Gators have hands full against surging LSU and Ben Simmons

It isn’t bad enough that Florida is coming off of their worst performance of the season. But Mike White and his basketball team will be facing an LSU squad that is playing their best basketball of the year and is likely the most talented team in the SEC in 2016.

Florida Gators (9-5, 1-1) vs LSU Tigers (9-5, 2-0)

Saturday, January 9, 2016; 1:30 p.m.

Gainesville, Florida; Stephen C. O’Connell Center


But for LSU the game starts and ends with freshman Phenom Ben Simmons.

“I told our guys, ‘if you’re not up for the challenge to guard him. If you’re not excited, there is something wrong with you. He could be the best player in the world that isn’t on TNT right now. He is that good’,” Mike White told the Florida media Friday after spending a couple of days breaking down film of the young man.

“Whether he gets five points, three points or 30 points, he will affect the game, impact the game. I’ll say my prayers tonight that he fouls us a lot and is sitting next to Johnny.”

“You’ve got to have great preparation of course. We better, (in order) to have a chance. Our energy level and focus has to be off the charts. It will take all of us, the staff included. The focus has to be correct to keep it in a row with him. Ben Simmons is arguably the best player in the country and a heck of a talent. He has an unbelievable ability with his size to make others around him better and to finish with offensive rebounds and draw fouls and finish at the fouls line.

It is a matchup of style differences. LSU comes in averaging 84 points a game a number that puts them tops in the SEC. Florida comes in scoring just 73.1 (11th in the SEC), but tops in points allowed at 63.5 per game. White knows LSU can score from anywhere and from anyone.

“They’re like Florida State and I am not sure there is anyone in our league as potent offensively,” White said. “There are four or five teams in our league that will present major challenges for us. These guys, if they are playing well and making shots, I don’t know how you guard them… If your energy level isn’t off the charts, because Ben Simmons can play the point and who do you put on him? How do you keep him out of the paint? They will ball screen with him with smaller guys and if you switch those ball screens to stay in front he will take smaller guys into the post. He has the ability to get to the foul line. He’s one of the best passers in the country and they have 2-3 guys that can really knock down open shots.

“They are good in the offensive glass. They have guys that can drive it. They have veteran guards coming off the bench. They are a load offensively. He’s a load and they’re a load. They are a tough load offensively.”

Florida heads into the matchup off of a game with Tennessee that had White fuming afterward because of the team’s intensity, or lack thereof.

“We’re not a good enough offensive team to outscore people,” White said. “To not come with the correct and necessary defensive approach, focus, and mindset is mindboggling to me. We have proven over the course of several games we aren’t going to beat someone in the 80’s or 90’s. That’s not us right now.”

While Simmons is the biggest name in the matchup, that he is a freshman makes it that much more noteworthy. LSU starts another freshman in Antonio Blakeney who is also playing very well. It seems to be the year of the freshmen as Florida has their own star in KeVaughn Allen that will try and matchup against the LSU stars.

“KeVaughn… I think he found himself in an opportunity and a program where he could make an impact,” White said. “Whether it was me or Coach Donovan, he was recruited to make an impact and he’s done that. He’s obviously a heck of a talent and only going to get better.”

White can’t overstate the kind of talent Simmons is though and the problem with him is that he makes everyone else around him so much better.

“I don’t think I have competed against a guy as a coach or a player that is this talented,” White said. “When you’re guarding LSU that is the million dollar question… If you put two guys that are over helping with the guy on the ball that’s trying to defend him, you are allowing 2-3 other guys who can really score as well (get the ball). Their starting five can really score. They’re all capable of getting20 on you. With his ability to pass and make everyone better, that is why he is so good.”



Florida Projected Starters

Ht. / Wt.



F Justin Leon (JR)

6-8, 196



F Dorian Finney-Smith (SR)

6-8, 220



C John Egbunu (SO)

6-11, 255



G KeVaughn Allen (FR)

6-2, 183



G Chris Chiozza (SO)

6-0, 175




LSU Projected Starters




Ben Simmons (FR)

6-10, 240



Craig Victor (SO)

6-9, 235



Antonio Blakeney (FR)

6-4, 190



Keith Hornsby (SR)

6-4, 210



Tim Quarterman (JR)

6-6, 190


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