Gators beat LSU for first SEC win

Published: Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 1:25 a.m.

To try to get his team to focus better to start the second half, Florida coach Billy Donovan took an unconventional approach to Friday's practice.

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Florida's Vernon Macklin goes up for two in the first half against LSU at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Saturday, January 16, 2010.

Tricia Coyne/Staff photographer

After the first hour of practice, Donovan took the Gators into the locker room to study 5-10 minutes of tape of LSU. Florida then finished off the practice with another hour of hard work.

The split-practice method paid off. Behind a 20-4 run to start the second half Saturday, Florida picked up its first Southeastern Conference win of the season with a 72-58 victory over the Tigers before 11,627 at the O'Connell Center.

Florida (12-5, 1-2 SEC) avoided its first 0-3 start in league play since 1981-82.

“I think you are always trying to do different things during the course of the season,” Donovan said. “I don't know how much it helped. But we've had some slow starts in the second half.”

Florida had allowed more than 50 points in the second half in losses against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

“I think people generally talk about the first four minutes at the start of the half and the last four minutes of halves,” Donovan said. “I think it maybe allowed some of our guys to keep their focus.”

All five of Florida's starters reached double figures, led by 18 points from freshman guard Kenny Boynton. Junior center Vernon Macklin stayed out of foul trouble and added 14 points and eight rebounds. Erving Walker scored 14 points and Alex Tyus had 11 points. Chandler Parsons, starting in place of Dan Werner, had 11 points and three assists.

Parsons replaced Werner in the starting lineup because Werner missed three practices due to a bout with the flu. Werner had a point and two rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

Up 37-30 at halftime, Boynton and Parsons sparked the early second-half run with six points each. Parsons hit consecutive layups inside on feeds from Boynton to put the Gators ahead 52-32. After Parsons made a pair of free throws, Boynton sank a 3-pointer to put the Gators ahead 57-34.

“We were more mentally ready to play,” Parsons said. “I think it really got us to focus in.”

After giving up an average of 92 points through its first two SEC games, Florida also played harder on the defensive end of the floor. Playing man defense most of the game and sprinkling in the press on occasion, the Gators held LSU to 42.6 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent (2-12) from 3-point range.

“They are a very physical team, but I felt like we could match up with them (playing man defense),” Donovan said.

Senior forward Tasmin Mitchell led the Tigers (9-8, 0-3) with 17 points, but was held to just two points in the second half. No other LSU player reached double figures. LSU power forward Storm Warren picked up two first-half fouls and never got into the flow of the game.

Florida snapped a three-game losing streak against the Tigers. UF's last win against LSU was on March 11, 2006, in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn.

“To get this win against a team like LSU, a team that none of us have ever beaten, it's big for us right now,” Parsons said. “I think it's something we can build upon.”

Florida built a 15-point first-half lead by getting Macklin involved in the offense. Macklin scored two straight baskets on hook shots to put the Gators ahead 18-9, then converted a three-point play on a feed from Walker. Macklin banked in a shot in transition as he hit the floor on a hard foul, then made the free throw to extend the Florida lead to 23-11.

Walker hit a 3-pointer and Boynton made two free throws to give Florida its biggest lead, 32-17. But LSU chipped away behind Mitchell, who scored 15 first-half points. Mitchell's tip-in on an offensive rebound cut Florida's lead to 35-25. Mitchell followed it up with two more jumpers from 18-feet, cutting Florida's lead to 37-30 at halftime.

“It's kind of feast or famine with him because Mitchell is a physical guy and can cause problems around the basket,” Donovan said. “But I think the fact that we were forcing him to take some long two-point shots was good for us.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.

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