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This article originally appeared here.
Written by Ryan Collins, Gatorsfirst Basketball Writer
The LSU Tigers played well, very well. UF played well too, just not quite as good as LSU. Despite being 15-0 at home, the Gators are now 6-7 on the road this season. LSU looked like a tournament team capable of a deep run. The nationally televised game was on Fat Tuesday, and the crowd was in a frenzy (more on those sons of bitches later). Did that cause the Tigers to shoot like an NBA team? They sank long-range bomb 3's, fade-away jumpers, and every few minutes, a fade-away long-range three pointer. This game proved to me the abilities of LSU, and may have boosted the Tigers much deeper in my bracket.
But this is a "Gatorsfirst" blog, and tonight the Gators played very well. The star player had the Flu. You could see it in his face. Hell, my girlfriend noticed that he looked sick before the announcers even said it. Nick "Wonderboy" Calathes could only do so much though, and this was a night where LSU could not miss. UF still has a realistic shot to make the tournament, and this loss was not by any means a bad thing. It was very valuable road experience, and demonstrated the Gators could still hang with an elite team despite possessing a sick star player.
Sophomore G Nick Calathes had 12 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists but only 1 three pointer and 1 steal. A healthy Calathes gets more steals than that. He played valiantly though, and sliced down the lane a few times, even prompting ESPN to do a special slow-motion breakdown of his skills. But Nick also spent more time on the bench.
Both Freshman G Erving Walker and Senior G Walter Hodge picked up the slack at point guard. Walker (OPOTB) had three big 3's, but was blocked a few times down low by LSU's imposing big men. Walter Hodge had 16 points, and had a few beautiful slashes to the basket. Sophomore F Alex Tyus had a solid game, but, man, he is emotionless. He simply refuses to step-up as a leader in close games. Junior F Dan Werner ended with three points, and seemed to always 'shot-fake' away a wide open look, most likely due to insecurity (stupid Florida fans). I say, "as long as you're open, go ahead and let 'em fly, Dan."
The Defensive player of the night goes to Freshman G Ray Shipman. He had the play of his season on a half court steal, and he then converted the 'and-one' on the ensuing runout. The Gators defense as a whole was above average, considering some of the Tigers’ ridiculous buckets occurred under pressure.
Notice I have had nothing but respect for the Tigers. That changed at the conclusion of the game. The ESPN microphones picked up the 'clever' chant of "sucks to be a Florida Gator" for five minutes. Just pissed me off. I can’t wait to go to Baton Rouge next fall. The winner of the Florida-LSU football game has won the last 3 national titles. I think that trend will break this year with a Florida victory in Death Valley.
Back to basketball, I mentioned that there is still NCAA tournament hope. The Gators absolutely must beat Tennessee at home this weekend. This Saturday's game (2/28), will be at 2pm in the O'Connell center and broadcasted on CBS. At this point, the season is officially on the line. Look for a healthier Nick Calathes to aggressively defend the home court and a tournament bid against the Vols. Projection UF 86 – UT 84 (in OT). I know, bold projection, but I was only 4 total points off for my Vandy call.
Random Thought: The Gators have not beat a ranked team on the road since Joakim Noah was on campus. What does this say about Calathes and crew?