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Thursday, October 28, 2021
<p>Andrew Nembhard</p>

Andrew Nembhard

The Florida men’s basketball team suffered one of its most mortifying losses of the season after what seemed like a Missouri shootaround on Saturday night.

Mizzou defeated Florida 91-75 after shooting an unprecedented 63 percent from beyond the arc in Columbia, Missouri. Mizzou was shooting just 31 percent from three-point range on the season before facing Florida.

Just that afternoon at home, Auburn whipped the Georgia Bulldogs 82-60 to start their season 15-0.

Both teams’ narratives shifted after a convincing win and a surprising loss in the days that followed.

Florida would go on to completely shut down Ole Miss (9-7) on Tuesday in a 71-55 win in which the Rebels only shot 29 percent from the field in the second half — a massive improvement from its defensive performance just three days earlier.

Auburn was then upset by the Crimson Tide (9-7) in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the next day in an astonishing 83-64 loss.

The Tigers (15-1, 3-1 SEC) now will come into Gainesville to face the Gators (11-5, 3-1 SEC) on Saturday as both teams are coming off — for better or worse — significant SEC games.

The Gators were able to beat Alabama 104-98 in a double overtime nail-biter on Jan. 4 and found success where Auburn struggled: at the guard position.

Florida’s Andrew Nembhard and Noah Locke combined for 43 points in their win against Alabama while Auburn’s guard tandem of J’Von McCormick and Samir Doughty couldn’t get anything going for their team.

The two combined for just 11 points on 4-of-19 shooting from the field in Auburn’s crushing loss at Alabama.

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl was critical of his guards’ play on Wednesday.

“We were really sloppy offensively,” Pearl said in a release. “Pacing, timing, feel. A lot of that starts with our point guards. We don’t just shoot it well enough offensively to make up for what we don’t execute or space, and it caught up with us tonight. We’ll have another opportunity this week to shore that up.”

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Florida coach Mike White isn’t taking Auburn’s guard duo lightly.

“Probably one of the more underrated backcourts in the country, elite speed and quickness,” White said in a postgame press conference on Tuesday.

Nembhard and Locke enter Saturday afternoon’s matchup at the O’Connell Center averaging 21 points per game combined while McCormick and Doughty are at 26.4 per contest.

Both backcourts will be depended on to carry the load for their respective teams. Whether it’s to rebound from a crushing loss or build off a dominating win.

“We’re going to need our confidence high to make shots,” Nembhard said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Follow Joseph on Twitter @JSalvadorSports and contact him at jsalvador@alligator.org.

Andrew Nembhard

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