TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A lot is on the line for the Florida Gators this week in the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament as they attempt o solidify their case for an NCAA Tournament bid.
First up, the Gators have a rematch with Texas A&M, who they lost to three weeks ago by just a point.
“I think we’ve improved as a team,” said Florida forward Anthony Duruji about what’s changed since that last meeting with the Aggies in February. “We’ve been more battle-tested. We’ve had a lot of games and I think we’ve trended in the right direction since then. Obviously, it’s a great opportunity again to get at them and we’re just looking to put it all out on the floor and get the ‘W’.”
“It’s the second time around playing a team so you know what they’re good at and you know what their weaknesses are,” said Florida senior forward Colin Castleton. “They’re obviously a way better team this time around. They’re on like a four-game winning streak right now. Their guard-play is really tremendous. They’re at a high level right now in all aspects so we’ve just got to play as good as we can and bring everything. Everyone’s got to be ready. It’s really just focusing on us as much as it is focusing on them but as long as we bring it, we can win the game.”
Castleton, who is the Gators’ leading score (16.4 ppg), rebounder (9.1 rpg) and blocker (2.4 bpg), is coming off an illness and is still battling a shoulder injury. But the All-SEC forward practiced at Amalie Arena Wednesday and is ready to tough it out as long as his team is still playing.
“It’s really just pushing through it and knowing this is your last go-around and you won’t have another opportunity at this,” Castleton said. “You’ve got to just push through it and give everything you have because you want to make it to the (NCAA) Tournament.”
“Colin is a walking double-double,” Duruji said. “Even if he’s not 100 percent. He’s so talented and he brings so much value to this team. He’s showed a lot of resilience battling with his shoulder (injury). But he’s always going to be a presence for our team and just being out there on the court. He’s going to help us tremendously.”
If the Gators can get past the Aggies, they’d face top-seeded Auburn Friday in the quarterfinals. Florida upset the Tigers in the regular season– coincidentally, in the game right after they faced Texas A&M in February.