The LSU Tigers handled business against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Now they stay on the road to face the Florida Gators in Gainesville.
By Matt Zemek
LSU knew when it went to Columbia that it would need to start quickly and play with the energy needed to subdue an opponent which was living squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. South Carolina had played its way into the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation, so the Gamecocks had every incentive to play well and grab a season-changing win.
LSU didn’t let that happen.
The challenge for LSU is very similar against Florida. The Gators are more likely than South Carolina – and other SEC bubble teams – to make the NCAA Tournament field. Yet, they still are very much a buble team. Their place in the NCAA Tournament is hardly safe. Florida will want to take a big step toward nailing down an at-large bid, and LSU will have to be ready to withstand the fury of the Gators on their home floor. Let’s look at what LSU has to achieve in this game.
1 – Rebounding
LSU has been such a good offensive rebounding team this season, but this past Saturday against South Carolina, a victory coincided with one of LSU’s worst rebounding performances of 2020. The Tigers gave up 20 offensive boards to South Carolina. The Tigers collected a respectable 12 offensive rebounds in their own right, but a minus-8 differential on the offensive glass is unacceptable for this team… and also a really good way to get eliminated early in the NCAA Tournament. LSU needs to pay more attention on the defensive glass while also making sure that the offensive rebounding differential is positive, not negative. This figures to be a possession-based game – the team with a noticeable advantage in number of possessions probably wins – and rebounding has to exist at the heart of an LSU path to victory.
2 – Turnovers
Florida committed 16 turnovers this past Saturday in a six-point loss at Kentucky. LSU committed 14 turnovers this past weekend in a six-point win over South Carolina. LSU has veteran guards who should be able to lead the offense in an efficient way without giving up possessions. LSU’s backcourt should be able to outplay Florida’s backcourt and create one of the defining differences in this game. LSU did not get toasted by an opponent from the 3-point arc against South Carolina. The Gamecocks shot only 36 percent from long distance. If LSU is defending the 3-point shot well and is creating turnovers on defense, Florida is not likely to be able to overcome that defensive one-two punch.
3 – Free throw attempts
Florida created only 14 free throw attempts in its recent loss to Kentucky, but the Gators conceded only 10 free throw attempts to the Wildcats. LSU was able to earn 31 free throw attempts at South Carolina and make 25 of them. LSU certainly has to think that it can create separation from Florida by drawing fouls while containing the Gators’ guards on drives to the basket, and ultimately containing a UF offense which generated very little scoring balance this past Saturday against Kentucky. Three Florida players scored 50 of UF’s 59 points. Florida has too many players who go quiet for whole games or most of a game. LSU can keep those role players under wraps by not letting them get to the foul line for easy points.