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'Noles and Gators add another chapter to bitter rivalry

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Updated: 11/29/2013 11:15 am

Gainesville, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Sunshine State rivals play the next installment in their long-standing relationship on Friday night, as the Florida State Seminoles pay a visit to the 15th-ranked Florida Gators.

Both teams are off to 5-1 starts, and each has a loss to a ranked Big Ten Conference foe on its resume' -- the Seminoles falling to Michigan (82-80 in OT), and the Gators stumbling against Wisconsin (59-53).

Florida has won 19 straight home games, and 20 in a row versus non-conference opponents in Gainesville.

Florida State has posted a couple of signature wins already this season, the team taking down UCF (80-68) and VCU (85-67). Still to come, the 'Noles have tough bouts with Minnesota and UMass prior to starting their ACC schedule at home versus Virginia on Jan. 4, 2014.

Other than the Wisconsin game, Florida hasn't a played a team of any notoriety this season, and Billy Donovan's squad is coming off an 86-60 thrashing of Jacksonville on the road this past Monday. That all changes for the Gators starting tonight however, as beyond FSU, they will play national powers UConn, Kansas and Memphis over the next three weeks.

Florida owns a 42-22 lead in the all-time series with Florida State, and that includes an 11-6 run with Donovan at the helm.

Shooting better than 50 percent from the field, the Seminoles are averaging a healthy 81.2 ppg. The team boasts five double-digit scorers, and Ian Miller leads the way with his 15.5 points and 3.2 assists per game, while Okaro White (14.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg) paces the unit on the glass, while also doing his share at the offensive end. Devon Bookert (13.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Montay Brandon (11.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Aaron Thomas (10.5 ppg, 3.3 spg) have all been productive performers for a Florida State squad that does a nice job on the glass (+4.2 rebounding margin), but commits more than 17 turnovers per outing. The Seminoles slipped past Northeastern in the third-place game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off last Sunday, 62-60. Thomas scored 16 points to lead the way, while Robert Gilchrist tacked on 12. FSU won the game despite shooting 38.3 percent from the field and losing the battle on the boards (37-33). They took advantage of 18 turnovers by the Huskies.

Florida's bread and butter is its play at the defensive end, the team yielding a mere 59.3 ppg on typical shooting outputs of .398 overall and .327 from 3- point range. The Gators own favorable margins in both rebounding (+3.7) and turnovers (+4.3), and they have six players who average double digits in the scoring column, led by Casey Prather and his 19.2 ppg. Prather also adds 6.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game to his impressive stat line, all while shooting 64.6 percent from the floor. Michael Frazier II (14.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and Dorian Finney-Smith (13.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg) have enjoyed solid starts, and Scottie Wilbekin made his season debut in the recent win over Jacksonville, giving the team another productive player on which to lean. Prather went 11- of-13 from the field in netting 27 points against the Dolphins, while Frazier II drained five 3-pointers to tack on 17. Finney-Smith logged a double-double consisting of 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Wilbekin finished with 12 points and seven assists. Florida made good on 59.6 percent of its total shots, which included a lights-out 8-of-13 showing from beyond the arc.

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