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Florida vs. Stony Brook, Game Thread: Gators face last pre-holidays hurdle

Florida should have the size and talent to overwhelm the Seawolves.

NCAA Basketball: North Florida at Florida Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

The Stony Brook Seawolves are all that stand between the Florida Gators men’s basketball team and a brief holiday break, and their Tuesday afternoon matinee (2 p.m., ESPN+) could be a game wrapped up in short order — pun intended.

The Seawolves are among America’s shortest Division 1 teams, checking in at No. 331 in KenPom’s Average Height metric thanks to coach Geno Ford rolling out a four-guard lineup with a pair of undersized centers. And with the nominal backcourt of Jahlil Jenkins and Juan Felix Rodriguez standing at 6’0” each and “forwards” Tyler Stephenson-Moore and Tykei Greene measuring 6’3” and 6’4” respectively, it’s not hard to imagine Florida having a height advantage at every spot other than point guard, where Tyree Appleby might not quite be his listed height of 6’1”.

Colin Castleton, too, should have a few inches or more on his matchups, as most-used Stony Brook big men Frankie Policelli and Omar Habwe go 6’6” and 6’7”.

And these sorts of size disadvantages are visible in the season stats for the Seawolves. They have struggled to rebound and especially to defend inside, where they’re allowing opponents to make a stunning 56.3 percent of two-pointers. If that induces the sometimes poor-shooting Gators to make more of an effort to drive and draw fouls, it’s probably very good news for Florida even though Stony Brook is excellent at not committing fouls.

But the Seawolves’ strengths also don’t seem to match up well with Florida. They shoot well from distance and take care of the ball, two things that Florida’s pressing style and strong three-point defense have generally prevented this year; no team has managed to hoist more than 21 threes against the Gators, and their defensive deficiencies have had more to do with what happens late in the shot clock and after shooters have been run off the line than with conceding open looks.

Florida is in the nation’s top 10 when it comes to percentage of points conceded on two-pointers — meaning that teams that are scoring on the Gators are typically doing so inside, rather than on threes or free throws. An undersized team with guards and shooters everywhere would not seem well-equipped to do damage in that way.

But Florida’s loss to Texas Southern and its spotty shooting make disclaimers that this team is vulnerable on any given day a necessity. And it will be up to the Gators to keep that in mind and put the Seawolves away if they want to glide into their holiday break grinning.