UF takes care of business at LSU
Published: Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 3:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 3:12 p.m.
BATON ROUGE, La. — After dominating the first half, Florida faced some anxious moments in the final 10 minutes Sunday afternoon at LSU.
1. How will Florida play without senior forward Chandler Parsons in the starting lineup?
The Gators went to a more athletic lineup, starting 6-foot-6 freshman Casey Prather. The Gators pressed early to try to set tempo. Freshman Scottie Wilbekin played more minutes late as Florida went to a three-guard lineup in the closing minutes. Even without Parsons, Florida was able to do a good job on the boards. The Gators outrebounded LSU 41-29, grabbing 17 offensive rebounds.
2. Can Florida get offensive production in the post from seniors Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus?
Macklin had a big day inside, scoring 12 of his 16 points in the first half. For Tyus, it was a more of a struggle offensively. Tyus had 6 points, but finished with a team-high 9 rebounds. Tyus left more points out there by missing two front-ends of one-and-one free-throw attempts.
3. Can Florida cut down on its turnovers after committing 10 turnovers in the first half in each of its last two games?
Florida was fairly efficient in the first half, committing just four first-half turnovers. For the game, Florida finished with 13 turnovers, at about its season average of 12.9 per game.
The Gators couldn't figure out LSU's 2-3 zone. There were some awkward drives to the basket, some missed shots underneath and even a missed dunk from senior Alex Tyus.
But a big defensive play allowed Florida to regroup, and the Gators held on for a 68-61 win over the overmatched Tigers at the half-empty Maravich Assembly Center. Playing without senior forward Chandler Parsons, Florida (21-5, 10-2 Southeastern Conference) improved to 7-1 on the road and reached 10 wins in the SEC for the first time since 2007.
"We're definitely proud of that, but we know we still have a lot more to do," Florida junior point guard Erving Walker said. "We know there's a lot in front of us."
In 2007, Florida went 13-3 in SEC on its way to the second of its back-to-back national titles.
"A lot of times you talk about who was the leading scorer in the game, who was the leading rebounder, who made the game-winning shot and you fail to see a lot of times the growth that some guys have made in terms of their approach," Florida coach Donovan said. "I'm really proud of those guys for the jump that they've made. For me as a coach it's rewarding because you feel like, as a coach, maybe you've gotten to them a little bit to help them see what it's all about."
Walker and guard Kenny Boynton each led Florida with 17 points. Macklin added 16 points, scoring 12 in the first half.
Florida led 40-25 at the half, scoring 28 first half points in the paint. But Florida went scoreless for a near six-minute stretch in the second half, failing to score from the 9:01 mark to the 3:11 mark.
"We missed some shots and our perimeter guys got a little tentative,"Donovan said. "I thought our guys didn't do a great job attacking the zone."
LSU cut Florida's lead to 58-52 on a jumper from freshman Ralston Turner with 4:41 left. After Tyus and Erik Murphy missed front ends of one-and-one free-throw attempts, LSU brought the ball down the floor with a chance to make it a one possession game. But Macklin and Boynton combined to strip LSU point guard Andre Stringer, then Macklin found Boynton for a breakaway layup with 3:11 left to extend Florida's lead to 60-52.
"Vern got the deflection and he made a pass after I took off for the basket," Boynton said. "That was a big play for us."
The Gators closed the game out by making their final eight free-throw attempts. Boynton, Walker and freshman Scottie Wilbekin combined to go 8-for-8 from the line. After starting 6-for-12 from the free-throw line, Florida finished at 70 percent (14-20) above its season average of 66.1 percent.
"Scottie made his two free throws which was big," Donovan said. "Kenny Boynton made a couple. Erving Walker made a few. We did some good things there."
In the first half, Florida could do pretty much what it wanted. With freshman Casey Prather replacing Parsons in the starting lineup, Donovan went to the press early and shuffled players in and out of the game.
The Gators were able to establish Macklin inside early. He made 6 of 9 shots on a variety of soft hooks in the lane.
"I just felt like in the game it was going to be important to go inside and establish Vernon," Donovan said. "I thought we got him some touches. They elected not to double him and they played him head up in the post."
Said Macklin: "I was able to get the ball in good spots on the floor."
Even when Florida missed inside early, there was someone else there to clean it up. The Gators finished with 17 offensive rebounds, outrebounding LSU 41-29 for the game. Florida scored 10 second-chance points in the first half and 16 for the game.
Florida shot 59.4 percent from the floor in the first half, while holding LSU to 34.4 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.
But after missing some inside buckets early in the second half, Florida's defensive intensity dipped, while LSU gained some momentum. Freshman Ralston Turner scored 16 of his game-high 18 points for LSU (10-17, 2-10) in the second half. The Tigers also hit a flurry of 3-pointers. LSU made 7 of their first 15 3-point attempts before missing their final three 3s late.
"We needed to do a better job going out to defend the 3-point line," Macklin said.
Donovan said he was disappointed that some of Florida's offensive struggles bled into the defense in the second half. But the Gators made enough plays to send LSU to its 10th straight loss.
"Our inability to put the ball in the basket and make some shots and plays in the second half against their zone really fueled a level of confidence for them offensively," Donovan said.