Morgantown, West Virginia – The #11 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers, 11-4 overall and 4-3 in the Big 12 Conference, play host to the Florida Gators, 9-4 overall and 6-3 in the SEC, in the Big 12/SEC Challenge today at 2:00PM on ESPN.
The Gators are coming off a seven point victory over Vanderbilt in its last outing and have won three games in a row. Despite playing shorthanded over the past several weeks, Florida has won four of its last five games, including a win over Tennessee, which was ranked #6 in the nation at the time of the loss.
Florida is led by 6’5 sophomore guard, Tre Mann, who averages 14.7, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. The Gainesville native has been the unquestioned leader of the team since Keyontae Johnson collapsed during the Gators’ 4th game of the season and remains out for the remainder of the season.
The Gators are a well-rounded team with several players that can score from the perimeter in the paint. 6’11 forward Colin Castleton is their most consistent interior player, averaging 12.8 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 63.6% from the field.
Florida also has guards that can make threes, and they do a tremendous job of driving and kicking to open shooters. This is something that the Mountaineers have struggled desperately with under Bob Huggins.
Guards Scottie Lewis (10.9 PPG), Noah Locke (10.7 PPG) and Tyree Appleby (10.5 PPG) all average double-digits in points and shoot approximately 40% from three point range. If the Mountaineers are going to win today, they must not give up open three point attempts to these dangerous shooters.
Florida’s head coach, Mike White, who is 2-0 in his career against Bob Huggins, recently said that the Mountaineers provide a very tough matchup for his team: “They’re always going to have a collection of guards that collectively defend you at a really high level,” White said. “They’re always going to share it. They’re going to have drivers. They’re always going to be elite on the offensive glass. They’re going to execute. They’re going to sit down and guard the heck out of you.”
Another storyline to watch today is the return of former West Virginia player, Darius Nichols, who is now an assistant coach with the Gators. This will be the first time he’s come back to the Coliseum in years and he’s excited for the opportunity: “It means a lot,” he said. “Just for the simple fact that a lot of the people that are going to be on the other side of the court, on the other bench, are people who have helped me get to where I am today. To me, that is a homecoming.”