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Florida vs. Missouri, Game Thread: Gators look to extend win streak in the Show-Me

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Florida is looking for its fourth consecutive win.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators are on just their second three-game winning streak of the 2019-20 season, and will be hoping to match their season-best streak with a fourth win on Saturday night at Missouri (8:30 p.m., SEC Network).

If the Gators play like they have of late, that win should be there.

Florida is coming off its best stretch of offense this season, with a 100-point outburts in regulation against lowly Long Beach State being followed by 80-point totals in regulation against SEC foes Alabama and South Carolina. (The Gators also made it to the century mark against Alabama, but that was in double overtime.)

And Andrew Nembhard has been a key reason the Gators have scored 1.1 points per possession in each of their last three games. He’s stepped up as both a playmaker — Nembhard has dished 27 assists in the three games, a number that is more impressive when one considers that he had just four in the 50 minutes against Alabama — and a scorer, setting a new career-high with 25 points against the Crimson Tide and nearly matching it against South Carolina, when his 21 points came on a very efficient 14 shots, thanks to three threes that tied another career best.

Florida’s seen improvements from Keyontae Johnson (16.6 points per game over the win streak) and Scottie Lewis (15 points in each of his last two contests after missing the Alabama game due to a concussion), too. And as Kerry Blackshear Jr. continues to plug along at a near double-double pace and Noah Locke increasingly seems to be returning to form after a long decline due to injury a year ago and a slump to begin this year, Florida’s offense is rounding into form at a time when it needs to be good to great more often than not.

That offense traveling to the SEC’s other Columbia after putting up the most points anyone’s scored on South Carolina this year would go a long way toward getting a win over Cuonzo Martin’s Tigers. Missouri is 8-6 and 0-2 in SEC play, losing by double figures to both Kentucky and Tennessee, and the Tigers really struggle to score, putting up more than 75 points against only D-1 cellar-dwellers Incarnate Word and Chicago State and failing to reach 70 points in all but one game since the week of Thanksgiving.

Xavier Pinson, mired in a season-long shooting slump, remains Missouri’s primary option on the perimeter, and a counterweight to Jeremiah Tilmon inside, but the Tiger who could maul Florida is Mark Smith, who already has 34 threes in 14 games and is connecting at a 40 percent clip.

But Missouri does defend well, and is exceptionally good at perimeter defense, and could well muck up the good things the Gators have going. If that’s the path this game takes, expect a potentially nervy finish.