Surging Florida takes aim at defense-challenged LSU

Florida has won five of its past six games. LSU has lost five of its past six games.These teams headed in opposite directions will meet Tuesday night in Gainesville, Fla.The host Gators (16-7, 6

Surging Florida takes aim at defense-challenged LSU

Florida has won five of its past six games. LSU has lost five of its past six games.

These teams headed in opposite directions will meet Tuesday night in Gainesville, Fla.

The host Gators (16-7, 6-4 SEC) are coming off an 81-65 home victory against then-No. 12 Auburn last Saturday, which coach Todd Golden called “start to finish, our best effort of the year.”

He was especially pleased that the Gators stretched their 16-point halftime lead to as many as 29 points after having squandered second-half leads in three losses.

“That’s something that we needed as a team,” guard Walter Clayton Jr. said. “We kept on getting off to big leads and we let our confidence let up. The mentality of our team was to step on their neck, just kind of put them in the ground.”

Florida allowed its fewest points in an SEC game this season, holding Auburn to 42.1 percent field-goal shooting and 17.6 percent shooting (3-for-17) on 3-pointers. Riley Kugel, one of five Gators who averages double-figure scoring, had 22 points to lead the offense.

LSU (12-11, 4-6) lost to then- No. 16 Alabama 109-92 at home last Saturday.

“They scored 109 points, so our problems are defense,” forward Will Baker said. “We can focus on offense all we want, but our defensive problems are going to hold us back.”

The Crimson Tide matched their point total in a home victory two weeks earlier against LSU, which has allowed an average of 89.5 points in its last four road games.

The points allowed Saturday were also a byproduct of the Tigers getting beaten 19-6 on the offensive boards, leading to a 28-8 disadvantage in second-chance points. They got outscored 23-6 in points off turnovers.

LSU coach Matt McMahon called the second-chance points “the difference in the game,” adding that the Tide “really punished us on the turnovers.”

“Because of offensive rebounding and turnovers, they shot 81 balls in the game, we only shot 60,” McMahon said. “Hard to win when that is the case.”