For LSU and first-year coach Johnny Jones, the degree of difficulty hops up a level on Saturday.
That's because No. 11 Florida (11-2, 1-0) comes to town for a 3 p.m. date with the Tigers in the PMAC. ESPNU will have the television broadcast.
LSU (9-3, 0-1) enters its biggest home game of the 2012-13 season fresh off a 68-63 loss to Auburn on Wednesday in both team's SEC opener. The Gators had a markedly different result in the middle of the week, pasting rival Georgia 77-43 in the O'Connell Center in Gainesville.
Florida invades Baton Rouge a team loaded with scorers. Billy Donovan's crew features four different players who average double figures, led by backcourt mates Kenny Boynton (13.3 ppg) and Mike Rosario (12.3 ppg).
The frontcourt tandem of Erik Murphy (12.0 ppg) and Patric Young (10.8 ppg) isn't shabby either. Young will start at center for the Gators, likely next to Casey Prather at the four, but expect Murphy, a versatile 6-10 senior who can fill it up from the perimeter, to play big minutes.
One of the Gators' biggest strengths is three-point shooting. Florida as a team shoots 37.6% from downtown, averaging 8.2 made trifectas per game. So closing out and perimeter defense will be a key for LSU's guards Saturday.
Sophomore point guard Anthony Hickey will be an important part of that effort.
LSU's regular starting point guard coming into the season, who dealt with suspension or discipline three times over the team's first 10 games this campaign, is now back in the Tigers' first five after freshman Corban Collins sustained an injury earlier this week in practice.
No word yet on if Collins will be able to go, after missing the Auburn game, but Hickey, the nation's leader in steals, will be the bell cow at the position against the Gators.
Elsewhere on the perimeter LSU will need continued production from Andre Stringer on the offensive end (averaging 14.2 points and 3.0 made threes in his last five games) and Charles Carmouche on the defensive end (averaging 2.3 steals per game on the season).
In the post Johnny O'Bryant and Andrew Del Piero will have their hands full with the Gator frontcourt. Del Piero is expected to get the nod in the matchup with Young (6-9, 249) while O'Bryant matches up size-wise but perhaps not as well in terms of quickness with either Prather or Murphy.
Shavon Coleman (6-5, 195) may be a better defensive option in situations, something that will help O'Bryant, who's still making his way back to full strength from a high ankle sprain.
The Gators' only two losses on the season - at No. 8 Arizona and at Kansas State - were both on the road, providing some hope for LSU, but the Tigers will have to play awfully well to offset a Florida team that's been hot since the Dec. 22 loss to the Wildcats of Kansas State.
Here are the projected starting lineups for both teams:
LSU (9-3, 0-1)
G Anthony Hickey (So., 5-11, 182) – 10.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.0 apg, 3.6 spg
G Andre Stringer (Jr., 5-10, 178) – 11.8 ppg, 2.1 apg, 42.9% 3s
G Charles Carmouche (Sr., 6-4, 187) – 10.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.0 apg
F Johnny O'Bryant (So., 6-9, 258) – 11.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 49.0% FGs
C Andrew Del Piero (Sr., 7-3, 254) – 4.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.8 bpg
Key Rotational Player: F Shavon Coleman (Jr., 6-5, 195; averages 13.3 ppg and 8.7 rpg)
No. 11 Florida (11-2, 1-0)
G Scottie Wilbekin (Jr., 6-2, 176) – 8.2 ppg, 4.8 apg, 45.8% FGs
G Kenny Boynton (Sr., 6-2, 190) – 13.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.2 made 3s per game
G Mike Rosario (Sr., 6-3, 183) – 12.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 45.8% FGs
F Casey Prather (Jr., 6-6, 208) – 6.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 66.7% FGs
C Patric Young (Jr., 6-9, 249) – 10.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.1 bpg
Key Rotational Players: F-C Erik Murphy (Sr., 6-10, 238; averages 12.0 ppg and 4.3 rpg) and F Will Yeguete (Jr., 6-7, 240; averages 6.2 ppg and 6.1 rpg)
Stay tuned to TSD for live coverage before, during and after the game from the PMAC.
PREVIEW: LSU vs. Florida
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