Florida vs. LSU score, takeaways: Castleton breaks out as Lewis helps Gators hang on late

By Adam Silverstein
January 2, 2021
Florida vs. LSU score, takeaways: Castleton breaks out as Lewis helps Gators hang on late

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

It would not be a Florida Gators basketball game without a large lead disappearing in the final minutes. That means we indeed had a Florida Gators basketball game Saturday, though this one wound up as an 83-79 win over the LSU Tigers at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Florida and LSU proved to be strong matchups for one another, and the SEC rivals battled for 40 minutes in a game both needed to win in order to keep their single-blemish records in tact entering the first full week of play in 2021. The Gators soared to victory behind a four-man effort that accounted for nearly 90% of the team’s points and baskets.

What went down on Saturday in Florida’s first home game in nearly a month? Check out our Fastbreak takeaways for a full breakdown.

It was over when … sophomore guard Scottie Lewis drained two free throws to put the Gators ahead four with 5.9 second left to play. Florida led by as many as 10 late in the game saw its lead dissipate in the closing seconds as is tradition with this team. LSU with a 6-0 run and trailed by four with 29 seconds left as UF missed four straight shots and went scoreless for nearly three minutes. Lewis was the only player to score for the Gators down the stretch, hitting 5 of 6 free throw attempts to stave off a comeback for the Tigers. Lewis finished with 17 points and five rebounds, hitting 7 of 9 gimmies and 5 of 10 field goals despite missing all three of his triples.

Exceptional efforts: Saturday’s victory was a four-man effort for Florida. Other than Lewis, junior center Colin Castleton stood out for his insane play in the second half. Castleton opened the period by making six straight shots and five free throws for 17 points with four boards in just 7:47; he outscored LSU 17-14 himself. He finished the game with 21 points on 7 of 10 shooting with six rebounds. Sophomore point guard Tre Mann struggled at times with four fouls but was consistently effective on the offensive end. Mann posted 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting (3 of 6 from three) with five boards and a team-high +9.

Junior forward Anthony Duruji carried the water for the Gators in the first half, wrapping things up with 16 points on 6 of 12 from the field with seven rebounds. Lewis, Castleton, Mann and Duruji scored 88% of Florida’s team points in the game.

First half focus: UF took a lead midway through the half, but LSU immediately erupted on an 8-0 run, taking a five-point advantage as the Gators committed three turnovers, went scoreless over four minutes and started 2 of 10 from downtown. Florida and LSU then traded 7-0 runs late in the half until Duruji drained a triple at the buzzer to knot the game at 40. There were seven ties and eight lead changes during the first 20 minutes in an extremely close game. The Gators hit their final five shots of the period and shot nearly 58% from the floor but made just 3 of 11 triples.

Odds and ends: Five of the last six Florida-LSU games have been within four points at the end of regulation … junior PG Tyree Appleby committed 5 turnovers … junior G Noah Locke was -8 on the game, going 0 of 5 from downtown … the Gators led for the final 18:27 despite leading for just 2:13 in parts of the first half … Castleton has scored 44 points combined in the last two games … the Gators are now 50-65 all-time against the Tigers, including 31-21 in the O’Dome and 7-4 under head coach Mike White …Florida improved to 51-3 under White when scoring 80+ points … junior forward Keyontae Johnson was on the bench for the Gators wearing a tracksuit and serving as a “coach”

What it means: Florida is finding ways to win without its best player, which is not only commendable but impressive. The Gators’ propensity for blowing large leads late in games continues to be worrisome, but the Tigers deserve credit for battling back. These teams are not far apart talent-wise with Johnson out, and outside of Castleton’s individual run, they played tight the entire game. UF should be proud of this victory and looking ahead to build on the lessons learned.

What’s next? Florida will jump back on the road in a quick-turnaround scenario to face Alabama on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET. The game will air either on ESPN2 or ESPNU.

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