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January 24, 2014

Notebook: Gators look to stop skid against Vols

There aren't many Southeastern Conference teams No. 6 Florida hasn't fared well against during the past three seasons. After all, the Gators have won the SEC regular season crown in two of the past three seasons and ended each of those campaigns in the Elite Eight.

Which is why Tennessee coming to town for a 4 p.m. tip-off Saturday is such an occasion.

Volunteers coach Cuonzo Martin is undefeated (3-0) against the Gators. Tennessee has not lost to Florida since March 11, 2011, Bruce Pearl's second-to-last game as coach.

The trouble in stopping the Volunteers starts up front with Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes, two of the top forwards in the SEC. Both are averaging at least 11.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. The Gators have yet to face both at the same time because of an injury to Maymon last season.

"Certainly, I think it changed their team last year," Billy Donovan said. "This year, obviously having him back, they have the ability to go really physical up front with he and Stokes. Those two guys are really good frontcourt players. They rebound the ball very well. I think they're one and three in the league rebounding-wise, and they give great effort all the time."

Donovan's struggles against Tennessee are not limited to the fairly recent Martin era. The Gators are 16-18 against the Volunteers since 1997, thanks in large part to a six-game losing streak that stretched from 2007 until 2010.

"They're going to be definitely bigger, so we've just got to do a good job of putting a body on them," senior forward Casey Prather said.


Florida already faced a steep challenge by playing Tennessee Saturday afternoon after a Thursday night game in Alabama. That situation got even trickier when the Gators' plane suffered mechanical issues after Thursday's game, and the team was forced to spend an extra night in Tuscaloosa before arriving back in Gainesville around noon Friday.

"Instead of watching tape on the flight home and getting in this morning and coming in (to the basketball facility), it just kind of was a little bit different," Donovan said. "We were able to stay there and get some work done last night and then get some work done on the flight coming in and then be able to sit down as a staff and prepare practice. Wasn't a whole lot we could do today physically just with that one day in between and then kind of just being a little bit delayed getting in. But I don't think that it's really that big of a deal or issue or problem for us. By the time we would have gotten back here with class and everything else, they would have been up early anyway."

During the past three seasons, Florida has been remarkably successful in short turnaround situations. The Gators' seniors have swept four Thursday-Saturday turnarounds during their time at Florida and split one with a Saturday loss at Kentucky.


Despite reports earlier this week that freshman forward Chris Walker would be cleared by the NCAA in time to play in Saturday's game, it appears he will once again not be active.

Donovan, who announced earlier this week he would no longer address questions regarding the matter, took it into his own hands Friday to give the lack of news. Before any reporter asked a questions, he blurted out: "No update on Chris Walker. Thought I'd get that out."

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