Mitchell fuels gritty effort versus Florida

"God made dirt and dirt don't hurt," according to sophomore forward Tasmin Mitchell.

Although Mitchell was referring to the mouth guard he quickly put back in after it fell out on the court and was trampled on, Mitchell and his teammates could have easily been referring to the dirt being talked around campus and between basketball fans after the LSU Tigers lost nine of their last 10 games in the peak of the Southeastern Conference schedule.


Even that type of dirt still did not hurt the Tigers or their confidence coming into a home stand against defending champion Florida, who fell to No. 3 last week after a loss to another SEC foe, Vanderbilt.


"We got our confidence up and knew we could play with these guys and beat these guys," said sophomore guard Garrett Temple. "Throughout the whole week we were talking about how we had confidence and we knew we had the game plan to beat Florida even if they are No. 3 in the country."


And beat the Gators they did, 66-56, led by the explosive defense which held Florida to its lowest score of the season.


LSU's offensive mishaps, however, could have led onlookers to believe the outcome would have been different, considering the Tigers had 18 turnovers and several three-minute intervals without a single basket.


"We know defense is something you can play for 40 minutes as long as you give the effort and have the mindset," said senior forward Darnell Lazare. "On offense, you're not going to hit every ball you shoot, so on defense you try to sustain everything they shoot, and I think we did a good job of that tonight."


Even before the lack of offense, the Tiger defense knew it would be called on to perform in the absence of junior forward and conference rebound leader Glen Davis, who sat out due to a quadriceps injury.


"We knew we had to battle through adversity and that our backs were against the wall," Temple said. "We didn't have Glen, so we knew we had to step up and make great shots and play good defense."


The defense not only held Florida to its lowest scoring performance of the season but also collected 26 defensive rebounds and kept the Gators' key players under pressure and, for the most part, on the bench.


Junior forward Joakim Noah started the game with the background chant "Ugly!" in his ears as it rang out from the LSU student section. Although some may beg to differ about his personal looks, one thing that undoubtedly was ugly was Noah's performance against the Tigers.


The reigning SEC player of the year was held to only four points, including one dunk that proved to be the only stir Noah would produce on the court.


"He didn't step up," said sophomore forward Darnell Lazare. "You're supposed to step up and show you're the man of his team, but he didn't step up tonight.  I told him when he finally dunked, ‘It's about time you came to play,' and he was like,  ‘I'm here now.' Two plays later, I was on him and he was out of the game."


Rolle added that the pressure that came from covering Noah was nothing compared to covering Davis in practice. Big Baby provides more of a challenge than Noah.


Another key player for Florida that coach John Brady thought would pose a threat to a Tiger victory was junior guard Taurean Green.  Green has the highest scoring average and points on the season for the Gators.


"The plan was to double-team Taurean Green on every ball screen and to double their post players," Brady said. "We wanted to make sure they didn't have any rhythm on offense. It worked well. They missed some shots tonight because they were never able to get in a rhythm of scoring."


Brady was pleased with taking Green out of the game and said it was the equivalent of taking a quarterback out of football game, which throws an entire team off track.


Brady concluded that the Tiger defense were not Tigers today but warriors who seemed to attack the Gators in a team effort to secure the victory for LSU.


"Darnell Lazare, Magnum Rolle, Dameon Mason and Tasmin Mitchell were warriors," Brady said. "What about Garrett Temple? That guy and what he did on Green tonight was as good as it gets. We played a wonderful game. Terry Martin hit some timely baskets. Tasmin Mitchell always battles and battles and battles. Magnum made a couple of mistakes, but overall he played well. I was proud of Dameon Mason. I think our team showed some life at Kentucky and had some opportunities to win that one, and tonight we kind of led this team the whole way."

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