No. 11 Gators host Georgia to open SEC play

No. 11 Gators host Georgia to open SEC play

Florida closed non-conference play on Sunday with a win at Yale to move to 10-2, and they'll host an unranked Georgia team to open Southeastern Conference play on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs are 6-7 on the season with losses to Southern Miss and Youngstown State but ride a four-game winning streak into Wednesday's game. Regardless of the records, the Gators know they will be tested.

They know that because it happened in the teams' last meeting. The Gators traveled to Athens and lost by 14 to a Georgia team that snapped a three-game losing streak. The records don't always tell the story in this rivalry game.

"They give us a hard time," Florida junior forward Will Yeguete said. "They beat us last year at their place. They have really good guards. We've got to be ready to play."

When the teams tip off at 7 p.m., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be the central focus for the Gators. The sophomore is averaging 17.5 points per game this season. His 6-5 frame makes him a difficult matchup and helps him shoot over the top of shorter players that will guard him. If teams put a forward on him, Caldwell-Pope has the quickness to get around him.

Caldwell-Pope averaged 13.2 points per game as a freshman last season, but he wasn't very well known across the conference. A large part of it was due to a strong freshman class. Kentucky had Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Florida had Brad Beal and Arkansas had B.J. Young. There were multiple other freshmen that made an immediate impact.

With Beal and the Kentucky duo gone, Caldwell-Pope is starting to get more attention this year.

"He's a really, really talented guy. He was one of those guys that scored quite a bit last year and didn't really get a whole lot of recognition. The one thing that is really impressive about him is he has great size. He's got great length. He can really, really score. He can rebound his position. He's very aggressive on offense.

"He clearly has emerged into one of the better players in our league and I'm not sure he was given his proper due respect last year as a freshman because he was really, really good as a freshman last year."

Florida guard Kenny Boynton said that the Gators would switch him and Scottie Wilbekin up on Caldwell-Pope to give him different looks and stay fresh on the defensive end. Boynton expects he Gators to mix up the defenses so that Caldwell-Pope doesn't know what to expect when he gets the ball.

"He's a great scorer," Boynton said. "I haven't seen him play a full game, but I've seen his numbers. He's always putting up big numbers."

Behind Caldwell-Pope, there aren't many Georgia players putting up big numbers. There only one Georgia player that's averaging more than 5.7 points per game. There are seven Bulldogs that are averaging between 3.5-5.7 points per game this year.

"They're very efficient on offense with what they do," Donovan said. "They're a physical team. They're going to rebound the basketball. They're going to play their style and their system. Certainly (Caldwell-Pope) stands out just because when you look at their total number of shots and how much he's responsible for, it obviously goes through him with his ability to score. It's a team that I think will get better and improve as a lot of teams in our league will."

The Gators are used to having success against Georgia. Florida has won 15 of the last 18 matchups and 10 straight home games. The Gators are also 14-2 in their first home game on the SEC schedule over the last 16 years.

And the Florida roster will have plenty of respect from the other bench.

"This is as good of a Florida team as I've seen in my tenure at Georgia," Bulldogs head coach Mark Fox said.

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