The Daily Nole

Preview: FSU Hosts Gators in Rivalry Showdown athletics

Florida State will look to win its sixth straight game on Sunday afternoon and beat rival Florida for a third straight time. The Gators come in ranked 21st in the country and with a 7-2 record, but both losses have come to teams currently ranked in the top 10. In its second year under head coach Mike White, the Gators have been very good defensively. Florida is coming off an 84-74 loss to Duke.

During its 5-game winning streak, the Seminoles are winning by more than 28 points per game. FSU ranks in the top 10 nationally in scoring and field goal percentage. Each of Florida State’s last two wins over Florida have come on buzzer beaters in the final seconds. Dwayne Bacon hit the winning jumper last year in Gainesville to sink the Gators with less than five seconds to play, 73-71. In their last trip to Tallahassee, the Gators fell 67-65 after Jacob Kurtz, a Florida forward, accidentally tipped the ball into his own basket at the buzzer.

The Match-Up

Who: No. 21 Florida Gators (7-2) at Florida State Seminoles (9-1)
When: Sunday, Dec. 11 at 4 p.m. EST (ESPNU)
Where: Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee, Florida

Key Players

For Florida: KeVaughn Allen leads the team, averaging better than 13 points per game and is coming off a 21-point effort against Duke. Allen is a prolific scorer with very good range. Forward Devin Robinson is averaging nearly 12 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 54 percent from the field. Center John Egbunu has been an unmovable object in the paint. He’s averaging 9.1 points, eight rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.

For Florida State: The hero of last season’s contest, Dwayne Bacon, is averaging 16.6 points to lead the Seminoles, but the star of late has been sophomore P.J. Savoy. In four games, Savoy is averaging nearly 13 points while shooting 53 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. The Seminoles expect to have freshman forward Jonathan Isaac back after missing three games with a hip flexor. Isaac is averaging better than 15 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds. He’s also shooting 59 percent from the field.

What to Watch For

Defense: During Florida State’s 5-game winning streak, each of its opponents have been held to a field goal percentage of less than 35 percent. Florida is one of the nation’s best defensive teams, but will be looking to slow one of the nation’s most prolific offenses. FSU is averaging more than 90 points per game, but the Gators have only allowed more than 70 three times this season. Two of those resulted in losses.

P.J. Savoy: Florida State sophomore guard P.J. Savoy has burst onto the scene in recent games. Over his last two contests, Savoy is averaging 22.5 points and shooting 13-for-24 from beyond the 3-point arc. Being on the mark Sunday would help spread a very good Florida defense.

The battle inside: Florida State’s size could be tested on Sunday against John Egbunu and the Florida front line. The Seminoles are deep and big up front with the likes of 7-4 Christ Koumadje, 7-1 Michael Ojo and 6-9 Jarquez Smith. FSU also expects to have Phil Cofer back on Sunday. Although Florida hasn’t been great on the glass, it has a lot of big bodies to throw at the Seminoles inside. Winning on the glass and controlling the paint will be key in this one.

KeVaughn Allen: Florida sophomore KeVaughn Allen is the guy the Seminoles will need to slow down to get the victory on Sunday. Allen scored 21 points against Duke his last time out and did so on an efficient 8-for-13 shooting. In last season’s contest against FSU, Allen lit up the Seminoles for a career-high 32 points. FSU has a number of big guards it can throw at Allen to try to disrupt him. Minnesota’s Amir Coffey and George Washington’s Tyler Cavanaugh are two very good scorers that the Seminoles have shut down during their winning streak.

Number to Pay Attention To

5: That’s the total margin of victory in the last three meetings between the teams. The Seminoles have won by two points in each of the last two seasons while Florida won three years ago, 67-66 on a last-second free throw by Dorian Finney-Smith. If this one is close again this season, it could work to Florida’s advantage as the Gators have been involved in many more close games so far this season.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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