Fastbreak: Two-faced Florida Gators fight for big 68-62 win over Ben Simmons-led LSU

By Adam Silverstein
January 9, 2016

No one can truly put a finger on the 2015-16 Florida Gators basketball team. In one week, it dominated an SEC road opener against its rival, got blown out while giving little-to-no effort against a middle-of-the-road team and then turned around and earned a wire-to-wire victory against the nation’s best player.

Florida completed its uneven week Saturday with a wild 68-62 win over the LSU Tigers in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. breaks down Saturday’s victory and the week that was with seven quick-hitters:

It was over when: Florida redshirt sophomore center John Egbunu made a baby hook shot with 49 seconds left, helping mitigate a three-point play by LSU freshman forward Ben Simmons to push the Gators ahead by three. Egbunu preceded that short jumper with two made free throws and followed it with two more as he finished 5-for-10 from the line but made five of his last six attempts from the charity stripe. The Tigers did not score again as Simmons turned the ball over twice in the final 40 seconds.

Gators can’t make shots, that’s a bucket problem: Simply put, UF is one of the worst-shooting teams in the nation, and it is sometimes incredible just to see the ball go in the basket. Florida was 0-for-12 from three and 6-for-16 from the line in the first half; in the latter 20 minutes, the Gators went 3-for-4 from downtown and 11-for-14 at the line – significantly better, obviously, but still not great over the course of the game. At the end of Saturday’s contest, UF ranked 332nd nationally in free throw shooting and 334th in three-point shooting … out of 346 teams.

Significant stretch: Though Simmons had his issues Saturday to the tune of eight turnovers (two in the final 40 seconds) and five fouls, he was also spectacular with game-highs of 28 points (14 on 16 free throw attempts) and 17 rebounds. Where he really shined for LSU was a 7-0 run that cut his team’s deficit from nine to two with just minutes to play. He was also responsible for scoring the Tigers’ final 12 points of the contest with none of his teammates making a single point over the final seven minutes of the game.

Welcome to the party, pal: Moving junior Justin Leon into the starting five has been a wise decision by head coach Mike White, and now that Leon is comfortable in his new spot, he’s become a fine contributor for the Gators. Leon was on fire Saturday, going 6-for-8 form the field and 2-for-3 from beyond the arc with team-highs of 14 points and nine boards. He also posted 11 against Tennessee on Wednesday and is now 6-for-10 from downtown over his last three games.

Showing some effort: After being blitzed on both ends of the court by the Vols and reportedly being chewed out by White after the game, the Gators responded Saturday by being aggressive throughout the contest. LSU did outrebound UF 50-38, but the hosts were ferocious defensively and made the visitors work for every basket, which went a long way to Florida pulling out the win.

Everything else: Redshirt junior F Dorian Finney-Smith made his first three shots but finished 4-of-9 with a team-high 14 points … sophomore point guard Chris Chiozza made three highlight plays including two alley-oops and a reverse layup; he also notched eight assists despite going 2-for-10 from the field … freshman guard KeVaughn Allen had a rough outing, scoring eight points on 4-of-14 shooting and missing all four of his threes … UF only committed six turnovers compared to 17 for LSU … the Gators led wire-to-wire, holding an advantage for 39:40 of the 40-minute game

Up next: Florida will take on its fourth ranked opponent this season when it hosts Texas A&M on Tuesday at 7 p.m. UF is 0-3 against ranked opponents under White and winless against the four best teams it faced this season in Purdue, Miami, Michigan State and Florida State.


  1. gatorforever says:

    Adam, are you going to come out witha recruiting piece?

  2. Ryan D. says:

    I know you mentioned it but why can’t we make consecutive free throws! It baffles me. DFS was the only one that actually hit his free throws oh and Rimmer. I was happy to see them finish a game against a solid team. When we figure out how all the pieces fit together, we could be a dangerous team. Leon impressed me the most. Go Gators.

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