The game is part of ESPN’s long-running Super Tuesday package and is billed as part of the Judgment Week segment of games the network is showing. It is also being billed as part of rivalry week on the campus as LSU hosts Tennessee on Thursday night in women’s basketball, also at the PMAC.
“Florida Tuesday is the most important game because it is the next game,” Trent Johnson said. “We need to concentrate on just doing the things that put us in this situation and not worry about anything else. It’s still another game. To be able to compete at a high level is the most important thing.”
This marks the first time ESPN has televised from the Maravich Center on a Fat Tuesday since 1994 when Kentucky rallied from 31-down in the second half to beat LSU.
The Tigers (23-4, 11-1) moved up to No. 18 in both major basketball polls announced on Monday after a 72-69 win on Wednesday at Arkansas and a 79-72 win over Auburn at home on Saturday. LSU is now 6-0 in the league at home and the winner of a school record 18 games so far at home.
Florida (21-6, 8-4) has also won its last two games, 83-74, against Alabama and 82-68 against Vanderbilt. Both games were in the O’Connell Center in Gainesville.
LSU is three games ahead of Florida, South Carolina and Kentucky all at 8-4 in the chase for the SEC overall regular season championship. South Carolina and Kentucky play on Wednesday night in the league so an LSU win would eliminate all but the SC-UK winner from a chance at the league title.
An LSU win Tuesday would guarantee LSU no worse than a tie for its 10th all-time conference crown. LSU’s magic number is two to win the league outright.
But right now all Johnson is concerned with is Florida, not the rankings, the standings or the bright lights that go with TV.
“It’s not how many people might be watching it on television because those watching on TV haven’t been in the locker room from Day 1 and know how hard these guys have had to work to get better whether it’s our team or any college basketball team,” said Johnson. “If you lose sight of what you have been doing in practice every day and start playing for TV you are not going to be able to play to the standards you want to play.”
LSU point guard Bo Spencer returned to the lineup against Auburn on Saturday after missing two games and scored 14 points.
“I feel better every day,” said Spencer. “I got out there yesterday and got a few extra shots up. I’m almost back 100 (percent). It was kind of tight after the game but I’m able to go on it. It’s no big deal. I’m getting back in shape quickly.”
With Spencer showing no ill effects after returning to play on Saturday, he will trigger the three guard offense with Marcus Thornton and Garrett Temple at the other guards, along with Chris Johnson at center and Tasmin Mitchell at forward. All five players were in double figures scoring in the win over Auburn. Thornton is averaging 20.5 points per game with Mitchell cashing in at a 16.8 points per game clip and Spencer is at 11.7.
Florida counters with a fairly balanced attack, but the ringleader is sophomore guard Nick Calathes. He leads the league in assists at 6.44 a game and is fifth in scoring at 18.6 points a contest.
“When you have a guy like Calathes who can make plays with the ball in his hand – he’s the leader in assists in the SEC, but he can also score,” said Temple.
“Calathes is probably as versatile a player that there is in college basketball,” added Trent Johnson. “It’s a team that’s just very versatile, skilled and very good.”
After Tuesday’s contest, LSU will travel to Lexington on Saturday for a 4 p.m. (EST), 3 p.m. (CST) nationally-televised (CBS) game with Kentucky.
Bur for now all eyes are on the Gators.
LSU (23-4, 11-1) vs. Florida (21-6, 8-4)
Feb. 24, 2009 at 8 p.m. CT
Pete Maravich Assembly Center – Fayetteville, Ark.
LSU Probable Starters
G – Marcus Thornton (6-4, 205, Sr.) 20.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg
G – Garrett Temple (6-6, 190, Sr.) 6.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.2 apg
G – Bo Spencer (6-1, 180, So.) 11.7 ppg, 2.4 apg
F – Tasmin Mitchell (6-7, 235, Jr.) 16.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg
C – Chris Johnson (6-11, 210, Sr.) 8.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.8 bpg
G – Chris Bass (6-0, 180, Fr.) 1.0 ppg, 1.4 apg
G – Terry Martin (6-6, 210, Sr.) 4.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg
G – Alex Farrer (6-5, 205, Jr.) 2.0 ppg, 0.9 apg
F – Quintin Thornton (6-9, 225, Sr.) 3.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg
F – Storm Warren (6-7, 220, Fr.) 2.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg
F – Delwan Graham (6-5, 215, Fr.) 1.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg
Florida Probable Starters
G – Walter Hodge (6-0, 170, Sr.) 8,2 ppg, 2.5 apg
G – Nick Calathes (6-6, 194, So) 18.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 6.4 apg
F – Chandler Parsons (6-9, 208, So.) 10.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg
F – Dan Werner (6-7, 235, Jr.) 8.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg
F – Alex Tyrus (6-8, 220, So.) 12.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg
G – Erving Walker (5-8, 161, Fr.) 9.7 ppg, 2.5 apg
G – Ray Shipman (6-4, 212, Fr.) 3.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg
F – Allan Chaney (6-8, 231, Fr.) 3.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg
C – Kenny Kadji (6-10, 245, Fr.) 5.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg