NO. 4 FLORIDA 70, LSU 53

Pick up the slack


Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 1:57 a.m.

BATON ROUGE, La. - During a 27-second span, Florida suffered what could have been its worst nightmare.

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Florida's David Lee, left, gets tangled up with Louisiana State's Jaime Lloreda while attempting to keep a loose ball from going out of bounds during the first half at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2003, in Baton Rouge, La. Florida got possession and no foul was called.

AP Photo/Bill Feig

Facts

AT A GLANCE

Next up for Florida
Florida returns home to face Arkansas at 1 p.m. Saturday at the O'Connell Center. The Gators have won three of the last five in the series, but are 4-8 overall against the Razorbacks. Arkansas beat Florida 94-92 in overtime last season in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks have an SEC-worst 6-10 record and have not won on the road this season.

With 14:43 left in the first half, senior Matt Bonner picked up his second foul and was sent to the bench.

Best player, gone.

With 14:16 left, senior Justin Hamilton picked up his second foul and was sent to the bench.

Best defender, gone.

It didn't matter. With two seniors on the bench, the third starred.

Brett Nelson, returned.

Nelson hit seven 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 25 points to lead No. 4 Florida to a 70-53 win over LSU in front of 8,970 Tuesday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The win was the 13th in a row for the Gators (17-2, 6-0 in the SEC). The six straight wins to open conference play is a Florida record, breaking the previous record of five set in 1960-61.

"It was really an uncharacteristic game for our basketball team from the standpoint that Justin Hamilton and Matt Bonner start right away with two fouls," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I was concerned with our emotional level with Bonner and Hamilton missing so many minutes."

As Bonner and Hamilton sat helplessly and watched from the bench, Nelson was the difference as he helped lead the Gators on a 15-0 first-half run that broke open a close game.

"It was just a matter of time until Brett started hitting shots," said freshman Matt Walsh, who was Florida's only other player in double-figures with 10 points.

Florida center David Lee said it's become apparent during practices that Nelson was on the verge of breaking out of his season-long slump.

"Brett did a great job," Lee said. "He was a different guy tonight."

Lee wasn't too bad himself, finishing with eight points and 11 rebounds, before seeing limited action in the second half because of a leg cramp. Where Lee was most impressive was defensively, completely taking LSU power forward Jaime Lloreda out of the game. Lee held Lloreda to three points, more than 10 under his average.

"Coming into this game we knew we were going to have to shut them down," Lee said. "Bonell Colas and Adrian Moss came in and did a great job."

Colas continued to play well, with nine points off the bench.

LSU coach John Brady said his team was going to take its chances with Nelson, a plan that obviously backfired.

"We knew coming into the game that we couldn't guard Florida on everything," Brady said. "We knew that we were going to have to give and take something, and Brett Nelson was 21 of 82 from the 3-point line, 26 percent coming into our game. He's 7 for 27 in five SEC games and then he goes 7 for 11 against us."

Collis Temple III led LSU (12-6, 1-5) with 21 points and Ronald Dupree scored 20.

"We played solidly at times," Dupree said, but it wasn't enough to beat the No. 4 team in the country."

After Florida was able to withstand a second-half run by the Tigers, LSU's play turned dirty. Lloreda was called for a technical after he clubbed Nelson across the back of his head with an elbow and hit Bonner, Hamilton and Walsh with hard, late fouls.

"I don't fault our team for aggression," Brady said. "I don't fault our team for its execution. Our goal was to get Matt Bonner out of the game and we were able to do that."

LSU did hold Bonner to a season-low three points. But it was Nelson who looked like his old 2000-01 All-American self.

"I had good open looks," Nelson said. "I can't always control if my shots go down. Tonight they did."

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