Georgia-Florida Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 08, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY - MARCH 18: Kenny Boynton #1 of the Florida Gators pushes the ball up court in overtime against the BYU Cougars during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men s basketball tournament at Ford Center on March 18, 2010 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
While Florida isn't worried about being labeled the favorites in the SEC, the Gators realize it won't hurt having their leading scorer heat up at just the right time. The 11th-ranked Gators look for Kenny Boynton to carry over the momentum from his last performance into their conference opener on Wednesday night when they try to beat the rival Bulldogs for the 11th straight time in Gainesville. With defending conference and NCAA tournament champion Kentucky off to a 9-4 start, Florida is the highest-ranked team in the SEC heading into league play. "I don't think our guys feel any extra burden or pressure because we're picked to win the league," Gators coach Billy Donovan said. Georgia seeks its fifth straight win following a 2-7 start, but first has to find a way to slow down one of the players who has helped Florida win four of the last six overall in the series. Boynton, who has scored 14.6 points per game in his four-year career, has averaged 18.8 points in six games against the Bulldogs. He's finished with 17 or more in five of those contests, but was held to 11 in a 76-62 loss at Georgia last February. Boynton broke out of one of the worst slumps of his career on Sunday when he matched a career high with 28 points and went 8-for-10 from 3-point range in a 79-58 win at Yale. The senior guard had averaged 9.5 points on 27.9 percent shooting - including 17.9 percent (7 for 39) from beyond the arc - in his previous six games. "I think he took a lot of challenged, difficult shots and he made himself one-dimensional for a few weeks there," Donovan said. While Donovan's club will try to improve to 7-0 at home, Florida (10-2) has won just three of its last five, with losses at then-No. 8 Arizona and Kansas State. The Gators, though, have shot 56.9 percent from the field, including 44.4 percent (16 for 36) from 3-point range, in their two consecutive wins. Will Yeguete and Mike Rosario, who combined for 27 points on Sunday, will continue to fill the void with senior starter Erik Murphy likely to miss his second straight game due to bruised ribs. It might not be so easy against a Georgia team that has limited opponents to 33.5 percent and 21.7 (18 for 83) from beyond the arc during its four-game winning streak. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope remains the focal point for Georgia (6-7). The sophomore finished with a team-high 18 points to lead the unranked Bulldogs past No. 12 Florida last season and had 17 in Friday's 52-41 victory over George Washington. "He clearly has emerged as one of the better players in our league," Donovan said of Caldwell-Pope, who is averaging 17.5 points and 7.2 rebounds Forward Nemanja Djurisic has come on strong for the Bulldogs, following up a career-high 21-point effort versus Florida A&M on Dec. 29 with 17 on Friday. Georgia, which ranks near the bottom of the SEC in field goal percentage (41.4) and scoring (60.6), looks for a more balanced effort against a Florida team that leads the conference in both defensive categories at 36.8 percent and 52.7 points per game. Florida leads the all-time series 106-99 and has not lost at home to Georgia since an 84-79 defeat Jan. 19, 2002.
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