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Another Tough Test Awaits Florida

No. 12 LSU Among Best Defensive Teams in Country

In need of a win, the Florida Gators play a team that it has a pretty good recent track record against. The Gators have won six of the last eight games against LSU and topped 80 points in each of the last three meetings. Hitting 80 against an LSU team that is fifth in Division I scoring defense might be a little much to ask.

Six of Florida’s nine wins have come at home while LSU, ranked 12th in the latest Associated Press poll, is playing in just its third true road game.

Another tough test awaits struggling Florida
James Gilbert/Getty Images/AFP

Coming into the season, LSU (+800) and Florida (+1000) had the sixth and seventh-best odds to win the SEC title.

Game: Louisiana State (14-1) at Florida (9-5)

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center, Gainesville, Florida

Day/Time: Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET

Television: ESPN2

LSU Moving Forward Minus Injured PG

Continuity has been a key part of the impressive start to the 2021-22 season for the Louisiana State Tigers. Four players started each of the first 15 games while Brandon Murray was in the starting lineup for all but one game. That will change when the 12th-ranked Tigers play at Florida.

Point guard Xavier Pinson is out due to a knee injury, which will leave LSU without one of its three double-digit scorers and the team leader with 69 assists. He is also second on the team with 20 three-pointers and 31 steals.

When Pinson went down late in LSU’s win over Tennessee, the initial diagnosis was a “knee sprain.” That is usually code for a torn ACL. Fortunately for Pinson and the Tigers, that is not the deal here, but he will not be able to go on Wednesday.

LSU coach Will Wade told the media that Eric Gaines and Justice Williams will attempt to ease Pinson’s loss as best they can.

Gaines is fourth on the team with an average of 25.7 minutes played per game. He is the team leader with 32 steals and contributes 8.4 points off the bench. He is second on the team with 52 assists but has also committed 48 turnovers. He is not the shooter that Pinson is, missing 28 of his 34 three-point attempts.

Williams is the real wild card. He has played just three games and has 10 points, five rebounds and two steals in 38 minutes of action.

Tari Eason is coming off a game with 20 points and 10 rebounds. He is leading LSU in scoring at 16.2 points per game and is second on the team with 7.6 rebounds per game despite playing just 24.6 minutes per game.

Eleven of LSU’s last 13 games have gone under the total set by the Las Vegas odds.

Florida Faces Third Straight Ranked Foe

It is pretty safe to say that Southeastern Conference play hasn’t started quite the way the Florida Gators would have liked.

Florida gave up 20 offensive rebounds and allowed visiting Alabama to take 20 more shots than the Gators in the SEC opener. Three days later, Florida hit the road for its second straight game against a ranked opponent. The Gators allowed an opponent to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor for the fourth time as Auburn shot 53.6 percent.

It was only a one-point game with 8½ minutes left but the Tigers pulled away to hand the Gators their second straight conference loss by more than 10 points. After a 6-0 start, Florida has lost five of its last eight games.

The Gators gave up decisive second-half runs in both losses and that is something that needs to be addressed. It is not a case of overworking the starting five as Myreon Jones is the only Florida player to average more than 30 minutes per game.

One issue is that three of the five starters are shooting less than 40 percent from the field. Philandrous Fleming Jr. and Tyree Appleby, the Gators’ second and third-leading scorers, were a combined 4 of 25 from the field in the losses to Alabama and Auburn.

Leading scorer Colin Castleton certainly did what he could, averaging 20.5 points on 58 percent shooting in the two games, but he will need to get some help for Florida to avoid more struggles in SEC play.

Florida has failed to cover against the college basketball spreads in four of its last five games,

Inside Play Crucial

Among the many things Louisiana State does well is rebound the ball. The Tigers are second in the SEC only to Kentucky in rebounds per game while Florida ranks in the bottom half of the conference in that category.

Five of the last six games in the series have gone over the total, but going over with the way LSU gets after it on the defensive end could be quite the challenge.

LSU leads the SEC with 12.3 steals per game while both the Tigers and Gators block at least five shots per game, so this doesn’t promise to be an offensive showcase.

Those who bet online will be eyeing the total of 139, which seems a little high based on how well LSU has played defensively.

Pick: Under 139

Pick: LSU Tigers -2½

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