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Gators not overlooking cellar-dweller Missouri

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Florida won by 30-point margins in back-to-back games last week, yet moved up just one spot to No. 24 in the AP Poll. But, with SEC foes Missouri and Kentucky on the schedule this week, UF will have a change to jump higher in the polls.

A matchup with juggernaut No. 8 Kentucky looms Saturday, but head coach Mike White isn't overlooking Thursday's game with the Tigers, a team on a 12-game losing streak.

"They're not going to be overlooking Thursday, or they'll be sitting by me," White said. "We're gonna find five guys that are really excited to play Missouri. I mean, Missouri has been very competitive. I understand they've struggled in some areas, that they've struggled to score sometimes. If I hear 'Kentucky' from one of our players, they may not play."

"It's mostly focusing on us and making sure we stay true to ourselves and keep doing what we're doing," forward Kevarrius Hayes said. "Don't change anything whether it's the worst team or the best team that we're playing."

The Gators haven't had much luck on the boards due to a lack of physicality and poor box-outs. But, last week, Florida pounded Oklahoma on the glass, 50-39. It was UF's largest rebounding margin against a Power Five conference this season. The Gators will need to carry those numbers over into the matchup with Missouri, which ranks second in the SEC with 39.3 rebounds per game.

"Physicality is going to be a factor," White said. "Their starting 4 and 5 are big, strong, tough dudes that look like they could be on the football field."

Defending at a high level is something the Gators excel at on the road but haven't been able to replicate at home. They hold opponents to a shooting percentage of 40.5 in away games, but allow a 49.1 field goal percentage at home.

Hayes said it comes down to tuning out distractions in the O'Dome.

"Focusing on the person next to you," Hayes said. "You know, your teammates and people who are actually on the floor with you, instead of trying to impress the crowd because everybody loves the crowd."

White said with the tough stretch of games approaching in February, the team found an opportunity earlier in the week to take two consecutive days off practice. Players only participated in lifts and individual workouts. It's just the second time the team has taken a break like this during the season (the other time was during Christmas break).

Tip-off is at 7 p.m. Thursday at the O'Connell Center.


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