Last Modified: Friday, January 11, 2013 10:28 PM
The Southeastern Conference didn’t do LSU and first-year coach Johnny Jones any favors with the basketball schedule.
Having opened conference play on the road Wednesday, the Tigers will now need to pull off a major upset in the home opener to avoid an 0-2 SEC start.
LSU welcomes in the 11th-ranked Florida Gators for a nationally televised game at 3 p.m.
Much of the SEC has struggled in the early going.
Florida isn’t one of them.
The up-tempo Gators are ranked 11th by The Associated Press, ninth in the coaches poll, with an up-tempo style that runs the floor on offense with a full-court press from the time they get off the bus.
“We’re playing not only one of the best teams in the SEC, but one of the best teams in the country,” Jones said. “I think they are one of the teams that have the type of experience in all facets of the game that makes those late runs in March.
“They are actually playing that caliber of basketball right now. We know that we have a tough task on our hands.”
The Gators (11-2, 1-0 SEC), with a balanced attack in a dizzying, motion offense, opened conference play with a convincing 77-44 victory at home over Georgia in which the Gators shot 53 percent from the field and nailed a dozen 3-point shots. Kenny Boynton is the Gators’ leading scorer (13.3 ppg), but none of the Gators are particularly shy about putting up shots from just about anywhere on the court.
LSU (9-3, 0-1) will try to avoid the slow start it had on the road at Auburn in losing 68-63. The Tigers recovered from a slow start — they were down 7-0 early — to take a one-point lead at the half.
But after getting the first five points of the second half, LSU went stone cold and Auburn took control until a late rally by the Tigers late in the game.
“Throughout the game, I thought we had some lapses there and didn’t do a great job in terms of handling (their run there in the second half,” Jones said. “We didn’t manage the game well and we’ve got to do a better job with that.”
Jones said he is hoping to get more playing time out of Tiger star Johnny O’Bryant III, who has been hampered by injuries most of the season.
The Tigers will support O’Bryant with a three-guard starting lineup of Charles Carmouche, Andre Stringer and Anthony Hickey, along with center Andrew Del Piero. However, LSU’s leading scorer is Shavon Coleman (13.3 ppg), who comes off the bench.