Savannah St.-Florida Preview
By ALAN FERGUSON
(AP) -- Florida believes it will benefit from facing a physical opponent in its most recent game, but it might have to battle some fatigue in its next one.
The seventh-ranked Gators will have a short turnaround before Tuesday night's matchup with a visiting Savannah State team that's been competitive in each of its games.
Florida didn't get quite the challenge it might have expected from then-No. 22 Wisconsin on Wednesday as it won 74-56. Instead, the Gators were tested early in Sunday's game against Middle Tennessee State.
They led by only three at halftime before pulling away for a 66-45 win. Kenny Boynton scored the final 13 points for Florida (3-0) and finished with 20.
The Gators had to endure some bumps while earning the victory as they were fouled a season-high 24 times and outrebounded for the first time.
"This is one of the most physical teams I've played against in a long time," Boynton said. "In the end, we're going to benefit from playing them."
Florida, though, had only one day to recover and will face a program that has made significant strides since getting blown out 113-67 in its only matchup with the Gators on Jan. 18, 2006, in Gainesville.
Savannah State finished 2-28 that season after going 0-28 in the previous campaign, but it went 21-12 in 2011-12 and claimed the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's regular-season title in its inaugural season in the league.
The Tigers return all five starters from that team, including MEAC preseason player of the year Rashad Hassan.
Hassan, averaging a team-best 16.0 points on 69.4 percent shooting, had 17 on Sunday while helping his team rally from an 18-point deficit at Central Florida. Savannah State (3-2), though, fell 53-50.
The Tigers' other loss was 58-55 to Middle Tennessee State last Tuesday.
"They've been playing very, very good basketball. They've been in a lot of really close games," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "They had a chance to beat Middle Tennessee State, which is obviously a good team. They almost beat UCF. This is a team that while they've come up a little short, they've been right there."
Florida is off to its best start since winning its first eight games in 2009-10, and some stellar defensive efforts have helped keep the Gators unbeaten. They're giving up 45.3 points per game on 29.7 percent shooting and held Middle Tennessee to 27.0 percent in the second half Sunday.
Florida is 23-0 all-time against MEAC teams and has earned 21 of those wins in Donovan's tenure.
Boynton needs 38 points to surpass Stacey Poole for fifth place on the school's all-time scoring list.
Updated November 19, 2012