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Gator Basketball at NC State

When the Gators look across the floor today at NC State, they will see a team in a similar situation. Just like the Gators (10-3) skidded into winter break with three consecutive losses, NC State (10-3) struggled with Elon before two consecutive losses to Wake Forest and Arizona. Both have similar shooting percentages and have fattened up on weak sisters and carry two-game winning streaks into today.

For Florida, this is their first true road game (their game at Jacksonville against Jacksonville was one of UF's "Tour de Florida" games). NC State isn't a dynamic place, since they play in a hockey arena with a basketball court. But it is an ACC crowd with ACC expectations. If Florida couldn't handle going to Sunrise to play Richmond (Alex Tyus blamed that loss on their five-hour bus ride), how will they respond in Raleigh?

The Gators need to shake out whatever has made them lose their way in December. After an excusable loss to Syracuse, in which the Orange outclassed them, the Gators couldn't score or play defense against inferior teams. It wasn't just going through the motions. It was assuming the motions would lead the way. Tyus and Vernon Macklin have played well all season, but neither is on the floor enough to carry the team. Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker have tried to shoot themselves out of slumps, throwing off any chance of offensive rhythm. Chandler Parsons is very good off the bench, but he replaces the first big man out, leaving Dan Werner on the floor to continue to waste away in his final season.

In between are defensive lapses, bad passes and cold shooting that looks more like Southwest Rec than O'Dome. The frustration is evident on Billy Donovan's face as even he thought these guys might finally turn it around, especially after the 8-0 start. NC State's big man, Tracy Smith, can score and it will take an outstanding effort from Tyus and Macklin to hold him under his average of 17.2ppg. Boynton and Walker cannot also be lured to sleep by NC State's plodding offense. The Wolfpack will work the clock and look for high percentage shots inside, even if that means shooting in the dying seconds of the shot clock.

Florida will go to Vanderbilt next weekend to begin the SEC. A win today will go a long way to giving some confidence for a team that could otherwise be in a lot of trouble for SEC road games.