LSU’s five-game winning streak came to an end Saturday afternoon as the Tigers (6-2, 1-1), fell to the Florida Gators (5-1, 2-0) in a close game, 83-79.
For all intents and purposes, LSU lost the game during a nine minute stretch: the final minute of the first half and the opening eight minutes of the second half. Over that stretch, Florida outscored LSU 27-12, highlighted by a first half buzzer beating three by Anthony Duruji to tie the game at 40.
Saturday’s game was tight throughout, featuring 11 lead changes. LSU’s biggest lead was by five points, toward the end of the first half, while Florida led by as many as 10 with just over three minutes to play.
LSU was able to trim that lead down to two points with six seconds remaining but couldn’t get the necessary defensive stop to potentially force overtime or win in regulation.
Post play continues to be the Achilles heel for LSU. Florida out-rebounded LSU and also had more points in the paint thanks in large part to Colin Castleton a 6’11” forward who finished with 21 points, 19 coming in the second half.
One reason why the Florida bigs were able to dominate in the painted area was LSU’s front court being in foul trouble all afternoon long. Darius Days was limited to 22 minutes due to picking up four fouls; Trendon Watford was tagged with three fouls; and Josh Leblanc fouled out in only 12 minutes.
The LSU guards also had some struggles in the O’Connell Center. Javonte Smart scored a season-best 20 points but had more turnovers than assists. Cam Thomas had a rough day shooting from deep, hitting on only three of 10 three-point attempts. Thomas was able to compensate by getting to the free throw line 11 times and making every attempt. Thomas ended the day leading all players in scoring with 28 points.
All told, Saturday was a fairly even game between two of the better teams in the SEC. LSU actually had a slightly better day from three and the free throw line than Florida did. The Tigers and Gators had the same amount of turnovers, 13, assists, 9, and bench points, 4.
The difference was in the interior and even that wasn’t hugely in Florida’s favor. Florida only had four more rebounds, 35 to 31, and four more points in the paint, 34 to 30, than LSU and some of that can be owed to Days being in foul trouble and Shareef O’Neal missing the game because of a foot injury.
As it stands now LSU is 6-2 overall with the losses coming on the road by a combined total of eight points against a pair of NCAA Tournament caliber teams. There’s still a lot to like about this group.
LSU’s next opportunity will be on Wednesday evening, when the Tigers host the Georgia Bulldogs on SEC Network.