Gators with pivotal 68-62 win over LSU

It was a very important game for the Florida Gator basketball team. With two road games coming up taking a losing record on the road would be a bad thing. The Gators showed up from the opening buzzer in the O’Connell Center Saturday afternoon and finished with a hard fought 68-62 win over hard charging LSU.

For head coach Mike White, it was a big turnaround from the game his team played on Wednesday. His guys came out with fire and emotion in front of the home crowd and seemed to feed off of their energy.

"That was about at least 160,” White quipped when asked if that was a 180 degree turnaround. “We just played really, really hard. Proud of that. As we continue to go 17-30 and 3-18, we can control how hard we play. And so I'm very pleased with that, very pleased with the effort it took. It was going to take that type of effort to have a chance. I don't mean to ramble, but I'll give you this one thought: I'm amazed by Ben Simmons. I felt we did a pretty good job on him and he gets 28 and 17, with four assists. What a talent he is. Wow."

Simmons is the freshman Phenom at LSU that has everyone talking and the consensus number one pick in the NBA for the next draft.

"We really didn't know what to expect. I just think he's played differently in different games,” White said. “They're so dangerous. We talked a lot about toeing that line in defending LSU in terms of doing your best to slow them down collectively but not over-helping and allowing Hornsby to add three or four threes to what Ben Simmons is going to do.

He's going to get to the foul line some. He's going to get an offensive rebound put back. He's going to do something in transition. He's terrific at drawing fouls. But you're over-helping and Quarterman gets going, Antonio Blakeney gets going. They're really difficult to match up with. I thought we did a pretty good job on those other guys. As I go back and watch film, it'll be interesting to evaluate, but I thought a lot of times we were trying to wall off Ben with two or three guys. I thought we toed that line pretty correctly, but he’s just got that really quick first step and he’s big and strong and he’s just a got a knack for drawing fouls.”

White was very happy with the energy level from his team. LSU came out hard, but Florida matched their intensity from the start ad it made a difference from just three days past.

 “Overall energy level, more than anything. Just from the tip we talked to our guys about the growth that we want, we want to grow offensively throughout the season, we want to become more skilled, we want to settle into being able to throw different defenses at you, and so on and so forth. At the beginning of the year you’re looking at a team with seven new players and with some inexperience and coming off a tough year of course. And I thought going into the Tennessee game, of course, 95 percent of the year, what have you, our energy level was really, really good. We just came out and played really, really hard. Just didn’t give ourselves a chance in Knoxville, gave us that chance tonight, today, just getting into that stance, flying around, contesting shots. John Egbunu, I remember the first time, that Craig Victor caught in on the extended post, John was playing with crazy energy, and talking and he was in a stance and he had his hand over the ball. I thought that set a tone, contested shots, didn’t miss block outs early, transition defense was good for the most part, we had one terrible floor balance possession in the second half that you wish you had back. But just for the most part we just fought and defended. Again for a team like us, offensively, if we don’t do that we have no chance."

The Gators got great play from their big guys. Dorian Finney-Smith ended up with stitches above his mouth for his hard play and finished the game with 14 points and three rebounds in a low 22 minutes of play. Center John Egbunu finished with 13 points and four rebounds and it was his uncanny free throw shooting at the end of the game that was a big difference in the final outcome.

 Forward Justin Leon also had another really nice shooting night going 6-8 from the field and putting in 14 pints and nine rebounds. The nine boards was a team high along with the four offensive rebounds as well. The Gators still lost the rebound advantage by 12, with LSU getting 50 and the Gators 38 on the night.

Florida continues their bad shooting hitting on just 38.1% of their shots and going 3-18 from the three point line. But the defense won the game. LSU shot just 35.7% and went just 3-20 from the arc.

The Gators also won the turnover battle, only committing seven for the game, whole LSU had 17 turnovers and Simmons was forced into eight of those.

It was a really strong performance against the highest scoring team in the SEC and they held LSU 22 points under their average of 84 per game.

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