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GAMETHREAD: Basketball at Florida, 5:30pm, SEC Network

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LSU hopes to surprise the struggling Gators

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

In an effort to string together their first set of back-to-back wins since early January, the LSU Tigers (13-9, 4-6) head to Gainesville this evening to take on the Florida Gators (15-8, 6-4). The Gators were ranked as recently as last week, but they’ve fallen out of the polls after dropping their last three SEC games.

The Tigers have now doubled their SEC win total from last year, improving from two to already winning four. However, they’ve only beaten two different SEC teams, as the poorly coached Texas A&M and Arkansas both failed twice to knock off the Tigers. Florida has already beaten those teams as well, and by an average of 16 points. After winning six of their first seven conference games, Florida dropped three straight against South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, with a win over Baylor mixed in the middle. The last two games saw the Gators lose by a combined 30 points.

“Our defense has to get a lot better,” said Will Wade after practice Monday. “We are giving up 88 points per game in our last three games. Florida has been a little bit up and down offensively, but we are probably a pretty good remedy for the way we have been guarding lately. They are tremendous from behind the three point line.”

Florida is shooting 37.8% from beyond the arc this season, good for 63rd in the nation. Leading scorer Jalen Hudson is good for 41.6%, with 57 made three pointers over 23 games. LSU has allowed 32.2% 3pt shooting by SEC opponents.

Seemingly missing in the last four losses, Tremont Waters showed up again in a big, big way in last weekend’s win over Arkansas. The freshman point guard scored only 24 combined points in those last four losses, but turned it around Saturday when he recorded his fourth double-double of the season, scoring 27 points and dishing out a season-high 11 assists. The Tigers are 9-4 this season when Waters scores at least 10 points.

Projected Florida Gators Starting 5

#3 SF - Jalen Hudson: 15.7 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 26.0 minutes

#11 PG - Chris Chiozza: 12.3 PPG, 6.0 APG, 31.7 minutes

#4 PF - Egor Koulechov: 14.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 31.0 minutes

#5 SG - KeVaughn Allen: 11.5 PPG, 2.1 APG, 31.1 minutes

#25 PF - Keith Stone: 8.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 23.7 minutes

Tonight’s contest will tip off at 5:30pm (central) and will be televised on the SEC Network. You can listen on the radio at 98.1 FM, or follow along in the comments below or with my live tweets @marq113.