Tigers Drop Conference Road Opener To Florida, 83-79

by C. Kent Lowe I Sr. Associate Communications Director
Box Score +0
Tigers Drop Conference Road Opener To Florida, 83-79

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – The Florida Gators used a nine-minute spurt from the last minute of the first half through the first eight minutes of the second half in which they outscored LSU, 27-12, en route to an 83-79 win Saturday in Southeastern Conference play at the Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. 

The Gators went to 2-0 in league play (5-1 overall) while LSU drops to 6-2 overall and 1-1 in the league. LSU hosts Georgia Wednesday night back at the Maravich Center in Baton Rouge. 

The two teams rambled through an exciting first half that featured seven ties and eight lead changes with LSU building a 40-35 advantage with 1:02 to go before halftime as after a Javonte Smart free throw, Cameron Thomas hit a three-pointer and was fouled. He made the free throw to give the Tigers the five-point advantage.

But Florida would get a couple of free throws from Omar Payne and then Anthony Duruji hit a three at the halftime buzzer to send the teams to the dressing room even. 

LSU got the advantage coming out for the second half after a Florida scored as Trendon Watford scored five straight to give LSU the lead at 45-42. But Florida’s Colin Castleton started getting some easy looks down low that the Gators were able to capitalize on and pushed the Florida advantage to 62-52 with 12 minutes to play.

LSU fought back at the end and cut the game to two points in the final 10 seconds but never could get back over the top after that run by Florida. 

Thomas, Watford and Smart had big efforts for LSU, accounting for 69 of LSU’s 79 points with Thomas scoring 28 points to give him 99 points in the last three contests as he hit 7-of-19 attempts, three treys and a perfect 11-of-11 at the free throw line. 

Watford hit 7-of-19 shots, including two treys and 5-of-7 at the line to finish with 21 points. He also had eight rebounds (six offensive) and three assists. Smart hit 7-of-12 and two treys with four more coming at the line to finish with 20 points. 

Castleton had 19 second half points to finish with 21 total with Tre Mann adding 19, Duruji 16 and Scottie Lewis 13 as Florida played its first home game since team star Keyontae Johnson collapsed in a game last month at Florida State. Johnson joined the team on the sidelines for Saturday’s game. 

LSU did not have one of its better nights from the field making 41 percent of its shots (25-of-61) with seven treys, but the Tigers were 22-of-25 at the line. Florida, after shooting 57 percent in the first half, finished the game at 50 percent (29-of-58) with five treys and 20-of-23 at the line. 

Florida out rebounded LSU, 35-31. Both teams had nine assists and 13 turnovers and many of the specialty numbers were event with LSU have a 15-13 advantage in points off turnovers and Florida getting a 34-30 nod on points in the paint. Florida had the 18-14 edge in second chance points. LSU had 14 offensive rebounds and LSU 13. 

LSU vs. Florida
January 2, 2021
LSU Head Coach Will Wade– Postgame Quotes
Opening Statement…

“I thought we played pretty well in the first half. I thought we let the game slip away from us at the end of the first half. We should have had a lead at halftime. We gave up a three at the end of the half. We were up, 40-35. We go in tied, 40-40, so I thought we didn’t close the first half as well as we as we needed to. We committed nine turnovers in the first half, which hurt us offensively. Second half, we only had four turnovers. We were a little bit better, but then they dominated us inside with [Colin] Castleton and [Anthony] Duruji and on the offensive glass. [Anthony] Duruji had six offensive rebounds and they finished everything inside. We missed a lot of stuff. We missed a lot of a lot of easy ones and a lot of stuff at the basket, so was tough night for us finishing around the rim and they obviously finished better than us. [Josh] LeBlanc being in foul trouble really hurt. Five fouls in 12 minutes. He thought he changed the game defensively in that first half and we just couldn’t get him going in the second half, [Josh] LeBlanc or [Darius] Days. Both being in trouble limited us.”