The LSU men’s basketball team (19-9, 10-5) absolutely no-showed Wednesday evening, trailing for the entirety of the game and losing to the Florida Gators (18-10, 10-5) 81-66.
Florida hit LSU hard and early, scoring the game’s first nine points. By the time LSU made its first basket, Florida had already opened 7-7, getting four makes from four different Gators. Florida lived in the painted area, scoring a season-high 48 points in the paint. Florida got 10 dunks and 32 layups, most of which came from Keyontae Johnson who led the Gators with 25 points. Scottie Lewis scored a career-high 18 points, while Andrew Nembhard had 15. Florida also showed great ball movement, racking up 17 assists on 34 made shots.
Like the Kentucky game eight days ago, LSU’s three-point defense was crisp in the first half, but a disaster in the second. Florida leads the SEC in three point shooting but couldn’t get shots to fall in the first 20 minutes, shooting 2-11; but the script flipped in the second half and the Gators erupted for seven threes in 10 tries. Nembhard and Johnson combined to go 4-4 from deep in the second half.
It’s hard to find any positives on the LSU side of things. Sophomore forward and Florida native Emmitt Williams had a strong outing against his hometown Gators, scoring 25 points off the bench, 17 coming in the second half. Trendon Watford had a 15-11 double-double.
But that’s where the positives end for LSU. The Tigers got virtually nothing from Javonte Smart and the usually reliable Skylar Mays. Smart could only muster eight points in 37 minutes, while Mays had one of the worst nights in his four years as a Tiger, scoring a season-low three points. Mays hit his first shot of the night then missed his last five, including inexplicably blowing an uncontested dunk along the baseline.
But perhaps the worst development for LSU came prior to the game starting. Will Wade confirmed that junior guard Charles Manning, who had just returned from a fracture in his right foot, fractured his left foot and will be out four weeks. If that timeline holds, the injury will keep Manning from playing the rest of the regular season, the SEC Tournament and the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Manning’s a key bench piece for LSU, one of its best perimeter defenders and having him on the floor means Smart and Mays don’t have to play 37 minutes. But that option is gone now and Will Wade has to come up with a suitable replacement with postseason play two weeks away.
LSU has a quick turnaround and will play Texas A&M Saturday morning in Baton Rouge at 11 A.M.