Deaundrae Ballard

Florida guard Deaundrae Ballard leads the Gators with 10.9 points per game.

Former guard Chris Chiozza sank a buzzer-beating, three-point floater the last time the Gators played in Madison Square Garden.

They hope to capture some of that same magic this time around.

Florida (4-3) will take on West Virginia in the Jimmy V Classic in New York City tomorrow night at 9.

The Mountaineers (5-2) are coming off a 106-72 drubbing of Youngstown State, but have somewhat disappointed thus far into the season.

“Press Virginia” opened up its season with high expectations but fell in its opening matchup with Buffalo 94-99 in OT. The next contest saw WVU blow by overmatched Monmouth then suffer another loss to a less-than-stellar Western Kentucky team.

But now, the Mountaineers are riding a four-game win streak.

West Virginia is led by senior forwards Esa Ahmad and Sagaba Konate. Ahmad is averaging 16.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while Konate sits at 14.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

UF doesn’t truly have a “clear-cut” leader as nearly every player in its (roughly) 12-man rotation is capable of leading on any given night.

But guard Deaundrae Ballard has been the go-to guy when the offense fails for the Gators. He’s the only member on the team averaging double-digits (10.9) points per game.

Point guard Andrew Nembhard is the most visible player on the team, as he easily leads all players with 30.9 minutes per game. Although lauded more for his passing - he averages 6.57 assists per game and accounts for 46.5 percent of all UF assists - he currently is 50 percent from three this year as well.

Shooting has been an issue for Florida this year, particularly from deep. It currently pulls at a clip of 23.3 threes per game and only hits 36.6 percent.

Senior guards KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson bear some brunt of responsibility, as they have shot 25 percent and 24 percent, respectively, from the three-point line this season.

Hudson has lost his starting spot this season to freshman guard Noah Locke, who is hitting at a clip of 44.1 percent from deep.

Mike White’s offense is predicated on the three-ball, and if it’s not hitting, the team isn’t scoring.

WVU has had its problems from deep this year as well. It has three players shooting better than 42 percent, but the team as a whole only averages 35.4 percent.

Expect a low-scoring affair, as neither team is shooting lights out. They'll rely on their defensive prowess to carry them to wins.

 

Follow Chris O'Brien on Twitter @THEChrisOB or contact him at [email protected].

 

Chris O'Brien is currently the men's basketball beat writer at the Alligator. He's a sophomore at the University of Florida and aspires to be an on-air sports reporter someday.