LSU opened the game on a 12-0 run before Florida fought back to tie the game at 22 with 3:44 left to play in the first half. The Tigers got hot after that and stretched the lead out to 10 points early in the second half, but the Gators were still able to get the lead to seven points with 7:40 left to play in the second half.
When the Gators tried to make the game close with a run, LSU was able to respond and stretch the lead back out, securing a 70-63 win over Florida on Saturday.
“If you look at the first four minutes of the game and first four minutes of the second half, the score is 20-2,” Billy Donovan said on his postgame radio show. “When you’re playing and know you’re limited, there are still areas you can compete and fight in.”
The slow start has become all too familiar for Florida this season. The Gators already allowed double digits to opponents before scoring their first points against Georgia, North Carolina and Vanderbilt this season, and it happened against LSU. It took the Gators almost the entire first half to dig out of the hole, and when they did, the Tigers were still able to answer.
Florida took its first and only lead of the game when Devin Robinson dunked on a fast break to make it 26-24 with 2:41 left in the first half. That sparked a 9-0 run for the Tigers to close out the first half, highlighted by a between the legs dunk by LSU forward Jarell Martin and an alley oop to Tim Quarterman on the next possession.
Just as it was during the first meeting in Gainesville, it was LSU big men Martin and Jordan Mickey that led the way. Martin had 28 points and 13 rebounds while Mickey had 14 points and six rebounds with four blocks. Guard Keith Hornsby was the only other LSU player in double figures with 12 points.
“When you’re playing against a guy like that, you’re not going to be able to match him shot-for-shot,” Donovan said. “He’s just too talented, too good. You can overcome a guy like Martin if you don’t foul him as much as we did and put him to the free throw line 16 times. You make him make tough two-point shots, but you’ve got to be flawless in other areas.”
With leading scorers Dorian Finney-Smith (suspension) and Michael Frazier (high ankle sprain) out, it was Eli Carter that led the way for Florida. The junior scored 14 points but needed 14 field goal attempts to do it. Freshman Devin Robinson had 12 points and seven rebounds.
As has been a theme this year, Donovan was more frustrated with his team’s inconsistent play.
“The one thing I take out of this is, clearly we have a lot of scoring missing, but one of the things I’ve talked about the entire year with this team is our discipline and our consistency,” Donovan said. “Most of the game is played without the ball in your hands. The thing that’s disturbing in the areas we’re unable to get better at is it’s the same mistakes over and over. When you shoot the basketball like we have, the guys on this team right now, they shoot about 36 percent from the field and 25 percent for 3. The margin of error has drastically shrunk. You’ve got to do it by being really flawless in terms of attention to detail.
“When you have a shooting team like we have that’s coupled with lacking in those areas, it becomes very, very difficult to beat a good team like LSU.”
Donovan plans to revisit Finney-Smith’s suspension on Monday and make a decision about when he will return.
The fifth loss in the last six games dropped Florida to 13-14 this season. The Gators travel to face Missouri on Tuesday at 9 p.m. on the SEC Network.