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Florida vs. Richmond, Game Thread: On Star Wars night, Gators face Spiders' bite

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The Gators must be careful not to fall to the dark side.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

For Florida, the non-conference portion of its 2015-16 schedule has been both relatively unchallenging and rather successful so far. The Gators rolled up a 6-1 record in November under Mike White, losing only to nationally ranked Purdue in Connecticut, and have generally looked like a slightly better version of the 2014-15 Florida team sustained by strong defense but beset by bad luck and poor shooting.

Things get a whole lot harder from here, starting with Tuesday night's meeting with Richmond (7 p.m., SEC Network or WatchESPN) in the O'Connell Center.

Richmond's unranked and just 4-2 on the year, but Chris Mooney's Spiders have been impressive despite that, taking down a very talented California team in Las Vegas in their last game and beating Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. Their only losses are to a James Madison squad that shot the lights out (11 for 24 from three) in Richmond's season opener and to West Virginia, which pressed the Spiders to death (14 turnovers in 64 possessions) in Morgantown.

Florida's capable of doing both things to those teams — but it's also susceptible to what the Spiders do best. Loosely, that's feed do-everything big man Terry Allen with a Princeton-style offense: Allen has the nation's No. 62 Offensive Rating, and is fantastic at filling the stat sheet at both ends of the floor, scoring efficiently by getting good shots and drawing fouls, and doing everything else well enough to record rither blocks or steals on more than three percent of his possessions and rebound at rates that put him among the nation's top 500 players.

And Allen's presence in the post opens things up for a quartet of shooters — T.J. Cline, Trey Davis, ShawnDre' Jones, and Marshall Wood — who have all made better than 40 percent of their threes on the year. Richmond's No. 29 nationally in offensive efficiency because of that inside-outside balance, and Purdue (No. 16 nationally in offensive efficiency) lit Florida up with a similar strategy.

What Richmond doesn't have is a defense on par with Purdue's, or one that appears likely to be able to do much to stop even the inconsistent Florida offense. Opponents are making better than 36 percent of threes and over 54 percent of their twos against the Spiders, and while Allen is a fine defender in his own right, he and Cline will be giving up significant height to John Egbunu and Dorian Finney-Smith, who have been Florida's primary (and best) offensive options of late.

Florida's profile at the moment is of a team that could find itself right on the edge of NCAA Tournament contention come March, and that makes games like tonight's especially critical to win: A victory may only be a minor boost to a resume, but a loss could become a black mark. Let's hope that, on Star Wars Night, the Gators force the outcome to the side of light.