Florida score, takeaways: Basketball falls to short-handed No. 12 LSU for worst SEC start in 40 years

By Adam Silverstein
January 12, 2022
Florida score, takeaways: Basketball falls to short-handed No. 12 LSU for worst SEC start in 40 years

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

Florida Gators basketball is making all types of history under head coach Mike White. Unfortunately, it continues to be the wrong kind of history. The Gators on Wednesday night fell 64-58 to the No. 12 LSU Tigers at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida, setting the program off to its worst start in SEC play since the 1981-82 season.

Even worse, Florida failed to beat a short-handed LSU team that entered the game down its starting point guard, lost its leading scorer and rebounder with 13 minutes to play and saw a third starter hit the bench with 7:16 remaining.

That puts the Gators at 9-6 (0-3 SEC), a 15-game mark from which the program has only advanced to an NCAA Tournament twice in program history (1988-89, 1994-95). Florida has now lost six of its last nine games with five straight defeats at the hands of Power Five opponents.

Though it was the first time in program history that it opened SEC play with three straight top 25 opponents, that’s hardly an excuse for a Gators team that has frequently been non-competitive in first halves while unable to close the door after second-half comebacks.

This poor play falls squarely on the shoulders of head coach Mike White, who has somehow survived disastrous outcomes in the past but appears to be nearing the same point former head football coach Dan Mullen reached in November. If Florida does not fail to win game for one reason, another problem rears its head.

On Wednesday, after a stellar defensive effort to start the second half, the Gators not only relented on that end but simultaneously suffered from a combination of poor shooting, awful shot selection and its worst streak at the free throw line this season. More on that below.

All of this, by the way, is happening in an O’Dome that used to be one of the SEC’s loudest venues. Now, UF is failing to fill its stands even against ranked opponents with half-empty alumni sections common sights on television.

The end result is another difficult-to-swallow loss in a game that Florida absolutely should have won. Let’s take a look at everything that went wrong with our Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … after fighting back mightily in the second half, Florida absolutely collapsed over the final 6 minutes of the game. The Gators went 2 of 9 from the floor and 1 of 7 from the free throw line down that stretch, all while largely within a single basket of the Tigers. They were simply unable to overcome the visitors.

After a slow start to the second half, Florida hit a set of 3-pointers as part of a 13-2 run to cut its deficit to two with 12 minutes to play. LSU starters forward Tari Eason and center Efton Reid fouled out, leaving the Tigers without three of their best players for the final 7:16. (Point guard Xavier Pinson was out with a knee injury.) At one point, the Gators three straight triples on a single possession where it also went 0 of 2 from the line. Florida missed 7 of 9 gimmies to end the game and only made two baskets over the last 6 minutes, failing to capitalize on an incredible opportunity for a get-right win.

While the Gators certainly needed to hit baskets, their shot selection was atrocious down the stretch — and that’s on coaching. Florida went 0 of 7 from downtown and 2 of 2 from inside the arc over the final 6 minutes while simultaneously missing the aforementioned free throws.

First half focus: LSU opened hitting 5 of 6 shots with a goaltending and later went on an 11-0 run to lead 27-13 with 7:45 left in the opening period. UF started 1 of 9 from downtown until hitting back-to-back 3-pointers as part of a 10-2 run to cut its deficit to six before trailing by eight entering halftime.

Exceptional effort: Senior F Colin Castleton was the only man who played with any consistency. Castelton scored a team-high 19 points on 7 of 10 shooting while making 5 of 6 free throws and adding nine rebounds. Guards senior Myreon Jones and redshirt senior Phlandrous Fleming Jr. combined for 20 points but made just 6 of 23 baskets.

Odds and ends: Florida fell to 50-66 all-time against LSU with a 31-22 mark at home and 7-4 record under White … the Gators failed to score 60+ points for the second time this season (0-2) and are now 4-23 under White in such games … UF had an astounding 21-10 foul disparity on LSU but made just 50% of its free throws, its second-worst mark of the season; the Gators are 1-4 when hitting less than 68% of their gimmies in a game … Florida entered ranked 282nd nationally in 3-point shooting; it nevertheless took 31 triples (compared to 24 doubles) and only hit 22.6% of its shots from downtown

Outside of Castleton and senior F Anthony Duruji (8 points, 4/7 FG), the rest of the team shot 9 of 38 from the field (23.7%) … senior PG Tyree Appleby only took one shot and did not reach the charity stripe, finishing with 2 points, 1 assist and 4 turnovers in 20 minutes … LSU dominated paint scoring 42-26 … the Tigers led from 9 seconds into the game through the final whistle

What it means: White’s seat must be ignited at this point. While it perhaps has not yet fully caught on fire, time must be starting to run out on his tenure with the Gators. The team’s schedule does lighten up over the next 10 days with more vulnerable competition, but Florida after that will face three opponents in a five-day span (two on the road) due to the rescheduling of a postponed game.

If White and the Gators are somehow able to go 5-1 or 4-2 over the next six games, there may be some pressure relieved with an NCAA Tournament berth still possible. Anything worse than that and it will be over for a team that started the season with seven straight wins and high hopes.

What’s next? Florida will hit the road looking to find some semblance of success when it visits South Carolina on Saturday with a 1 p.m. ET tip on SEC Network. The Gators will then have a two-game homestand next week for the first time since early December.

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