If you think the LSU vs. Florida football rivalry is spicy, the Tigers and the Gators’ basketball battles aren’t far behind.
LSU (6-1, 1-0 in the SEC) travels to Gainesville to play Florida (5-1, 1-0) in a 1 p.m. Saturday showdown in a series in which four of the last five games were decided by five points or less, with two going to overtime.
The Tigers opened SEC play Wednesday with a 77-54 home win over Texas A&M while the Gators won 91-72 at Vanderbilt.
In Florida’s win, Colin Castleton led the Gators with 23 points, scoring 17 in the second half and making 11-of-13 field goal attempts. The Gators shot 61.8 percent in their best road SEC shooting performance since 2008.
“Florida looked tremendous, I thought they played inspired basketball,” Wade said of Florida’s win at Vandy. “They looked really, really good. They looked sharp, they looked inspired, I couldn’t have been more impressed. They looked a lot better after their long layoff than we did after our long layoff.”
The Gators have been without their best player, Keyontae Johnson, since Dec. 12 when he fainted the first half of a game against Florida State. Johnson, the SEC’s preseason Player of the Year, is expected to be courtside with the team on Saturday.
Castleton averages 9.8 points for the Gators, who are led by Tre Mann at 14.4 points a contest, Scottie Lewis (13.4) and Noah Locke at 10.4.
LSU hammered Texas A&M by 23 in its SEC opener, despite getting a combined 5 points from veteran returning starters Javonte Smart and Trendon Watford.
Smart, who was coming off COVID-19 quarantine, and Watford who played after re-spraining a right ankle against Nicholls State, deferred to freshman guard Cam Thomas and junior forward Darius Days.
Thomas, the leading scorer in the SEC averaging at 24.1 points, scored a career-high 32 points vs Texas A&M. Days, who will be playing Saturday 30 minutes or so from his home in Williston, Fla., averages 15 points and 8.6 rebounds.
Smart is averaging 13.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists and Watford 16.8 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Wade expects Florida to guard Thomas with Scottie Lewis, a 6-5 guard with a long wingspan.
“He (Thomas) is getting good looks because of his teammates,” Wade said. “We’ve got guys screening for him, we’ve got Trendon looking for him, we’ve got Javonte looking for him. It’s a team effort.
“He carries the pail and makes the shot, but there’s a lot of other stuff that goes into it.”
The game will be televised by CBS and heard on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (BR flagship for Guaranty Media, Eagle 98.1 FM).