With a good start on the road in Southeastern Conference play, the LSU men’s basketball team returns to the scene of one of its signature wins a year ago when the Tigers visit Florida on Saturday.
Since falling in overtime at Missouri to open its 2015 SEC road slate, LSU is 7-2 in league play on the road — a mark that includes last Saturday’s 90-82 win at Vanderbilt.
LSU coach Johnny Jones pointed out there will be one big difference from last year’s game in the O’Connell Center, where his Tigers ended the Gators’ 20-game SEC homecourt winning streak with a 79-61 rout last Jan. 20.
In that meeting, Jones got 22 points and eight rebounds from Jarell Martin and 14 points and 14 rebounds from Jordan Mickey — his first-team All-SEC forwards who entered the NBA draft after the season.
Guards Keith Hornsby and Tim Quarterman, who will be on the floor Saturday, had 15 points each in the lopsided win — which was Florida’s worst home loss in five years.
“We had two guys that made a huge impact last year,” Jones recalled Thursday. “Unfortunately, neither are here. Jordan and Jarell really made a huge impact on the game on both ends of the floor.
“Hornsby and those other guys clicked in that game. We hit a bunch of perimeter shots as well and were really good on the defensive end as well. We stayed poised under the pressure they presented, and we’re hopeful we can go in there with the same mindset.”
Messing with Ben
The nation’s top two recruits from last winter, LSU’s Ben Simmons and Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere, exchanged pleasantries a couple of times early in the Tigers’ 85-67 win over the Wildcats on Tuesday night.
Simmons picked up his first of two fouls that limited him to nine minutes in the first half when he retaliated after taking a shove from Labissiere on their way up the floor.
Jones noted Thursday opponents may try to continue to do that to perhaps make Simmons lose his cool and draw personal fouls and perhaps technicals.
“That’s something we addressed at the moment, at the time, and I think he felt he put himself in a tough spot doing that,” Jones said. “I’m sure he understands other teams will try to use that same tactic. … That was addressed and it’s behind him now.”
When Quarterman, Simmons and Craig Victor had double-doubles in points and rebounds in the win over Kentucky, it marked the first time LSU had three players pull off that feat in 23 years.
Quarterman had 21 points and 10 rebounds, Simmons had 14 and 10, and Victor had 15 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
The last time LSU had three players with a points-rebounds double-double was on Dec. 10, 1991 against Nicholls State. Shaquille O’Neal had 23 points and 13 rebounds and was joined by Vernel Singleton (15-10) and Harold Boudreaux (11-10).
Hield is favorite
Simmons is the second choice to win the Naismith College Player of the Year award, according to odds posted Thursday by Bovada of Las Vegas.
Simmons is at 4-1 behind Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield, whose odds were listed at 2-3.
Hield, who poured in a career-high 46 points Monday night in a thrilling 109-106 triple-overtime loss to Kansas, will face Simmons and LSU in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Jan. 30 in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
Moving up fast
With its two SEC wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky, the teams picked to finish at the top of the league, LSU is on the rise in the NCAA rating percentage index (RPI).
Before the win at Vandy, LSU was 207th. The Tigers moved up to 164th with the huge road victory, then jumped to 128th after the drubbing of Kentucky.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.