LSU’s run in Nashville is over as soon as it begins.
The Tigers (26-6, 16-2) had their hearts ripped out by the Florida Gators (19-14) in the quarterfinal round of the SEC tournament Friday afternoon.
LSU tied the game at 73 all with 14 seconds remaining. Naz Reid buried a clutch three to bring the Tigers back to life. That would be snuffed out mere seconds later by Florida’s Andrew Nembhard who sank the game-winning shot with 1.2 seconds to play. The shot more than likely puts the Gators in the NCAA tournament, it also potentially drops the Tigers to a three-seed for the NCAAs.
LSU had a 35-25 lead over Florida at the break. LSU shot 53 percent and made three three-point baskets but didn’t get to the free throw line. But Florida, who is known for its defense, put the clamps on the Tiger offense in the second half, holding LSU to 38 points and 42 percent from the floor.
While the Tiger offense slowed in the second half, Florida’s picked up. The Gators were hitting virtually everything in the Bridgestone Arena. Florida nearly hit 60 percent of their shots in the second and went 6-13 from three. The Gators second half offense was a virtual two-man show with Nembhard scoring 14 points and Keyontae Johnson pitching in 12 points.
Officiating was slanted toward Florida’s favor. Florida got to the line 26 times to LSU’s 11. LSU was called for 24 fouls, while Florida was only called for ten. But the most damning sequence came with 3:45 to play in the second half. Naz Reid was called for a foul after a three point shot was made. But instead of the shot being waved off, it was counted, and interim coach Tony Benford argued the call and was hit with a technical foul. One Florida possession led to six points late in the game.
Naz Reid had his best game of the season Friday. Reid had 26 points and 14 rebounds and was flashing that three-point range with three makes in four tries. Reid hit a pair of threes in the final minute of regulation to give the Tigers a chance to force overtime.
The second-leading scorer for LSU was reinstated point guard Javonte Smart. Smart had 13 points, three rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes. Smart found out Friday morning he’d be available to play for LSU after being held out of the Vanderbilt game.
While the freshman showed up for LSU, the veteran Tiger backcourt left something to be desired.
Tremont Waters only took six shots. Waters was able to score nine points, grabbed four rebounds and had seven assists, but he turned the ball over four times. On the other hand, Skylar Mays had a miserable day, shooting 3-13 from the floor. Mays wouldn’t get on the board until 4:38 to play in the second half and missed all six of his threes.
For LSU, the tournament run in Nashville is over. The Tigers will have a few days to regroup before the NCAA bracket is announced Sunday.