No. 25 Florida puts emphasis on defense against LSU (Jan 25, 2017)

BY AP • January 24, 2017

Florida is clinging to a Top 25 ranking despite back-to-back losses.

Coach Mike White is more concerned about the streak than the ranking as the No. 25 Gators head into an SEC game against LSU on Wednesday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La.

"We're not a good enough team to think we've accomplished something because someone votes us into the 25," White told the Florida Times-Union. "We need to recommit and refocus at defending at the level that we are capable of."

On Saturday, Florida (14-5, 5-2) lost at home to Vanderbilt 68-66 after a second half in which the Commodores shot 56.5 percent from the field.

"We're not worried about offense at this moment," sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen said. "We're worried about defending."

Senior swingman Canyon Barry suffered a sprained ankle in practice Monday and White said he's "50-50" for the game against the Tigers.

Barry hasn't started a game, but he's one of the more valuable Gators. He's second on the team in scoring (12.4) and 3-point shooting (.311) and first in free-throw shooting (.867).

He had just six points against Vanderbilt, ending a streak of five consecutive games in which he had scored in double figures.

Florida is third in the SEC in fewest points allowed (66.6), but it's 10th in field-goal percentage defense (.428).

LSU (9-9 1-6) has similar concerns to those of Florida but to a greater degree.

The Tigers are also trying to end a losing streak, having lost their last five games. They're also trying to improve their defense, having allowed an average of 89 points per game during the losing streak. They allowed their highest total in SEC play in a 99-86 loss at Arkansas on Saturday.

A victory against the Gators would provide a much-needed boost to LSU.

"Florida was picked to finish at the top of the league along with Kentucky, so (a win) would be huge for our guys in a lot of ways," Tigers coach Johnny Jones told the school's official website. "That's our goal, to go out and show we're capable of competing, that we've improved, and showing we've gotten better.

"There's not a better place to hopefully be able to get that turned around then here at home against a team that we really think is well balanced ... They certainly pose a great challenge for us, one that we're going to have to make sure we step up and meet."

The Tigers got an encouraging offensive sign in the loss at Arkansas as freshman point guard Skylar Mays had a season-high 22 points and six assists. He averages 10.7 points and 3.7 assists.

"Not a lot of guys were hot last game so I just felt like I really wanted to win the game so I wanted to take a bit of the scoring role," Mays told NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune. "I felt like that would be what was needed from me for that particular game in order to give ourselves a chance to win."


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