Embarrassed at home by a team against which it held a six-game winning streak, the Florida Gators (10-8, 3-2 SEC) fell 79-61 to the LSU Tigers (14-4, 3-2 SEC) on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.
Florida’s failures to execute defensively, coupled with its penchant for fouls and inability to sustain consistent offense, allowed LSU to lead most of the contest and earn a dominant victory against a team that has dominated it for much of this decade. The lost tied a 2010 game against Ohio State for UF’s worst defeat at home since 1998.
“I’m not surprised at all by any of this. I saw this back coming out of last season with the group of guys that were coming back,” head coach Billy Donovan said after the game. “The veteran guys that were coming back, there was a lack of discipline in them. They struggle in that area. I’m not surprised by any of what’s going on. That’s been the challenge. I’ve tried a lot of different things with them. They’re going to have to, as much as I hate to say it, they’re going to have to go through it to figure it out.”
OnlyGators.com breaks down Tuesday’s action with nine quick-hitters:
It was over when: Ending a five-minute stretch without a made field goal, the Gators pieced together an explosive 7-0 run with two layups and a three from junior guard Michael Frazier II to cut their deficit to 10 with 5:54 to play. The Tigers, however, answered back by scoring five-straight to push their lead back to 15 and held off the hosts from there, cruising to a road victory.
Significant stretch: Already leading by five, LSU used a 14-2 run aided by back-to-back threes and a pair of free throws to take a 66-49 lead on Florida midway through the second half. The Tigers had already taken eight free throws in the latter 20 minutes before entering the bonus at the 10-minute mark and used that advantage to hold onto its massive lead for the duration of the contest.
Prominent player: Jarell Martin was dominant for LSU, scoring a game-high 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting while going 1-for-1 from beyond the arc and 7-of-8 from the charity stripe. He also posted eight boards and two dimes. UF did not have a player – or a pair of players – that were able to counter Martin’s production.
First half focus: The Tigers took advantage of six-straight missed baskets by the Gators to piece together a 9-2 scoring stretch that broke open a 14-14 tie and gave it a 23-16 lead. Florida was able to push the score back to even at 30 all, but LSU took a 37-32 lead into the break on the back of making 5-of-8 threes compared to 0-of-5 for the hosts.
Perfect play: Midway through the first half, a deflection off the press resulted in a steal by junior guard Michael Frazier II, who immediately passed it up the court to sophomore point guard Kasey Hill in transition. In one motion, Hill found freshman forward Devin Robinson at the hoop for a strong alley-oop that swung momentum in the Gators’ favor.
Standout stat: The Gators were abhorrent from beyond the arc for the second-straight game, failing both offensively and defensively from bonus land. The Tigers drained 8-of-13 attempts from long range as Florida failed to properly rotate defensively, and UF took a number of poor shots from deep, resulting in it hitting just 3-of-15 attempts from beyond the arc. LSU earned a +15 in scoring from three-point land.
“That’s really bad. Since conference play has started, we haven’t defended the three-point line well at all,” redshirt junior F Alex Murphy said. “[It’s failures in] communication, rotations, stuff that we do every day in practice that sometimes we just don’t do it out here come game time. We got to fix that.”
What it means: Florida has played so poorly to this point that qualifying for the NCAA Tournament is moving past the realm of reality. At 10-8 with a 3-2 league record, the Gators likely need to win 10 of their next 15 games just to make the NIT.
Next up: Florida will hit the road to take on Ole Miss on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Everything else: Finney-Smith came off the bench after hyper-extending his knee, which forced him to miss two days of practice, according to the Associated Press’ Mark Long … Frazier started his first SEC game of the season and first contest since Jan. 3 … a three-pointer drained by Frazier early in the second half set a new school record for consecutive games with a triple (40) … the Tigers entered the bonus with 10:06 to play … Finney-Smith (4-of-13) and Murphy (3-of-5) led the way for Florida with 10 points each … Frazier was 2-for-6 with eight points … sophomore F Chris Walker was efficient offensively, going 2-for-2 from the field and 2-for-3 from the charity stripe for six points … LSU outrebounded UF 21-13 in the second half … the Tigers led for 32:27 of the 40-minute game; the Gators only held a lead for 3:20
“We just got to get better. We just got to get disciplined,” Finney-Smith said after the game. “Losing in the O’Dome … by that many points … we didn’t come to fight.”