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Tigers look for redemption against Gators

Despite some recent struggles, Phil Pressey has the confidence of his Missouri teammates and coaches.

Despite some recent struggles, Phil Pressey has the confidence of his Missouri teammates and coaches.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Alex Oriakhi had a simple synopsis of how Missouri’s first meeting with Florida went back in January.

“They kicked our butts pretty well,” the Missouri center said of the Tigers’ 83-52 loss in Gainesville.

Missouri will try to avenge the loss today at Mizzou Arena (8 p.m. ESPN-TV), a game that sits in the middle of a critical stretch for the Tigers.

“We’re playing one of the best teams in the country, if not the best team in the country,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “It’s a very gifted, talented group on both ends of the court. Very good, very sound, experienced. It’s going to take a tremendous effort for us to have success.”

No. 4 Florida looked every bit like the best team in the country when it sliced through a Missouri team that was without leading scorer Laurence Bowers. The Gators led 11-0 before Missouri could even respond. Missouri shot 32 percent from the floor while allowing the Gators to shoot 60 percent.

“I’m not going to lie to you and say we don’t want revenge,” Oriakhi said. “We want to show we’re one of the best teams in America. We want to win (today). They definitely beat our butts pretty bad. We want to get redemption.”

Florida (21-3, 11-1 SEC), which starts three seniors and two juniors from last year’s Elite 8 squad, has four players averaging in double figures, led by Kenny Boynton’s 13 points per game.

“They really share the ball,” Haith said. “They have a great feel for each other, so we have to be terrific on our rotations and limit them to one shot because they are pretty good offensive rebounding too.”

The Gators haven’t just been beating SEC teams, they’ve been blowing them out, winning by an average of 25 points per game.

Florida’s only SEC loss came at the hands of Arkansas, 80-69, last Tuesday in Fayetteville, Ark. The Razorbacks couldn’t miss at the onset as they jumped out to a 36-13 lead at one point and shot 49 percent for the game.

“They made shots,” Haith said of Arkansas. “You’ve got to make shots against them because they are sound defensively. You’re going to have to make some shots against them because they aren’t going to beat themselves.”

The game is not only critical because the Tigers want to prove they’re better than it showed in the first meeting, but also because Missouri needs a quality win to boost its NCAA Tournament chances.

Today’s game comes after Saturday’s two-point loss at Arkansas and on the heels of a tough game Saturday at Kentucky. The Tigers (18-7, 7-5 SEC) can’t afford too many more losses, especially at home if they want to reach their sixth straight NCAA Tournament. A win today would boost Missouri’s postseason resume.

“We just worry about the game,” Haith said. “The game that we have in front of us is Florida, an opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the country. Figuring out quality wins, home wins, road wins to try and get your resume built up for the NCAA, I don’t think (the team) needs to worry about that. That’s not for them.”

The Tigers do have home court on their side this year where they are a perfect 14-0 this season.

“Florida’s not going to play soft for us,” Bowers said. “Nobody has. They’re going to come in here and try to win a ball game.”

III

Haith said Monday he has not been contacted by the NCAA in regards to the latest news out of the Miami investigation.

The NCAA released findings of how it conducted its investigation into the case, nearly a month after it revealed some information in the case had been obtained improperly.

Haith, a former coach at Miami, has had his name linked to the nearly two-year long investigation into improprieties surrounding former Miami booster and convicted felon Nevin Shapiro.

It was reported by CBS Sports last month Haith would receive a notice from the NCAA regarding allegations of unethical conduct and failure to promote and atmosphere of compliance. Haith was accused of having knowledge of a $10,000 payment to former Miami player DeQuan Jones.

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