Gators Start Hot, Hold Off LSU

The Florida Gators' basketball squad took the lead for good just 2:16 into the ball game with SEC West opponent LSU on Sunday. With a final score of 68-61, the Gators improved to (10-2) in the SEC and (21-5) overall while LSU falls to (2-10) and (10-17). Florida was able to do it with probably their best player on the sideline recovering from injury.

The Florida Gators came out smoking to start the game and really controlled the contest from just about the opening tip to halftime. It was their fifth win in a row and matches their longest winning streak of the season.

"It started out in the first half where we played pretty well," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said on the Gator radio Network after the game. "We shot a high percentage from the field and held them to 34% from the field and built a 15-point lead."

Florida took a 40-25 lead into halftime,scoring 28 points of their 40 in the paint. LSU started the second half in a new zone look that seemed to confuse the Gators and the scoring went away from the paint, only scoring eight more points in the lane for the final 20 minutes.

"I thought to start the second half LSU came out with a lot more energy than we did, particularly when they went to a zone, we didn't handle it very well," Donovan said. "In particular our guards didn't make good decisions. Some of that had to do with Chandler not being there and he helps facilitate plays with his size and athleticism. Our back court has to get a better feel for what we need to do. We have to get better handling and passing against the zone."

Parsons, considered to be the Gators MVP of the season, missed the game due to a bruised thigh. In his absence, freshman Casey Prather started the game but finished with zero points, but added three rebounds and a steal.

The Gators were led in scoring by guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton who both scored 17 each. Senior center Vernon Macklin was the only other Gator to finish in double figures with 16 points. The senior tandem of Alex Tyus and Macklin combined for 16 rebounds with Tyus racking up nine.

In the second half, the LSU zone was one issue, but the Gators also seemed to hit a wall. Two missed dunks and a missed layup all within a six minute period marred a half that only included making six shots. It also included a little slide in the second half where the Gators gave up some on defense.

"I was happy we won," Donovan said. "We found a way and hung in there. We gave up too high of a percentage earlier in the second half. We only scored six field goals (in the half). If you only score six field goals in a half you are going to put yourself in a position to lose and they scored 36 points. Our goal was to try and hold them to 50 points in the game and we were right on target with 25 in the first half, but our defense slacked. We won and hopefully we can get better from it."

LSU had one player score in double digits with 18 points from Ralston Turner, who had just two points of the 16 at halftime.

"I felt like if we could get off to a good start (in the second half) and get up 20 points we could take break their spirit a little bit," Donovan said. "I think we gave them some life and gave them confidence. We got a couple of breakaway lay ups and tip-ins and we got the lead back up to 8-9-10."

Despite giving up so much in the second half, Donovan continues to like the resiliency of his basketball team and always appreciates road win in the SEC.

"There were a lot of positive things," he said. "It is 4-5 wins in the league now (on the road) and it is hard to win on the road in this league. It is a situation for our team where we battled to find ways to win."

Florida continues to get positive play from some young guys off the bench. Freshman guard Scottie Wilbekin played a whopping 30 minutes. He only scored two points, but also had two steals and two assists and continues to do a lot of the other things that are not usually quantified statistically. Freshman forward Patric Young finished with six points, six rebounds, and a steal in 18 minutes.

"I thought Scottie Wilbekin played thirty minutes tonight and gave up some tough passes and some tough plays but he played defense and that is one thing we can rely on," Donovan said. "He and Patric Young are really good loose ball guys. When the ball goes up, they grab them and come down with them. There is toughness with those guys and they came up with a lot of loose balls that were critical and won't show up in the stat sheet."

The Gators are tied with Alabama with the best record in the conference at 10-2. However, they are faced with the toughest part of their conference schedule to end the SEC portion of their schedule. The Gators are at home Thursday against Georgia (7-5), go on the road to face Kentucky (7-5) on Saturday, then back home to face Alabama (10-2), before finishing with Vanderbilt (8-4).

With three wins in the four games the Gators will clinch the SEC East. If Vanderbilt loses again before the final contest, the Gators would only need two wins to clinch the East.


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