the season, including a loss to the Gators in their SEC opener, 67-51.

The Dawgs are a team that can score a lot of points, and shoot fairly well from the field.  On the season they average nearly 78 points/game and shoot 47%.  They hit 8 3-pointers a game, and shoot a pretty solid 39% from beyond the arc.  If the Dawgs get any kind of momentum shooting the ball in front of their home crowd in Athens, watch out -- they could score quite a few points and make it a very tough environment for the Gators to win in.                  

Georgia rebounds the ball well, too, with a nearly a +7 rebounding margin on the season.  They are one of only 3 teams to outrebound the Gators this season so far.  The Gators will need to keep the Dawgs off of the offensive glass and try to not give up any second chance points in tonight's game. The Gators will once again have the size advantage underneath with their frontcourt, but Georgia is not a small team by any means, having two starters over 6-8. Rebounding could become a huge factor in this game.

The Keys to a Victory
As I mentioned above, rebounding will be very important tomorrow night for the Gators. Keeping them off the offensive glass and not giving them second chance points will help.  Also getting out on the break is always one of Florida's strenghs considering how well they shoot the ball seemingly every game.

Scoring balance will remain a key to this game, as well as any future game.  As of right now the Gators have an extremely balanced attack with the scoring margin between the top scorer (Green) and the low scorer (Humphrey) in the starting lineup only being 2.9 points/game.  Even more impressive is the way the Gators spread the wealth on offense, with the margin between the high and low shooter in the starting lineup only being 2.3 shots/game.  Getting everyone involved and (hopefully) in rythym will be a key to a victory for the Gators tomorrow night.

The Gators just can't turn the ball over a lot tomorrow night.  The Dawgs come in forcing over 17 turnovers a game by their opposition, a pretty impressive number.  Not only are they forcing turnovers on defense, but their defensive intensity is holding the opposition to only 63 points/game this season -- nearly 20 points lower than the Gators average on the year.  Florida will have to play good, balanced, disciplined offense if they want to avoid turning their mistakes into points for the Dawgs.

Based on the results from the first meeting between these two squads, the Gators will need to get the ball inside as much as possible tomorrow night as well.  On January 6th the Gators outscored the Bulldogs 40-23 in the paint, with the frontcourt of Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Joakim Noah combining for 38 points and 28 boards.  If they can establish that kind of presence inside once again, not only by scoring but on the glass as well, the Gators have a very good shot at winning this game.