The crowd was sparse Sunday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, LA, but the No. 14/15 Florida Gators effort without senior forward Chandler Parsons (deep thigh bruise) was not. Missing their best player, Florida (21-5, 10-2 SEC) still rolled to a 68-61 victory over the LSU Tigers (10-17, 2-10 SEC) behind 17 points each from junior point guard Erving Walker and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton.
Leading 40-25 at the break, the Gators allowed the Tigers to get within six midway through the second half but held on to their lead due to a superior effort by the backcourt at the charity stripe over the final few minutes.
Florida opened up the first half with a 10-0 run and utilized an 8-2 run later in the period to go up a game-high 15 points, 36-21, with 4:20 to go before the break. A layup by redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin allowed UF to close the half with the same 15-point advantage; they shot 59.4 percent from the field as a team while holding LSU to only 34.4 percent shooting.
The Tigers fought back with a 9-2 run to open the second half and cut the Gators’ lead to 42-34. A three-pointer by Walker put Florida back ahead 15 with 12:59 left, but LSU responded with an impressive 17-7 run to reduce their deficit from 15 to six with 4:41 remaining in the game and UF on their heels.
Boynton ended the Tigers’ run and a 5:51 scoring drought for the Gators on a fastbreak layup with 3:10 remaining.
Florida, which was only 6-for-12 from the free throw line and saw three consecutive frontcourt players miss the front end of one-and-ones in the second half, hit eight-straight free throws to end the game thanks to the backcourt of Walker (four), Boynton (two) and freshman PG Scottie Wilbekin (two).
LSU G Ralston Turner posted a game-high 18 points but was the only player on his team to score in double figures.
Three of UF’s starters hit that mark with Macklin adding 16 points and seven rebounds to Walker and Boynton’s respective 17-point performances.
Walker went 5-for-10 (3-of-6 from downtown) while also hitting four free throws and tying Matt Walsh for sixth all-time on the school’s career three-pointers list. Boynton was 5-of-12 (1-for-5 from three, 6-for-7 from the line) and also grabbed two steals.
Senior F Alex Tyus picked up nine boards while also scoring six points. Freshman F Casey Prather, who started in place of Parsons, was held scoreless in only 15 minutes of action. Wilbekin ended up playing the majority of Parsons’s minutes.
With the victory, the Gators have won 10 conference games for the first time since 2007. Florida improved to 18-1 when holding an opponent under 70 points this season and 12-0 when forcing more turnovers; they have now won 16 of their last 19 games. The Gators’ defeat of the Tigers was their first in Baton Rouge since Jan. 28, 2003 and just their fourth win in the last 10 total games in the series.
Florida hosts Georgia on Thursday for the second meeting between the teams this season. UF beat UGA 104-91 in double overtime on Jan. 25.
Photo Credit: Patrick Semansky/Associated Press