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Basketball Comeback Falls Short at Florida, 82-80

Will Baker finished the game with 16 points.

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Basketball Comeback Falls Short at Florida, 82-80

GAINESVILLE, FL. – The Florida Gators got a free throw and a breakaway layup after a turnover to take the lead a three-point lead with 20 seconds left in the game and ended up with an 82-80 decision over LSU, thwarting a dramatic comeback attempt by the Tigers.

LSU rallied from 20 down with 15:31 to play in the game, tying the contest, 78-78, on a three-pointer by Tyrell Ward with 1:33 to play.

Florida turned the ball over on its next possession and Ward’s attempt to score at the goal was no good as the clock ticked under a minute. After a Florida miss, Tyrese Samuel got the offensive rebound and was fouled. He made the first free throw to give Florida a 79-78 lead with 38 seconds left but missed the second one.

LSU rebounded and attempted to go up court, but turned the ball over in front of the LSU bench resulting in a layup by Walter Clayton, Jr. to put Florida up 81-78 with 20.9 seconds to play.

LSU went for the quick two-pointer and Jordan Wright scored with 11 seconds left. The Tigers took their final time out and on the inbounds, LSU fouled to send Alex Condon to the line. Condon made the first half of a 1-and-1 with nine seconds left but missed the second and Derek Fountain got the rebound.

LSU, with no timeouts, brought the ball up the court quickly but Wright’s mid-lane jumper was short and he grabbed the offensive board but there wasn’t time to get another shot up as the buzzer sounded giving the Gators the win.

Wright, who had 12 of his points in the second half, and Will Baker each scored 16 points for the Tigers with Ward and Jalen Cook scoring 12 each. Florida was led by Clayton with 21 points, while Samuel had 15 and Pullin 14.

Baker provided the offense for LSU in the first 20 minutes as he has the last few games for the Tigers scoring 13 points with two three-pointers.

But LSU could not find a way to stop Florida which shot 67 percent, making 20-of-30 field goals, including 18-of-24 from 2-point range. Clayton did much of the damage for the Gators with six two-pointers and two free throws.

Seven players contributed to the Gators’ first-half total as Florida outscored LSU, 23-13, over the final 7:56 of the half.

Florida out-rebounded the Tigers, 20-13, in the first half

The Tigers opened with the first five points of the contest on a Baker bucket and a Mike Williams III three-pointer but Florida quickly tied the game and took the lead for good at 11-9 prior to the first media timeout.

In the second half, the Gators were able to push the lead quickly up to 20 points, setting the stage for the Tiger comeback. LSU was down 60-40 with 15:31 to play but outscored the Gators 38-18 to tie the game at 78-78.

The Tigers played zone most of that rally and held Florida to 34.2 percent in overall field goal percentage (13-of-38) and just 2-of-11 from the arc, a complete reversal of the first half. Meanwhile, LSU was shooting 15-of-24 from the field (62.5%) and 6-of-9 from the arc.

For the game, LSU finished at 50.9 percent (28-55) and 11-of-21 from distance. However, for the third straight road game, LSU failed to shoot over 65 percent at the free throw line, hitting just 13-of-21 free throws (61.9 percent). Florida finished 33-of-68 (48.5 percent) and 4-of-17 from the arc. Florida was just 12-of-20 from the charity stripe.

LSU now has nine games this season hitting double-digit three-pointers, which is tied for the most in a season dating back to 2002-03, with the most recent being during the 2019-20 season.

Florida outrebounded LSU, 43-29, the third straight game the opponents had 40-plus rebounds on LSU and 19-8 on the offensive boards which resulted in a 20-12 advantage in second chance points.

Florida had 46 points in the paint compared to 28 for the Tigers.

LSU continues with road game play on Saturday at South Carolina with a 2:30 CT tipoff for the game on the SEC Network and the LSU Sports Radio Network.

Postgame Quotes via the LSU Radio Network

LSU Head Coach Matt McMahon

On the tough loss…

“Yeah that’s a tough one, that’s just all there is to it. I thought our guys did a great job in the second half of flipping the script of the game. We were able to execute offensively. I think we shot over 60% from the floor and from three. That enabled us to draw up some defenses and change the look there on the other end. We couldn’t quite secure the defensive glass the way we needed to on some key possessions. I thought we left some points on the board there. In the first half of a game, when the opponent shoots 66% as they did, your margin for error on offense is nonexistent. We had a couple of bad turnovers and missed some free throws in the first half, but credit to our players, they found a way to get back into the game and give ourselves a chance there at the end.”

On not giving up when the Florida lead was extended to 20…

“I thought we went to more of a defensive lineup and those guys gave us a huge lift. Florida’s guards are so good, they put so much pressure on you and we were trying to do a good job hedging ball screens and just couldn’t do it. They just got into the paint at will, whether it was the guard driving in there or hitting the bigs on the short roll there into the painted area. We had to make some changes there in the second half. I thought our guys were active there in our zone. I thought we really flew around. Then, as it got tighter late when we went back to man, I thought our effort and intensity was a lot better. We were able to keep them off balance. We had some chances there late, unfortunately, just rushed a layup and then had a bad turnover, but all that said you have a shot you’d love to have any time to send the game to overtime.”