Gators looking for revenge against LSU tonight as five-point home favorites

UPDATED on Wednesday, 2/26/20, at 6:43 p.m. ET.

Florida’s Keyontae Johnson’s tying bucket at the buzzer appeared to send the Gators into overtime at LSU back on Jan. 21. However, after referees reviewed the shot on instant replay, it was waved off to give the Tigers an 84-82 win.

Nevertheless, Mike White’s team covered the number as a three-point underdog by rallying from a double-digit deficit in the final two minutes. The 166 combined points soared ‘over’ the 143-point total.

Speaking of ‘overs,’ they’ve been on a serious roll for both of these schools. The ‘over’ has cashed in six straight games for LSU, with those combined scores coming out at 166, 155, 170, 160, 181 and 189 points.

Like I said last week during my regular appearance on the 3Dog Thursday podcast with TJ Rives and on my weekly guest spot in Clemson on 105.1 The Roar with Qualk & Kelly (The Out of Bounds Show — on Thursdays at 1:25 p.m. ET.), any LSU total South of 152-153 points is an automatic ‘over’ for me the rest of the season (barring injuries or a major surge in ‘unders’).

The ‘over’ is also hot for Florida. In fact, the Gators have seen the ‘over’ cash at a 15-7 clip in their last 22 contests.

As of early this evening most betting shops had Florida (17-10 straight up, 11-16 against the spread) installed as a five-point favorite with a total of 147 points. (So yes! I’m all about the ‘over’ tonight.)

LSU (19-8 SU, 12-14-1 ATS) was fading fast — limping to a 1-4 record both SU and ATS in its last five outings — until going to Columbia this past Saturday and winning an 86-80 decision at South Carolina.

Javonte Smart and Darius Days led the Tigers with 18 points apiece. Days drained 4-of-6 launches from 3-point land, 6-of-8 field-goal attempts, grabbed nine rebounds and made five steals. Trendon Watford produced a double-double, contributing 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. Skylar Mays added 13 points, nine boards and six assists.

LSU is ranked eighth in the country in scoring with its 80.8 points-per-game average. The Tigers are ranked 24th nationally in field-goal percentage (47.2%) and 15th in free-throw percentage (77.3%).

On the flip side, Will Wade’s team has zero commitment to getting stops at the other end. It’s simply poor coaching and/or a lack of effort (which are a by-product of the other, right?), because LSU’s roster is stacked with athletes.

LSU is ranked No. 283 out of 353 Division-I teams in scoring defense (73.2 PPG) and No. 281 at defending the 3-point line (34.9%).

LSU has been an underdog six times this season, compiling a 4-2 spread record with a pair of outright victories.

Mays paces the Tigers in scoring (16.4 PPG) and steals (1.9 SPG), in addition to grabbing 5.0 rebounds and dishing out 3.3 assists per game. Watford, the true freshman out of Birmingham who chose LSU over Alabama, has lived up to his 5-star billing. He’s averaging 13.8 points and 7.0 RPG.

Emmitt Williams is averaging 13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and a team-best 1.3 blocked shots per game. Smart averages 12.5 points, 4.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game, while Days is also scoring in double figures (12.1 PPG) and pulling down 7.6 RPG.

In eight road assignments, Wade’s team has posted a 5-4 SU record and a 5-3-1 ATS mark.

UF has won 10 of 13 home games outright, but it has a mediocre 5-8 spread record. With that said, the Gators have won three consecutive home outings, and they’ve covered the number in back-to-back home victories.

White’s team saw its three-game winning streak both SU and ATS snapped in Saturday night’s 65-59 loss at Kentucky. The Wildcats covered the spread as 4.5-point home ‘chalk’ thanks to four straight free throws in the final 14 seconds, including a pair with two ticks remaining.

The 124 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 135.5-point tally.

Johnson’s 19 points, nine rebounds and two steals led the Gators in the losing effort at Rupp Arena. Kerry Blackshear added 18 points and six rebounds, but he committed five of UF’s 15 turnovers. Tre Mann finished with 13 points, matching his career high in one of his better performances of the year. The five-star recruit buried 3-of-4 attempts from long distance.

The trio of Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke and Scottie Lewis were held to six combined points on abysmal 2-of-14 shooting from the field in Lexington.

Johnson leads UF with a 13.9 PPG average. The sophomore slasher averages 7.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game, and he’s making 53.4 percent of his FGAs. Blackshear is averaging 13.3 points and 7.5 RPG, but he’s shooting at a disappointing 43.9 percent clip from the field. Nembhard (11.6 PPG, 5.5 APG) and Locke (10.4 PPG) are also scoring in double figures.

LSU and Florida are ranked No. 29 and No. 33, respectively, in the NET rankings. UF has a better ranking (No. 33) at KenPom compared to the Tigers (No. 35), though.

LSU and Florida have split the last four head-to-head meetings that have been decided by 11 combined points. Two of those games went to overtime and, as previously noted, a third nearly went to an extra session. Nembhard hit a game-wining trey with less than one second remaining to lift UF past LSU — and seal an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament — in last year’s SEC Tournament quarterfinals.

White owns a 5-3 career record against LSU, including a 2-1 mark in Gainesville.

Tip-off is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. ET. on ESPN2.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–In UF’s aforementioned loss at LSU in January, the Tigers made 24-of-31 FTAs. The Gators? They were sent to the charity stripe just 11 times, making nine of those attempts.

–Kentucky currently leads the SEC by two games with a 15-3 league record. Auburn is in second place with an 11-4 mark, followed by LSU (10-4) and Florida (9-5).

–In ESPN’s latest edition of Bracketology from Joe Lunardi, Florida is a No. 9 seed matched up against eighth-seeded Saint Mary’s for a first-round game in Sacramento. The winner would presumably face top-seeded San Diego State. LSU is a No. 8 seed pitted against Rutgers, with the survivor in the same bracket as top-seeded Gonzaga.

