Tigers fall to Gators in SEC semis

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Southeastern Conference regular season championship will have to do for the LSU Tigers.

After Saturday's semifinal loss in the SEC Tournament to Florida, there will be no double-championship for the men's basketball squad this season, but there will be an NCAA Tournament berth.

 

Florida knocked off LSU for the second time this season, pulling away down the stretch and recording an 81-65 victory. The loss marked the 26th straight season LSU failed to win the tournament, hosted this year at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville.

 

"Being a competitor, you are disappointed because you don't want to lose a ballgame," Glen Davis said. "But we know we have another season ahead."

 

Davis was held in check by the Gators much more so than he was in the opening game of the tournament, when he had 19 points at halftime against Vanderbilt. Davis had just two points at the break against the Gators and finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, the fewest points he's scored since scoring 12 at Arkansas on Jan. 11.

 

"I didn't establish myself at the beginning," Davis said. "I didn't get the ball in the right places and I rushed some shots."

 

Darrel Mitchell looked healthy on his gimpy ankle, scoring 21 points and handing out six assists. Freshman Tasmin Mitchell added 20 points and nine rebounds, and Darnell Lazare found his way to 10 points against the Gators.

 

But unlike the Vanderbilt game, the Tigers did not get the long-range shooting from Garrett Temple (0-for-4 from three) and were not able to control the boards against the athletic Florida frontcourt.

 

Florida had five players score in double figures, with Taurean Green leading the way with 18 points. Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah had 15 points each while Al Horford and Chris Richard tallied 10 points each.

 

"Horford is a load for us," Brady said. "We're one guy short really to play them like we would like to have played them today. We didn't handle the fatigue as well, it seemed. They had something to do with that because of the way they played."

 

Florida played zone almost exclusively in the second half, and that slowed the LSU offense. LSU shot 31 percent in the second half after hitting at a 57 percent clip in the first half by making a lot of transition baskets.

 

"The zone slowed the game down in the second half," Brady said. "I think they didn't like what we were doing because we were getting easy baskets out of them pressing us, so they just changed the whole tactic of the game and didn't try to pick us up full court. They fell back in the zone and made us shoot balls over them. When we did get the ball to Glen in the lane, because he hadn't been involved and he had some foul trouble, he wasn't able to score the ball and shoot the ball as easily as he did last night."

 

Tasmin Mitchell hit a three-pointer with 6:50 to play that brought the Tigers within 62-59 with 6:55 to play, but things fell apart from there. Florida ripped off a 10-0 run to take control. Richard dunked a follow, then Green hit back-to-back three pointers before he capped the run with a driving layup. With 4:20 to play, Florida led 72-59 and LSU was not going to rally on this day.

 

"Green came down and hit a couple of deep threes," Lazare said. "That was huge in the game. We got in a hurry and panicked a little bit. We should have been more patient because we had enough time."

 

The lead never got below eight, and then a few careless turnovers in the final minute created the misleading 81-65 final score.

 

"All of the sudden, the lead went from 2 or 4 to 10, and the game changed," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "The biggest thing was we were able to get some stops and we were able to get out on the break and things kind of opened up for us. That certainly changed the momentum of the game."

 

Florida advanced to the final of the SEC Tournament for the third straight season while LSU has not reached the final since 1993. Still, the regular season championship trophy will accompany the Tigers back to Baton Rouge, and the semifinal loss will not take a shine off that trophy.

 

"It hurts because you want to win every game you play, but the SEC Championship means something," Lazare said. "Fourteen and two in the league is very difficult to do no matter what conference you are in, never mind the SEC. Everybody should still be afraid to play us."

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