Butler and Florida face off during the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. The two teams meet for a second time this season on Dec. 29. Jimmy Lafakis/Collegian file photo.
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The Butler men’s basketball team closes out its nonconference schedule with a second battle against the Florida Gators on Dec. 29. Here’s what you need to know as the Bulldogs try to head into conference play on a positive note.
Who: Butler vs. Florida
When: Dec. 29, 4:00 p.m.
Where: Exactech Arena, Gainesville, Florida
How to Watch/Listen: ESPNU / 107.5 FM, 1070 AM
The previous matchup
Butler is getting an unusual chance to play a team twice in the same nonconference schedule. The Bulldogs faced off against the Gators at the Battle 4 Atlantis on Nov. 23 and came away with a 61-54 victory. In that contest, Kamar Baldwin and Paul Jorgensen combined for 35 points and Butler held Florida to less than 30 percent shooting from the 3-point line. Only two Gators were in double figures and they shot 35 percent as a team.
Since that November matchup, Butler has added Jordan Tucker to its roster. In three games, the transfer from Duke is averaging nine points and four rebounds while shooting 60 percent from three and 42 percent from the field. Tucker adds another dimension to the Bulldog offense, thus changing Florida’s approach to guarding them.
Since scoring just three points in the first meeting between these two teams, Florida’s KeVaughn Allen has scored in double figures in four of his last five games, including a 19-point performance against West Virginia. He has emerged as the No. 1 scoring option on this Gators squad.
Maybe some confidence on the road?
Butler has played exactly one game on the road. The result was a not-so-encouraging defeat at Saint Louis on Dec. 1. Butler shot 28 percent from the field and had four assists as a team in the 12-point loss. The performance was less than stellar and the Billikens controlled almost the entire game. This is Butler’s last chance to play well on the road before Big East play begins. Doing some good things away from Hinkle breeds confidence for conference play. In case you didn’t know, Butler will play nine conference road games and winning any of those games is a great resume booster.
Florida has a really solid defense
They don’t shoot it all that well. Only 44 percent from the field, 65 percent from the charity stripe and 35 percent from deep. But the Gators get after it defensively. They are ranked 21st in the country in scoring defense and they haven’t given up more than 70 points since playing Stanford at the Battle 4 Atlantis over Thanksgiving. When combined with home court advantage, the Gators are going to be tough to beat. The last time Butler played a solid defense on the road they got stiff and didn’t move the ball well. If the Bulldogs are going to go into Gainesville and win, putting pressure on Florida’s defense is the key, especially when Florida has a hard time scoring.