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January 21, 2012

Florida looking to remain unbeaten at home

While Florida's tremendous backcourt duo of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton continues to lead the way, its supporting cast has proven more than capable of holding its own.

Coming off their first road win of the season, the 17th-ranked Gators look to stay unbeaten at home Saturday against LSU.

Florida (14-4, 2-1 SEC), which ranks among the national leaders in both 3-point percentage (41.1) and points per game (82.6), is paced offensively by Walker and Boynton. Walker, a 5-foot-8 senior point guard, is posting 12.9 points and a team-best 5.0 assists per game while Boynton's average of 18.7 points ranks second in the conference.

The Gators, however, have three other players averaging double figures in points. Freshman guard Brad Beal is recording 14.3 per contest while big men Erik Murphy and Patric Young are averaging a combined 21.7.

"Florida, in the goodness of guard play, is exceptional, but probably when you take a look at their basketball team, they are balanced now," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "... It is going to be a big challenge."

With an all-around group effort, the Gators snapped a four-game road losing streak last Saturday as six players scored at least 10 points in a 79-65 win at South Carolina. Coach Billy Donovan's team trailed by one at the break but held the Gamecocks to 25.8 percent shooting in the second half.

"You show a lot about your team when you play in someone else's house," guard Mike Rosario, who scored 10 points off the bench, told the school's official website. "Collectively, we have to stay together as one. We did a good job of that."

Will Yeguete started in place of the injured Young, who was hindered by a sprained ankle and limited to 13 minutes. Yeguete had 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting to go along with a game-high eight rebounds, and should remain in the starting lineup Saturday with Young expected to come off the bench again.

"I did what I usually do. I did not change anything," he said. "Pat is a pretty big key to our team. The whole team had to step up, not only me."

While Yeguete controlled the paint, Boynton went 4 of 7 from 3-point range and scored 15 points. The Gators made 12 of 24 from beyond the arc.

"We were tired of hearing (it)," Boynton said of the Gators' road struggles. "It's a new season. It's the SEC season, and we're 1-1 on the road (in conference play). We have to keep it going."

Florida has to like its chances of doing just that at home, where it's won 16 straight by an average of 20.6 points. The Gators, 10-0 on their own court this season, are enjoying their best home start since opening 15-0 as host in 2008-09.

LSU has lost 10 straight road games versus ranked foes and 17 of 19 SEC contests as the visiting team. The Tigers, however, have split their last four in Gainesville.

LSU (12-6, 2-2) had lost three of four overall but regrouped Tuesday with a 65-58 overtime victory over Auburn. Freshman Anthony Hickey had a team-best 18 points off the bench to go along with seven boards and six assists.

The Tigers, who had shot a combined 35.2 percent in back-to-back losses at Alabama and Arkansas, went 26 of 59 (44.1 percent) from the field.

"From a standpoint of shooting, we've just got to continue to encourage (our players) and continue to get in the gym and shoot shots and hopefully we'll get our way through this thing," Johnson said.



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