Alabama (7-5) vs. Florida (8-4)
5:00 PM C.T., January 4th
Stephen O’Connell Center, Gainesville Florida
Available to watch on ESPN 2, Listen on The Crimson Tide Sports Network
Alabama has completed their non-conference slate, and now opens up conference play Saturday in Gainesville against the Florida Gators. Alabama is coming off an impressive 90-78 win last Sunday against the Richmond Spiders, where Freshman Jaden Shackelford scored 28 points and 8 rebounds. The Gators are a strong defensive team, allowing 62 PPG, and are probably one of the best teams in the country in guarding the perimeter— allowing teams to shoot just under 29% shooting from behind the arc. The Tide will have to work the ball around to find the best shot available and don’t rush, as UF’s defense could wreck havoc for the Gators. While UF is a strong defensive team, the Gators struggle to put points on the board, only averaging around 70 PPG, while Alabama averages 82.8 PPG, which now ranks in the top 10 nationally. Another key factor is the pace of the play, where the Tide ranks top 5 nationally thanks to Kira Lewis and John Petty getting the ball up the court in a hurry. If the Tide can get enough defensive stops and start the break, then this might be a long day for the Gators.
Key players to watch:
Senior F Kerry Blackshear Jr - 14.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG
Sophomore G - Keyontae Johnson - 13.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG
Sophomore G - Andrew Nembhard - 9.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.9 APG
Alabama has shown that they can put up points with anybody at ease, but the biggest question this season to this point has been can the Tide make key defensive stops and cut the number of turnovers down. That will be the biggest factor of this game. UF has home court advantage, and with this being the opening game of a long conference slate, the crowd will show up loud and proud. With John Petty playing the way he is and Jaden Shackelford coming off a 28 point game, the Tide will have enough to keep the crowd out of this game. Watch for Sophomore big man Javian Davis have a huge game down low as well. While UF is strong defensively, I don’t think they can put up enough points to win. I got the Tide winning close.