Florida makes statement in huge win

Florida coach Mike White argues a call in the first half Friday against LSU at the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

By Luke Meredith, Associated Press

Andrew Nembhard likely lifted Florida off the bubble and into the NCAA Tournament.

Nembhard’s long 3 with 1.2 seconds to go pushed the Gators past top-seeded LSU 76-73 in the SEC quarterfinals on Friday. The win, which was Florida’s second over the ninth-ranked Tigers this season, gave the Gators (19-14) a marquee March win that should separate it from the likes of N.C. State, Indiana, Texas and others sweating it out this weekend.

“We all preach: One game at a time, don’t think a game ahead. Stay in the moment,” said Florida’s Keyvontae Johnson, whose pass set up the game winner.

Florida’s win might also shake up the top of the bracket. LSU (26-6) seemed to be in line for a No. 2 seed, but losing to a .500 team in SEC regular-season play while coach Will Wade was suspended could cost the Tigers.

The Gators play No. 22-ranked Auburn (24-9) in the SEC tourney semifinal at 1 p.m. today (ESPN). Kentucky (27-5) plays (28-4) Tennessee in the other semifinal that follows. Today’s winners meet for the SEC title and automatic bid to the NCAAs at 1 p.m. Sunday, also on ESPN.

NCAA selections are late Sunday afternoon.