Gators Fall To Tigers At SEC Tournament

NEW ORLEANS, La. -- Despite a valiant effort that saw a 13-point halftime deficit reduced to a single point, the University of Florida men's basketball team fell to LSU, 65-61, in the quarterfinal round of the SEC Tournament in New Orleans, La.

The Tigers sent the Gators (24-7) to their third straight loss, while winning their seventh straight as they continue to be one of the hottest teams in America.

Matt Bonner led three Gators in double figures with 15 points, however, the LSU frontcourt tandem of Ronald Duperee and Jaime Lloreda, who finished with 24 and 21 points respectively. Lloreda added 15 rebounds, as the Tigers held a decisive advantage on the glass.

With the Tigers up 64-61, Lloreda made the second of two free throws, and LSU held off the Gators' final effort for the victory. Lloreda went 5-for-11 from the line.

Neither team could do much down the stretch. The Tigers scored just 10 points over the final 10:34, while the Gators had nine. LSU shot 55 percent from the field (27-of-49) and Florida shot 39 percent (21-of-54).

"The constant for our team, even when we had trouble scoring, was that we kept defending hard," LSU coach John Brady said. "In a game like this, the defensive intensity gets tough for both teams."

Florida, which was coming off losses to Kentucky and Georgia, hoped to use the tournament to improve its seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

"I thought that in the first half we had no answer for Dupree and in the second half we had no answer for Lloreda," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

LSU had a 40-27 halftime lead, but Florida's man-to-man defense early in the second half troubled the Tigers. The Gators opened the half with an 11-2 run, but the Tigers fought back with a 12-6 spurt to go up 54-44 with 13:09 left.

Brady was whistled for a technical with 12:23 left as he protested the lack of a traveling call. Bonner made both free throws and the Gators scored eight straight points to pull to 54-51 with 10:58 remaining.

But the Gators did not hit another field goal until Anthony Roberson's lay-up with 5:20 left. During that stretch, LSU scored only six points as Lloreda missed three free throws and the Gators made three, narrowing it to 60-56.

"We were not making the shots and LSU was taking advantage of that," Bonner said.

Justin Hamilton stole an LSU pass and dished it off to Roberson, who took it the length of the court for a layup that put Florida within 62-61 with 2:32 left. It was the last time Florida would score.

Florida opened the game with back-to-back 3-pointers and took an 11-2 lead over the first four minutes of the game.

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