The Florida Gators started their conference schedule off right with an 81-74 home win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, and now the Gators face their first true road contest of the season in College Station against No. 11 Texas A&M (9:00 p.m., ESPN2 or WatchESPN).
For their part, the Aggies didn’t start their SEC schedule off as promisingly. Then-No. 5 ranked Texas A&M went to Tuscaloosa and got rolled by the Tide, 79-57. That top-five ranking was the highest ever reached by the Aggies. TAMU is dealing with a bit of a run of injuries and adversity, but remains a talented and physical team.
The Aggies have been without their starting shooting guard, Admon Gilder, who went down in a win over Savannah State and has missed three additional contests - but he may be back for tonight’s hosting of the Gators. Another injured player who is questionable for the court this evening is starting point guard Duane Wilson, who went down against Alabama and did not return. Texas A&M will be without leader scorer D.J. Hogg though, as Hogg was suspended for three games for violating team rules - and this game will be his third.
Even with those aforementioned players questionable, the Aggies boast a vaunted front court sure to give the Gators fits; with Mike White describing the challenge of facing that frontline as a “bloodbath.” 6’10” junior center Tyler Davis, 6’10” senior forward Tonny Trocha-Morelos, and 6’8” sophomore forward Robert Williams have helped Texas A&M lead the SEC in rebounding margin and sit at second in blocked shots. Williams was the only player in the nation last season to block at least one shot in every one of his team’s games.
For the Gators, a solid start to the season gave way to an inauspicious slump, but Florida has begun to rebound by winning their last three. It’s no coincidence that Florida did so by scoring over 70 points per game in those wins, after failing to reach that number in their four previous outings. Against Vanderbilt, the Gators scored 80 for the first time since a Thanksgiving week loss to No. 1 Duke.
Forward Egor Koulechov turned in a good overall effort against the Commodores, snapping a cold streak of some eight games. Mike White announced this week that the graduate transfer had been dealing with plantar fasciitis, and will be continuing to do so. The Gators blocked a season-high 10 shots against the ‘Dores, but White continues to emphasize Florida needing to improve their perimeter defense.
The Gators are 6-4 all-time against the Aggies, but just 1-3 when facing them in College Station. Florida is 1-2 against A&M with Mike White as their coach, having defeated the Aggies 71-62 last February in Gainesville. The last time that Florida was victorious at Texas A&M was in 2013. This will also be the fourth time that the Gators will face a ranked team this season - going 2-1 so far against teams with numbers preceding their name.
With potentially three starters limited or out, this would appear to be a great time for the Gators to pick up a win over the Aggies. But it’s still a tall task against a talented team, and on the road no less. We’ll see if the Gators are up to the challenge.