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Gators ready for physical battle

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- All eyes have been on Marshall Henderson as No. 4 Florida (17-2, 7-0 SEC) gets set to host No. 16 Mississippi (17-3, 6-1 SEC), but the Rebels boast far more talent than just the polarizing guard.

Junior forward Will Yeguete knows Ole Miss will test Florida's physicality in the paint.

Reginald Buckner, in particular, gave Kentucky all kinds of problems down low with his size and power before Nerlens Noel went swat crazy in Tuesday's win for the Wildcats.

"It’s going to be a physical game," forward Will Yeguete said. "Coach (Billy Donovan) always tells us that every game we play in this league is going to be physical, however in-depth that they are. They’re all a really good size. I think it’s going to be a good challenge for us."

At 6 foot 9, 235 pounds, Buckner will be one of the few bigs that Patric Young has had to bang around down low with who has a similar build. The starting center is averaging 9.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.

Even more productive is power forward Murphy Holloway, who checks in at 6 foot 7, 240 pounds. He'll be a tough matchup for Erik Murphy and Yeguete.

"They certainly rebound the ball extremely well -- 26 offensive rebounds against Kentucky," Donovan said. "They score more than any team in our league on second shots, so rebounding the ball is a major priority."

On the season, Florida boasts an +8.9 rebounding margin. That will be put to the test today, though.

The looks in the paint for the Gators are likely to be more contested than they have been so far in Florida's dominant seven-game SEC winning streak.

"Really good shot-blocking team," Donovan said. "You gotta make smart decisions when you get in the lane, you can’t shoot a lot of runners and floaters with those guys in there because they’re really good at it."

Florida will get a little bit of a break against Ole Miss, though. The Rebels will likely be without two contributors. Backup forward Aaron Jones tore his ACL recently, while guard Nick Williams is out indefinitely with a foot injury.

Still, Yeguete and the Gators aren't taking the Rebels lightly. When Henderson's on the floor anything can happen.

And the rest of the Rebels aren't exactly walk-on scrubs.

"There was a reason going into the Kentucky game, that they were 17-2," Donovan said. "There’s a reason they’re 6-1 in the league."

With a one-game cushion in the SEC race, Florida will look to take a stronger hold at the top by handing Ole Miss its second loss.

The Gators know it won't be easy.

"Any team can just come and just beat any other team, like Kentucky went to Ole Miss and beat them," Yeguete said. "We just want to play good at home and just come in here and play with a lot of energy and passion."

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