Published March 01, 2014
Nashville, TN – Gainesville, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - With the 2014 SEC championship in hand, the top-ranked Florida Gators put a program-record 20-game win streak on the line on Saturday afternoon, as they host the LSU Tigers in a conference showdown at the O'Connell Center.
Billy Donovan's Gators sit atop the national rankings with a stellar 26-2 overall record. The team has run the table through the SEC thus far, moving to 15-0 with Tuesday's hard-fought 57-54 road win at Vanderbilt. The 26 wins match the best regular-season win total in school history, set during the 2006-07 campaign.
Johnny Jones' Tigers have amassed a 17-10 overall record, although most of those victories have come in Baton Rouge (13-2). LSU is coming off a 68-49 rout of Texas A&M on Wednesday, which moved the team over .500 in conference play at 8-7.
LSU holds a 60-42 edge in the all-time series with Florida, but the Gators have won five straight over the Tigers and are 26-19 in games played in Gainesville.
The Tigers took advantage of poor shooting by the Aggies, who converted a mere 30.8 percent from the floor in LSU's big win this week. The Tigers on the other hand, delivered on 49.1 percent from the field, including an impressive 9-of-20 showing from behind the arc. Jarell Martin led the charge with 20 points, as he went 4-of-5 from long range. Johnny O'Bryant III just missed a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Andre Stringer added 11 points off the bench.
LSU has remained competitive in most games thanks to a strong offensive attack that generates 77.3 ppg on .452 shooting. The Tigers have solid scoring depth with four players currently netting double figures. O'Bryant headlines the group as the team's top scorer (15.5 ppg) and rebounder (7.8 rpg). Jordan Mickey (13.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is next in line in both categories. Stringer (11.9 ppg) and Martin (10.3 ppg) round out the productive quartet.
There have been a lot of potent offensive squads that have been neutralized by Florida's staunch defensive play. The Gators rank eighth nationally in scoring defense, yielding a mere 58.6 ppg, while holding foes to just over 40 percent shooting (.403). UF has also enjoyed positives in both rebounding (+5.7) and turnover (+2.5) margins. Despite putting up a modest 70.8 ppg on the year, Florida possesses a balanced attack. Four of the five starters boast of double-digit scoring averages, led by Casey Prather's 14.8 ppg. Scottie Wilbekin is a close second at 13.5 ppg, followed by Michael Frazier II and Patric Young with 12.2 and 10.8 ppg, respectively.
The Gators had to do some work at the end to earn their 15th conference win at Vanderbilt this week. After leading by eight points with just under six minutes to play in the game, Florida was held without a field-goal for over five minutes before Dorian Finney-Smith delivered a 3-pointer with 30 seconds on the clock to keep the Gators' unblemished league record intact. Finney- Smith was instrumental throughout the game, just missing a double-double with game-highs of 19 points and nine rebounds. Young added 12 points and seven boards, but Prather struggled, going 1-of-5 from the floor and tallying just two points in 30 minutes of work.