Tigers dash Florida title hopes

NEW ORLEANS -- As LSU stunned No. 7 Florida Friday at the Southeastern Conference Tournament, the Tigers went to their two usual staple scorers in each half to place them over the top. <br><br>Senior forward Ronald Dupree and junior forward Jaime Lloreda almost single handedly carried LSU on their backs past the suddenly slumping Gators combining for 45 of LSU's 65 points in the 65-61 win.

Dupree energized the LSU offensive attack in the first half going 9-of-10 from the floor and ending the first 20 minutes with 19 points. The senior slowed down in the second half shooting only 2-of-5 from the field with five points.


LSU head coach John Brady said the Dupree's importance to the Tigers is something that others sometimes don't realize.


"Ronald Dupree is having his best, most productive season this year," Brady said. "He leads the SEC in double-doubles this season. I saw that he finished ninth in the balloting for all-SEC which means he just snuck onto the second team. I don't know what that is based on, but I do know that, in terms of what a person means to his team, Ronald Dupree is the MVP of this league. You take him off of our team, you play nearly as well down the stretch."


The 19 points in the first half were a season-high for Dupree at halftime and his game-high 24 points was one shy of his season-best 25 points against Arkansas Feb. 22.


"I was just feeling it (in the first half)," Dupree said. "I hit a couple of jump shots early and I knew I had to match their intensity and match their production on our offensive production. I've been practicing for this all season and not I just comfortable taking the shots I need to take … I have to be a leader. I have to be vocal and in times like these when things aren't going as well, you've got to stick with it because we knew Florida was going to come back with a run."


Speaking of high scoring, Dupree turned his 29th straight double-figure scoring game this season and has now scored in double figures in 29 of the Tigers' 30 contests.


"The first time we played (Florida), our offense couldn't keep up with theirs, so the game got away from us," Dupree said. "We defended well in that game, but we didn't make our shots. We knew coming into this game that if we hit our shots and played defense like we did the first game, we had a chance to win."


Dupree not only guided the team on the floor, he took charge in the huddle as well. When Florida made its run in the second half, the Tigers called timeout to settle the Tigers' nerves.


"Ronald was great during the timeout by telling the team to fight through it and we knew (the Gators) were going to do this. He was real positive and helped me through the timeout," Brady said.


Dupree tallied nine rebounds along with two assists and a steal to complement his 24 points.


As Florida made adjustments to Dupree's game, LSU made Lloreda and his post presence the prime target in the second half. He chipped in 13 of his 21 points in the second half. He finished 8-of-10 from the floor and 5-of-11 from the charity stripe.


His 15 rebounds along with the 21 points became Lloreda's seventh double-double of the season.


Lloreda also helped seal the win in the closing seconds by hitting one of two free throws with 13 seconds left in the game to put the Tigers up by four.

"I was kind of nervous (when he was at the line) but with the timeout, I could get cool," Lloreda said.


The Panamanian loomed as a dominating presence in the paint on defense as well as with the ball. He swatted away four Florida shots including a Matt Bonner lay-up attempt with less than one minute remaining.


Florida had little answers to contain the Tigers' leading scorers on either end of the floor.


"I thought in the first half we had no answer for Dupree and in the second half we had no answer for Lloreda," said Florida head coach Billy Donovan. "We did not shoot the ball well and just had no answer for their attack …

Offensively there was a different dimension in LSU. We certainly had opportunities to win but let them pass by."


Brady said once Florida keyed in on Dupree, he knew they could feed Lloreda down on the post.

"Ronald had a phenomenal first half and made some key baskets down the stretch," Brady said. "We always thought we could go inside to Jaime and we got it to him on the post several times and he was able to go to the line to make a free throw."

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