–Lunardi’s latest has the ‘Last Four Byes’ as Xavier, Rhode Island, Utah State and Wichita State. His ‘Last Four In’ include N.C. State, Providence, Oklahoma and USC, while his ‘First Four Out’ are Stanford, Richmond, UCLA and Mississippi State. Lunardi’s ‘Next Four Out’ include Memphis, Arkansas, Georgetown and an unknown team (his last tweet on Tuesday specified that the Alabama-Mississippi State loser — Alabama lost at The Hump last night — would fall out of the bubble picture).

–Ohio beat Buffalo 80-69 last night with the 149 combined points slithering ‘under’ the 151.5-point total. The ‘under’ has cashed at a 10-2 clip for the Bulls in their last 12 games. The Bobcats have seen the ‘under’ go 7-1 in their last eight contests.

–Mississippi State had seen the ‘over’ hit in eight consecutive games until last night’s 80-73 win over Alabama as a five-point home ‘chalk.’ The 153 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 157.5-point total. Alabama’s 8-of-15 shooting from the FT line didn’t help the cause of ‘over’ supporters like me.

–East Tennessee State will put its seven-game winning streak (5-2 ATS) on the line tonight as a 3.5-point road favorite at Wofford. The Buccaneers have seen the ‘over’ hit in four straight contests and nine of their last 11. ETSU has covered the spread in five straight single-digit ‘chalk’ situations. The Terriers are 5-2 ATS with a pair of outright victories in their last seven games as underdogs. They lost 49-48 at ETSU but took the cash as 9.5-point road underdogs on New Year’s Day. Wofford is hoping to snap a five-game losing streak, but we should note that two of the defeats have come by three combined points. Also, it lost 83-79 in overtime but covered as nine-point ‘dogs at UNC-Greensboro last Wednesday. UPDATE: ETSU starting forward Jeromy Rodriguez will play tonight for the first time since getting injured on Jan. 4. In the Buccaneers’ first 15 games, Rodriguez was averaging 10.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.1 SPG, in addition to making 64.7 percent of his FGAs.

–Penn State will play host to Rutgers tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET. on the Big Ten Network. As of early this afternoon, most spots had the Nittany Lions as five-point home favorites. They have posted a 13-2 SU record and a 10-5 ATS mark in 15 home games. The Scarlet Knights are mired in a 2-5 slump both SU and ATS. They’ve lost seven of eight true road games, but we’ll point out a 4-3-1 spread record in those road assignments. PSU is hoping to get second-leading scorer Myreon Jones back from an unspecified illness that’s kept him out of his team’s last five games. Jones, who made the trip to Bloomington, dressed out and went through lay-up lines but didn’t play, is averaging 14.1 points, 3.0 assists and 3.0 RPG. UPDATE: Jones is ‘out’ tonight for the sixth straight game. The ‘under’ is on a 7-2 run for the Nittany Lions, who are hoping to avoid a three-game losing streak after consecutive setbacks vs. Illinois (62-56) and at Indiana (68-60).

–Missouri had won three of its last four games and covered the spread in four straight until losing 79-69 Saturday at Arkansas. The ‘over’ hit for the fifth straight time for the Tigers, who were 2.5-point road favorites for tonight’s game at Vanderbilt as of early this afternoon. The total was 138.5 or 139 points. Mark Smith (10.9 PPG) and Jeremiah Tilmon (8.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG. 1.3 BPG) remain out’ for Mizzou. Vandy is 6-2 ATS in its last eight games, but it continues to drop gut-wrenching outright defeats. The Commodores lost at the buzzer to Georgia on Saturday on Tyree Crump’s deep triple.

–The ‘over’ is on a 10-1 run for Arkansas in its last 11 games. Nobody on tonight’s card needs a win as bad as the Razorbacks, who are 4.5-point home ‘chalk’ vs. Tennessee. They ended a five-game losing streak with Saturday’s 78-68 win over Missouri as 8.5-point home favorites. One of the five losses came at the buzzer against Mississippi State, and two other defeats were in overtime vs. Auburn and at Missouri. Isaiah Joe returned from knee surgery to score 21 points on 5-of-10 shooting from 3-point range vs. Mizzou. Joe had missed five games in a row — all losses — since getting his knee scoped early this month. He averages 16.2 PPG. Tonight’s total is 136 points. The ‘over’ is 6-3 for the Volunteers in their last nine outings.

–Stanford is a 7.5-point home favorite tonight vs. Utah. The Cardinal had lost seven of eight games while limping to a 2-6 spread record until it went to Washington last week. Stanford captured 72-64 and 75-57 wins at Washington and at Washington State, respectively, last weekend. The Cardinal is 12-4 SU and 10-6 ATS at home this year. On the flip side, Utah is an atrocious 1-8 SU and 2-7 ATS in nine road assignments. Since winning at Nevada in their season opener, the Utes have lost eight straight on the road by margins of 22, 39, 16, 19, 4, 16, 19 and 18 points. Yikes!

–LAST CALL! In a letdown spot after stunning previously-unbeaten San Diego State as a double-digit road underdog this past Saturday, UNLV plays host to Boise State tonight at 11:00 p.m. ET. on the CBS Sports Network. The Runnin’ Rebels are 11-6 SU and 10-7 ATS at home this year, while Boise State is 4-7 SU and 5-6 ATS in 11 road assignments. The Broncos, who were three-point road underdogs at most spots as of early this afternoon, are 8-2 both SU and ATS in their last 10 games. The ‘under’ is on a 7-0 run for BSU. Tonight’s total is 141.5 points. The ‘under’ has cashed in three straight games and five of the last six for UNLV.

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