Gators fall in Baton Rouge

A win on the road in Baton Rouge against the SEC's top team would have gone a long way for the Gators' chances at a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. But Florida couldn't capitalize on a halftime lead and a big night from LSU star Marcus Thornton sunk the Gators on Fat Tuesday, 81-75.

Thornton scored 32 for the Tigers who clinched at least a tie for the SEC regular season title. The Gators fall to 8-5 in the SEC and 21-7 overall.

LSU who is the league's third best shooting team from the free throw line, knocked down 18-of-21 from the line, including their last 12 from the charity stripe.

The Gators were led by senior Walter Hodge who scored 16. Alex Tyus scored 15 and grabbed six rebounds, while Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons both scored 12.

The teams exchanged baskets for the first 10 minutes before LSU used a 5-0 run to open up a seven point lead midway through the first half, 24-17. Back-to-back three-pointers from Calathes and Dan Werner kept the Gators within striking distance, and a three-point play by Tyus with 1:19 left in the opening half tied the score at 37.

Florida then scored the final four points of the half to lead 41-37 at the break despite 5-of-7 shooting from Thornton behind the arc in the first 20 minutes.

The Tigers opened the second half with a 9-2 run, but Florida was able to maintain a three-point edge with 16:17 left, 49-46. But the Gators would go through a three-minute drought from the floor. LSU took the lead before Erving Walker knocked down a three-pointer with 13:02 left to tie the score at 53.

Florida led 56-55 with 12 minutes left, but would never lead again. A three-pointer by Garrett Temple gave the Tigers a five-point lead and a fast break basket put LSU up seven with nine minutes left, 65-58.

Walker knocked down a huge three for the Gators with 4:47 left, cutting LSU's lead to three points, 67-64. But the Tigers would score four straight points to go back up by seven. In the final minutes, LSU was spectacular from the free throw line, and trailing by six with less than a minute to go, Florida missed a pair of three-pointers in a final effort.

Hodge hit a pair of threes in the final 14-seconds, but it was too little too late.

With the loss, Florida falls half a game behind Kentucky and South Carolina for first place in the SEC East.

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