Nashville, TN (Sports Network) - After enjoying a double-bye, the top-seeded Florida Gators will play their first game in the 2013 SEC Tournament on Friday afternoon when they battle the ninth-seeded LSU Tigers in the quarterfinal round at Bridgestone Arena.
The winner will advance to Saturday's semifinals to take on either Alabama or Tennessee.
After losing two of its last three games to close out the regular season, LSU bounced back nicely in its second-round matchup with eighth-seeded Georgia, coming away with a 68-63 triumph. The Tigers have now won 10 of their last 15 games to improve to 19-11 on the season.
At 24-6 overall and 14-4 in conference, Florida claimed the league title for the second time in the last three years, including its fifth under the tutelage of SEC Coach of the Year Billy Donovan, and it has positioned itself for a high seed in next week's NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens in this event. Despite UF's very strong campaign, it has come back to Earth in recent weeks, as it is just 3-3 in the past six games, which includes a 61-57 loss at Kentucky in the regular-season finale.
LSU leads the all-time series with Florida, 60-41, although the Gators have won four in a row against the Tigers, including a 74-52 decision in Baton Rouge on Jan. 12.
The Tigers started their second round contest off red-hot, building a 20-point halftime lead, and while Georgia made them sweat down the stretch they were ultimately able to hang on by playing outstanding defense, holding the Bulldogs to a lowly 28.6 percent field goal shooting. Shavon Coleman finished with 24 points on a nearly flawless afternoon from the floor (9-of-11), Andre Stringer added 16 points, and Johnny O'Bryant tallied 12 points and 12 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the season. In scoring more than 71 ppg, LSU has proven to be one of the top offensive teams in the SEC, although its scoring defense (68.6 ppg) oftentimes lets it down. O'Bryant is a nightly double-double threat with 13.7 ppg and 8.9 rpg. Anthony Hickey (11.5 ppg) is an elite perimeter defender with nation-leading 3.1 spg, while Charles Carmouche, Stringer and Coleman all net between 10 and 11 ppg.
Florida appeared well on its way to an impressive road victory in its regular- season finale, as it led Kentucky by seven points with 7:36 left in regulation, but it went ice-cold down the stretch, going scoreless for the remainder of the game en route to the four-point setback. Erik Murphy, a First Team All-SEC selection, led the way in defeat with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Patric Young was the only other UF player in double figures with 10. The Gators' have played strong at the offensive end this season, netting 72.0 ppg on 48.5 percent from the field, but they have reached elite status due to their outstanding defense, which ranks third nationally in giving up just 53.2 ppg. Kenny Boynton (12.5 ppg) is the club's leading scorer, although Murphy (12.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, .534 FG percentage) and Mike Rosario (12.3 ppg) are hot on his heels. Young (10.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 0.9 spg) and Scottie Wilbekin (9.0 ppg, 5.1 apg, 1.5 spg) were both named to the SEC All-Defensive Team.