The Florida Gators men’s basketball team has rarely flown higher in the course of a regular season that the altitude at which it is currently cruising.
Fresh off a record-setting win over the Kentucky Wildcats that closed a four-game stretch of spectacular play, the Gators head to Athens to play the Georgia Bulldogs (7 p.m., ESPN2 or WatchESPN) in the second game of a season series that Florida leads 1-0 by virtue of an 80-76 overtime win in Gainesville less than a month ago.
On the whole, Georgia is not that much different from when last lensed: The Dawgs are better on defense than offense, and better at challenging shots than forcing turnovers or defending the glass, much as they were in early January.
The one major difference? What was then an artificially low three-point percentage allowed has regressed to the mean, as Georgia has allowed its last seven opponents to make at least 30 percent of their threes after keeping its three pre-Florida opponents under that threshold. The Bulldogs have gone 2-5 in that span, notably getting rocked by 20 by Alabama in Athens and failing to stage an upset of Kentucky thanks to some flame-throwing by Malik Monk one week ago.
Florida is 4-2 since seeing Georgia, but the Gators — if arguably not that different in their own right — have outclassed their last four foes, winning those games by an astounding 32 points per contest, and outscoring their opponents by nearly four-tenths of a point per possession. And heating up has helped: Florida has made 48 of 108 threes in its last four games, complementing a stingy defense and strong transition offense.
Florida may be focused on maintaining intensity on the defensive glass, but Georgia’s pedestrian rebounding percentages do not foretell a game won on the boards. If the Gators can improve on their hideous interior defense from the first meeting, which allowed Georgia to shoot 57 percent on its twos, they should be able to capture their fifth straight win.