A paid crowd of 5,578 fans honored breast cancer awareness as part of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s Pink Zone Challenge on Sunday. LSU recognized approximately 60 breast cancer survivors prior to the game in a special “Parade of Survivors.” Fans donned pink attire to honor the cause while the team wore special Nike uniforms trimmed in pink.
The Lady Tigers (13-9, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) picked up their first victory of the season over a ranked opponent in six tries. LSU won its seventh straight Pack the PMAC game and defeated Florida for the ninth time in the last 10 meetings.
“Today was a signature win,” LSU head coach Van Chancellor said. “We beat the No. 9 team in the country. This a great win for us and a great win for the team and our spirits. We beat a really good team by 19 points.”
“The crowd today was unbelievable. There was so much enthusiasm, and it really helped our team today. It was great to see all of the pink in the crowd. I thank all of the fans for their support.”
The Gators (22-4, 8-3) dropped their second consecutive game – their first losing streak of the season – and fell for the sixth straight time in Baton Rouge. Florida came into the contest ranked ninth in the Associated Press poll and 11th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches.
LSU forced the Gators into 20 turnovers while racking up seven blocks and 14 steals, including a career-high five steals from Hightower. The Lady Tigers’ smothering defense held Florida to a season-low 32.1 percent (17-of-53) from the field. The Gators, who averaged 75.7 points per game, finished with their lowest point total of the season and managed just 1-of-12 shots from 3-point land.
Hightower was spectacular and played nearly the entire contest before being lifted by Chancellor to a standing ovation in the final minute. She finished 9-of-20 from the floor and reached double-figures for the 10th straight game.
Senior forward Kristen Morris chipped in nine points and eight rebounds to go along with three steals. Sophomore guard Latear Eason dished out a career-high six assists and held in check All-SEC guard Sha Brooks for most of the game.
“We won the game with a great defensive plan,” Chancellor added. “Allison Hightower was unbelievable – steals, rebounds, defense and only one turnover. She made almost half of her shots. I thought Latear Eason did an outstanding job on a tremendous guard in (Sha) Brooks.”
Brooks scored 12 points – eight points below her SEC average – while senior forward Marshae Dotson led the Gators with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
A 14-0 LSU run in the first 10 minutes of the game energized the crowd and gave the Lady Tigers’ a comfortable advantage from the start. Florida missed 11 of their first 12 shots and went 10 minutes without a field goal in the first half.
During the spurt, Hightower and Morris knocked down jumpers. Junior guard Andrea Kelly picked up where she left off last game with a 3-pointer and a jumper to give LSU a 15-2 lead with 11:36 in the first half.
Brooks finally got the Gators back on the board with a free throw at the 9:22 mark. Lonnika Thompson’s bucket with 8:56 to go was Florida’s first field goal since the 19:14 point when the game was tied at two apiece.
LSU led by as many as 16 points in the first stanza following another Kelly 3-pointer that made it 23-7 in favor of the Lady Tigers with 7:39 remaining. LSU took a 27-16 advantage into the locker room.
Florida cut the lead to eight points on two occasions in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Brooks’ layup at the 12:31 mark made it a 39-31 contest, but the Lady Tigers responded with six straight points to take control again.
Morris had a jumper during the run and forced a steal that led to an Eason layup, which gave the Lady Tigers a 45-31 margin with 10:26 to go. Hightower delivered with another steal and went the length of the floor for a layup that ultimately put the game out of reach, 52-38, with 5:02 to go.
Florida could get no closer than 11 points and never managed to climb within single digits. LSU held its biggest lead, 66-47, following an Ayana Dunning layup and free throw in the final minute that accounted for the final margin.
The Lady Tigers finished 48.1 percent (26-of-54) from the floor and dished out 15 assists to Florida’s four.
LSU seeks to carry its momentum into a road game at Georgia on Thursday from Stegeman Coliseum. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CST.