For the second time this season, LSU found themselves in an overtime thriller with the Florida Gators. The first time, Florida went into Baton Rouge and scored an upset on the Tigers home court; tonight LSU returned the favor.
The Tigers (25-5, 15-2) won their fifth overtime game of the season Wednesday night in the O’Connell Center. If it weren’t for some last second heroics on Tremont Waters’ part, the game never makes it past regulation and the Gators (17-13, 9-8) get their second win against LSU.
Florida took a 72-70 with six seconds left in regulation largely due to a pair of errors by LSU’s starting backcourt. Tremont Waters went iso on the Tigers’ second to last possession of regulation and turned the ball over leading to a Jalen Hudson dunk. Next, Skylar Mays missed the front end of a one-and-one, Florida’s Keyontae Johnson grabbed the rebound and Hudson, who finished the night with 33 points, nailed a three to give Florida that 72-70 lead.
Then, Tremont Waters saved the day for the Tigers.
Tremont Waters, off his minutes restriction, comes up with 19 points and 6 assists, including this coast-to-coast, game-tying layup to force overtime. Waters also had 3 steals and was +6 in 35 minutes. pic.twitter.com/jhFyj45iCD— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) March 7, 2019
In a blink, LSU went from heartbreaking loss to new life, and in overtime the Tigers, once again, gutted out an improbable win.
The win not only keeps LSU in control of clinching at least a share of the SEC regular season title, it also brings the Tiger road record in conference play to 9-0, the first time in school history the team finishes conference play undefeated on the road.
If the Tigers had played the second half as well as they did the first, the game never gets to overtime.
LSU lead by as many as 11 points in the first half thanks to pounding Florida in the paint. Of the Tigers’ 34 first half points, 22 came in the paint. Emmitt Williams, the Florida native, was the biggest reason for the Tiger dominance inside, scoring 11 points in 12 minutes. The freshman played arguably his best game of the season with 13 points, 14 rebounds, grabbed a pair of blocks and a steal in 26 minutes off the bench.
LSU got up big in the first half but wilted toward the end and Florida was able to get the game within three at halftime thanks in large part to getting to the free throw line 15 times, making 11 of them, and nine LSU turnovers.
LSU let Florida hang around and the Gator’s signature defense clamped down on the the Tiger offense. Suddenly the easy looks inside LSU was getting were taken away and the Tigers were forced to settle for outside jumpers. LSU shot 35 percent in the second half while Florida was hitting 60 percent of their shots.
Jalen Hudson scored 25 points for Florida in the second half and was doing it in all types of fashions. Threes, dunks, free throws, Hudson nearly beat LSU by himself. But six seconds proved to be all the time Waters needed to perform some end of game heroics.
In the opening minute of overtime it felt like LSU was going to use the momentum of Waters’ buzzer beater to surge past a stunned Florida team. Javonte Smart got the first Tiger points of overtime and Waters nailed a three to put LSU up five barely a minute into overtime. Naz Reid put the Tigers back up five, 79-74, with three minutes to play in the extra session but those would be the last points LSU would score for the night. Florida had the ball with a chance to win with eight seconds to play but couldn’t get the shot off before the buzzer sounded.
With the win, LSU is just one win away from clinching at least a share of the SEC. The Tigers get the lowly Vanderbilt Commodores (9-21, 0-17) Saturday evening. The game is expected to be sold out and will be broadcasted on SEC Network.