UF mens' home streak faces test from LSU
Published: Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 20, 2012 at 8:32 p.m.
The last time Florida lost at the O'Connell Center, freshman guard Bradley Beal was still a senior in high school, Osama bin Laden was still alive and “Friday Night Lights” was still an NBC series.
Who: No. 17 Florida Gators (14-4, 2-1 SEC) vs LSU Tigers (12-6, 2-2 SEC)
When: 6 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center, Gainesville
Gainesville TV: FSN
Gainesville radio: 103.7 FM
It's been more than a year since the Gators last lost at home. No. 17 Florida (14-4, 2-1 SEC) takes a 15-game home winning streak into its matchup with LSU today at the O-Dome.
While the Gators have struggled on the road this season (1-4), Florida has been more crisp at home. The Gators are 9-0 at home, winning the nine games by an average margin of 25.7 points per game.
Florida's last loss in the O'Connell Center was a 72-69 defeat to South Carolina on Jan. 15, 2011.
The key to UF's home success has been making better decisions with the basketball. Overall, Florida leads the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.5-to-1. At home, though, UF's assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.9-to-1 (156-82).
“We've worked on it in practice and it's been a focus for us, not only on the road but at home, making good decisions and taking care of the ball,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “And we've done a pretty good job the last couple of games making sure our assist-to-turnover ratio has been high.”
The Gators will need to continue to make good decisions against an LSU team that puts defense first. The Tigers have held 12 opponents under 60 points this season, going 11-1 in those games.
LSU ranks third in the SEC in scoring defense (60.7 ppg) and third in field goal percentage defense (39.2 percent).
“It's going to be a challenge, because right now, we're trying to be one of the best defensive teams in the league, too,” Florida junior guard Mike Rosario said. “It's going to be a challenge for us and them.”
The Gators solved their road woes with a 79-64 win at South Carolina last week and have had a full week to prepare for LSU.
“This bye week comes pretty early in the conference schedule, playing just three games,”Donovan said. “Hopefully we can utilize this time to get better and focus on ourselves earlier in the week and then get ready for LSU.”
Senior center Patric Young remains hobbled with ankle tendinitis. Young is expected to play, but may not start. If Young comes off the bench, junior Erik Murphy will slide over to the center spot with sophomore Will Yeguete starting at power forward.
The Gators haven't gone a full season unbeaten at home since they won their last national title in 2007. Florida survived an early close call this season with a 78-72 overtime win against Arizona. After LSU, Florida still has tough home matchups with Mississippi State (Jan. 28), Vanderbilt (Feb. 4) and Kentucky (March 4) on the horizon.
“We're making progress, but we're still not where we can be, where we need to be,” Murphy said. “We can get a lot better. That just comes with experience as the season goes on, some guys in new roles and getting that experience. I think we'll continue to progress.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G Kenny Boynton 6-2 Jr. 18.7 ppg, 3.1 apg
G Erving Walker 5-8 Sr. 12.9 ppg, 5.0 apg
G Bradley Beal 6-3 Fr. 14.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg
F Erik Murphy 6-10 Jr. 10.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg
C Patric Young 6-9 So. 11.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg
LSU PROBABLE STARTERS
G Andre Stringer 5-9 So. 10.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg
G Anthony Hickey 5-11 Fr. 9.6 ppg, 4.0 apg
F Ralston Turner 6-6 So. 8.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg
F Storm Warren 6-7 Sr. 8.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg
C Justin Hamilton 7-0 Jr. 13.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg
Notes: Florida is 39-60 all-time against LSU. The Gators are 10-8 vs. LSU under current coach Billy Donovan. … The Gators have made 10 or more 3-pointers in 13 of 18 games this season. … Florida had six players score in double figures in its last game Saturday at South Carolina. … Junior guard Mike Rosario is averaging 8.3 points off the bench, while sophomore forward Will Yeguete is averaging 5.2 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. … LSU already has more wins this season than it did all of last season, when the Tigers finished 11-21. … Erving Walker (1,563 career points) needs just two points to pass Eugene McDowell for ninth on the UF career list. … Kenny Boynton has made at least one 3-pointer in 34 straight games, five shy of Lee Humphrey's school record (39 straight games).
Three things to watch
1. Manning the middle
LSU junior center Justin Hamilton will present a tough matchup for Florida inside, a 7-footer who leads the Tigers in scoring (13.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.5 rpg). “He doesn't bring a lot of attention to himself,” LSU coach Trent Johnson said. “He lets his game speak.” Auburn kept Hamilton and LSU in check in the second half by going to a zone defense and limiting his touches. With UF starting center Patric Young hobbled by ankle tendinitis, look for the Gators to throw a mix of zone and man defenses at Hamilton.
2. Shot selection
Both Florida and LSU have been prone at times this season to lapse into taking quick, ill-advised shots early in the shot clock. LSU sophomores Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner are still learning the difference between good shots and bad shots. Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker have progressed in that area. The team that's the most efficient in shot selection will put itself in position to win the game.
3. Taking care of the ball
LSU freshman point guard Anthony Hickey leads the SEC in steals at 2.4 per game. Overall, the Tigers are forcing 16.4 turnovers per game. The Gators are coming off one of their most efficient games of the season, a 19-assist, 10-turnover performance against South Carolina. Senior point guard Erving Walker will need support bringing the ball upcourt. The Gators also will need to make smart, crisp passes.
1. Can Florida keep LSU center Justin Hamilton in check?
2. Will the Gators take smart shots against a physical, defensive LSU team?
3. Will Florida show any signs of rust after a one-week layoff during its bye week?