DALLAS — The Florida basketball team was in its locker room getting ready to play the late game Thursday night as Texas Tech was on the court at American Airlines Center playing its first-round NCAA Tournament game.
The Gators didn’t have to see the crowd to understand who the fans were rooting for in that one.
And who they’ll be rooting for Saturday night as No. 6-seeded Florida takes on No. 3 Texas Tech.
“I could definitely hear it,” Florida guard Jalen Hudson said. “It seems like they’ll have a lot of people there. The fans really can’t do anything for them on the court. We’ll have to bring our own energy. I still feel really good about it. We played some really good, tough teams at their place and were able to come out with a W. So I feel really good about it.”
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Those sentiments are shared by the rest of the Gators as well.
While this Florida team has had its struggles at times, is has delivered some of its best moments on the road. There was the double-overtime win over Gonzaga in the PK80 tournament before a very pro-Bulldogs crowd in Portland, Ore., the win over Kentucky at Rupp Arena and other strong SEC road wins at Texas A&M, Missouri, South Carolina and Alabama.
“I feel like it will help us kind of come together, get in our element. We seem to be playing very well in our away games, especially against big teams,” center Kevarrius Hayes said. “I feel like being in that environment before has kind of prepared us for [this] and we look forward to it. I feel like it gives us more of an understanding that it’s us against everybody else. We still appreciate the fans that do make the trip to come out here, but with so many Texas Tech fans compared to ours we know we have to come together, us on the court.”
Texas Tech isn’t exactly right down the road from Dallas. Lubbock, Texas, is a solid 5-hour drive, but that was no obstacle to the Red Raiders packing the arena for their win over Stephen F. Austin on Thursday.
Florida, meanwhile, had a small section of orange and blue for its NCAA Tournament opener against St. Bonaventure.
It should be the same way Saturday night, and the Gators say they’re ready for it.
“We expect a hostile environment. We’re obviously in Texas so we expect [it] to be more Texas Tech fans. It’s going to be fun,” guard Egor Koulechov said. “… Those are the kind of games you kind of wait for, the fun ones.”