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Florida vs. West Virginia, Game Thread: Gators take the Garden again

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The Gators have had played a few big games in Madison Square Garden of late.

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Florida vs Stanford Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

For the Florida Gators, Madison Square Garden is not quite a home away from home.

But it is not far off.

And so the Gators — who now play their home games in an arena lit to look like the vaunted Garden — will be in a fairly familiar environment on Tuesday night, as they play West Virginia in the second game of the Jimmy V Classic (9 p.m., ESPN or WatchESPN).

Florida memorably won at MSG in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, sandwiching that victory on either side with a loss to Duke during the regular season and a loss to South Carolina in the Elite Eight. But those three games mean that many of the Gators on the 2018-19 roster still remember playing in the Big Apple.

The ones who did not may be more important against the Mountaineers. Point guard Andrew Nembhard and likely starting shooting guard Noah Locke are freshmen who have seen neither the bright lights of this particular big city nor the Press Virginia attack brought to bear by Bob Huggins.

They may not be that taxed by the Mountaineers on the offensive end, as a younger roster has left them largely without the personnel to put it into effect. But West Virginia does have dead-eyed shooters, in the form of rugged forward Sagaba Konate and the more skilled Lamont West, and it would be exactly the luck of these Gators to have Esa Ahmad, just 4-for-18 from three this year, light things up on this night.

But if Nembhard can keep turning Florida into a balanced offense by distributing the ball well, the Gators should have a chance at their first big win of this season.