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Tigers’ focus on Gators

Tigers’ focus on Gators

By: Magnolia Tribune - February 24, 2009

LSU can add a twist to the state’s Mardi Gras party today by beating Florida to clinch a share of the Southeastern Conference championship.

But the celebrating part is not something LSU is preparing for.

“You can’t practice happiness,” coach Trent Johnson said.

So if there’s a celebratory mood after a win tonight, Johnson said it will be spontaneous. And there definitely won’t be a celebration unless LSU does the most important thing, which is beat the Gators.

“I am more concerned about the game itself,” Johnson said.

Even if the accolades and distractions for the red-hot Tigers continue to mount, consider LSU (23-4, 11-1), which has won eight straight and 11 straight in the SEC, climbed to No. 18 in both major Top 25 polls Monday.

The Tigers will also be on ESPN for the first time this season (there have been a couple of appearances on ESPN2) and there’s a network TV appearance — Saturday at Kentucky on CBS — to look forward to. They’ll play a brand-name team in Florida (21-6, 8-4), which has a big-name player in Nick Calathes and one of that game’s premier coaches in Billy Donovan. And, speaking of coaches, Johnson’s name came up as a national coach of the year candidate, on Monday by a Fox sportswriter.

And, oh yeah, the game’s being played on Mardi Gras.

So the big concern for LSU?

“We’re trying to win the game, so we can get the SEC championship,” guard Garrett Temple said. “It would be icing on the cake that it’s a national TV game, so it’s a big game in that regard as well. But we are going to approach it like any other game. We’re going to come out and play basketball. The cameras can’t win it for us.”

LSU’s ability to do what Temple was talking about — play consistently well regardless of the circumstances surrounding each game — is a noticeable reason for the Tigers’ success, Florida assistant coach Larry Shyatt said.

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This article was produced by Magnolia Tribune staff.