GAINESVILLE — When asked last week about his team's 3-point shooting streak that dates back 17 years, Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan was quick to point out that it's not good to get too caught up in streaks because eventually they all must end.
With that in mind, Donovan is hoping tonight will be one of those nights.
Florida has a three-game losing streak against rival Florida State, which hasn't lost to the Gators since 2005. Seminoles forward Ryan Reid could become the first player in FSU history to play in four wins over the Gators.
But the Gators insist they aren't overly concerned about the streak.
"This is a whole new team from last year, and they've got a different team from last year," UF sophomore guard Erving Walker said. "So the streak really doesn't mean nothing. Both teams are totally different, so it's 0-0 for us."
In a way, he's correct. It's not as if Florida State is coming to Gainesville with a veteran team as in recent years. The Seminoles have one senior, and coach Leonard Hamilton said they still are trying to work through growing pains.
"This team is still a work in progress," he said. "We're extremely young. They're still learning about each other. We're developing our roles. Our rotation is still somewhat in flux, even our starting lineup is still somewhat in flux. We're finding out, while we're learning, we need to play very hard and unselfishly. That's been good enough for us to win the games we have played. We're definitely not fooling ourselves. Florida will be a huge step up from the caliber of competition we've played up to this point."
The same can be said for the Gators, who are expected to face their toughest challenge to date in terms of height and shot-blocking ability. FSU is averaging 10.7 blocks per game, and Solomon Alabi (7 feet 1) and Xavier Gibson (6 feet 11) have nine and 10, respectively.
"We've got to be intelligent," Donovan said in respect to the Seminoles' size advantage. "I think we have to have a presence at the basket. They are probably going to be one of the biggest and longest teams we will have played against. They have great length and size. …
"We have some guys who can hopefully match up. We don't have anybody the size of those guys or the length of those guys, but neither do most teams in the country. So it's not like we're drastically undersized playing against them. I think most teams that play against FSU are going to be drastically undersized."
In a perfect scenario for Donovan, Florida and Florida State would be playing this game Friday. But because of scheduling conflicts, the game won't be a late-week prelude to the football showdown Saturday.
"I've always been a big advocate of playing on Friday night, but it didn't work out this year," Donovan said. "Being in this state going on 14 years now, it's a great atmosphere and it's a great way to tie the basketball and the football weekend together for all the fans. People have different opinions on that stuff, and it didn't work out this year.
"I think for our team, it doesn't make a difference to the players. Once the ball goes up, I don't think anybody has any idea or even thinks about what day the game is being played."
Despite the winning streak, Hamilton said he doesn't expect either team to have an easy time of it tonight.
"This has been an extremely competitive rivalry, and it's played at an extremely high level," Hamilton said. "That's what you would expect from a team that's as well-coached and as talented as the University of Florida teams have always been. Coach Donovan always has kids extremely well-prepared, they play extremely hard, and they execute very well."
The Gators expect the same.
"Two good teams from the same state will always bring a little extra heat or flavor, whatever you want to call it," Walker said. "They are a good team, we're a good team, so it's going to be a good game."