LSU brings explosive offense to Gainesville

After the Florida defense struggled in a loss at Georgia over the weekend, the Gators have another quick turnaround while preparing for a difficult LSU offense.

The Tigers average 75.1 points per game and have the pieces to get balanced scoring from their roster, but the balance isn’t what scares Florida coach Billy Donovan. As he looked up and down the roster preparing for Tuesday’s home game (TV: ESPN), the Florida coach was blown away by the number of LSU players that can get hot and carry the team.

Jarrell Martin (16.6) and Jordan Mickey (15.6) lead the team in points per game while guard Keith Hornsby is averaging 12.4 points per game. Tim Quarterman (11.9 points) brings the firepower off the bench and can carry the Tigers at times.

“This is a very, very explosive team offensively, extremely explosive,” Donovan said. “You can honestly say that on any given night any one of those guys could go for 25. You could go down there and all of a sudden do whatever you want to do against those two frontcourt guys (Martin and Mickey) but with Quarterman, (Josh) Gray, Hornsby -- there’s a reason they’re second in the league in scoring. They have an answer at every single spot offensively.”

Big men Martin and Mickey both could have left school early and been taken in last year’s NBA Draft, but they stayed in school and are combining for 32.2 points and 19.3 rebounds per game. Mickey leads the Southeastern Conference with 63 blocked shots this year, good for 3.9 blocks per game. Kentucky’s Karl Anthony-Towns is second in the league with 39 blocked shots and 2.29 per game.

Both players can score in the paint, but Donovan made it clear that they can’t focus the entire defense on slowing what Martin and Mickey are doing. The rest of the team is too good to focus the defense on what’s happening in the paint.

“Those two guys are really, really talented and good players, and we’re going to have to be position-wise in some very, very good spots,” Donovan said. “I think that we’ve got to play team defense.”

The Gators also need to take care of the basketball. Coming off a season-high 19 turnovers at Georgia on Saturday, Florida will take on an active group of LSU guards. The Tigers have forced at least 12 turnovers in all four SEC games this season, making it even more important for the Gators to be focused on holding onto the basketball.

The inconsistency of it has been alarming. On Thursday against an Auburn team built to create turnovers, the Gators turned it over just nine times. Against a Georgia defense on Saturday that wasn’t applying much pressure, Florida turned it over 19 times.

“There have been some games where there wasn’t a lot of pressure, we turned it over, not turned it over,” Donovan said of his team’s inconsistency. “We talk about it, address and try to keep getting them better, but your guess would be as good as mine as far as how we handle that tomorrow.”

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