LSU survives Florida rally, 84-82

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"We were a split-second away from continuing to fight the fight," UF coach Mike White said. [The Associated Press]

BATON ROUGE, La. — Keyontae Johnson’s final shot looked good – but upon further review, it was just a split-second too late Tuesday. 

Florida rallied from a double-digit deficit over the final 1:20 and had an opportunity to tie the game at the buzzer, and the baseline out-of-bounds went as planned. 

But with half a second left on the clock, replay showed the ball still touching Johnson’s out-stretched fingertips. As the official confirmed the review, sending the Tigers faithful into a frenzy and keeping LSU undefeated in conference play with a 84-82 victory, the Gators could hardly watch. 

“Now that we know what we could do, and we still had a chance to beat them,” Johnson said. “So it was a learning experience.”

His starting point guard wasn’t so sure that’s all it was. 

“There’s a certain time where you can’t make a shot at, it’s .3 (seconds). If it’s above that, it’s good,” Andrew Nembhard said. “I mean, I don’t know. Maybe the time got started too early or something.”

Before it all came undone late, Florida (12-6, 4-2 SEC) had little trouble scoring from the jump despite leading scorer Kerry Blackshear Jr. dealing with a stomach virus. 

The Gators jumped out to a 22-15 lead – with a pair of 3-pointers from the graduate transfer helping give UF the early advantage – which forced the Tigers (14-4, 6-0) to switch to a full-court press. 

It resulted in a series of sloppy turnovers from Florida’s backcourt, and soon the host Tigers had their first lead of the night at 33-32 with less than two minutes until the midpoint before Scottie Lewis’ successful 3-point attempt gave UF a slim two-point lead heading into the locker room at halftime. 

Despite trailing for much of the second half, the Gators managed to cut the lead to one possession in the final minute, thanks to an 8-0 run that took just 35 seconds. 

“When you’re playing out of desperation sometimes offensively, and you’ve got nothing to lose, you shoot the ball with more confidence. Because there’s less repercussions for a miss,” Gators coach Mike White said. “I think that just playing downhill, nothing to lose, and our guys took advantage of that mentality.”

Florida had an opportunity to tie the game in the final minute before Johnson’s last-ditch attempt, but Lewis stepped on the baseline for UF’s 12th and final turnover. 

Still, the Gators didn’t consider throwing in the towel despite facing a double-digit deficit in the final two minutes.

“We’ve been in the situation before, Alabama, and we came back and it worked for us,” Nembhard said. “So we just tried to stay locked in, keep focusing on trying to win.”

LSU shot just 2-for-14 on 3-point attempts; meanwhile, the Gators made 11 of their long-range attempts – albeit on 30 shots – but the Tigers more than made up for the disparity at the free throw line. 

Florida shot just 11 free throws to LSU’s 31. While Florida was struggling to get stops, the Tigers kept finding ways to get to the line. 

After out-rebounding the SEC’s leaders in the category in a 22-point victory over Auburn at home Saturday, the Gators found themselves kept off the glass consistently by LSU, resulting in a 38-28 advantage on the glass for the Tigers. And when it came to crashing the glass on the offensive end, it was all LSU there as well – the Tigers hauled in 15 offensive rebounds to UF’s 8, which helped lead to 11 second-chance points for LSU, of which nine came in the second half. 

And Blackshear wasn’t the only one ailing Tuesday for Florida. Back-up forward Dontay Bassett was held out after suffering a lower leg injury, forcing White to tighten up rotations. It was just another issue in a trip that started out rough for the Gators. Florida didn’t arrive in Baton Rouge until after midnight Monday due to mechanical trouble with the team’s plane. 

With a match-up with No.1 Baylor looming, the Gators can ill afford to hang their heads – especially considering Tuesday’s finish.

“I thought we showed a lot of resilience and toughness down the stretch,” White said. “We were a split-second or two away from continuing to fight the fight.”

Notes: Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson led Florida with 16 points, while Andrew Nembhard and Kerry Blackshear both had 15 … Nembhard earned his second career double-double (10 assists) … Florida outscored LSU from the 3-point line, 33-6. … Locke made multiple 3-pointers for the 15th straight game, extending his program-record streak, and tying a game high for this season with four made. … Omar Payne made his first three field goal attempts of the night before a miss, reaching 16 consecutive makes over three games. That eclipsed Andrew Nembhard’s 15 in a row last season (Feb. 13-20) as the longest of the past decade.


LSU 84, Florida 82

FLORIDA (12-6)

Nembhard 6-16 2-2 15, Blackshear 5-7 3-4 15, Johnson 6-12 1-2 16, Locke 5-8 2-2 16, Lewis 4-7 0-0 9, Payne 3-4 1-1 7, Mann 0-3 0-0 0, Glover 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 31-61 9-11 82.

LSU (14-4)

Smart 4-9 5-6 13, Mays 6-13 5-6 18, Watford 6-7 2-3 14, Williams 7-13 5-9 19, Taylor 3-8 3-3 10, Days 3-10 4-4 10, Hyatt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-60 24-31 84.

Halftime_Florida 36-34. 3-Point Goals_Florida 11-30 (Locke 4-7, Johnson 3-6, Blackshear 2-2, Lewis 1-3, Nembhard 1-7, Glover 0-2, Mann 0-3), LSU 2-14 (Taylor 1-3, Mays 1-4, Smart 0-2, Days 0-5). Fouled Out_Payne. Rebounds_Florida 28 (Johnson 9), LSU 34 (Taylor 10). Assists_Florida 13 (Nembhard 10), LSU 17 (Smart, Mays 7). Total Fouls_Florida 21, LSU 16.


Up next

What: Big 12/SEC Challenge
Who: No. 1 Baylor (16-1) vs. Florida (12-6)
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: O’Connell Center
TV: ESPN
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

14 COMMENTS

  1. A bit of home-cooking at the FT line never hurts. LSU gets 31 FTs, Gators 11. Hmmm. Just saying I saw some of those ‘fouls’ that were ticky-tac. Oh, well, Refs are part of the game. Too bad there’s no review of a foul. Got to stop the turn-overs.

  2. Mike White still has not learned anything from last year. This slow ball play is killing this team. He has a team full of athletes and continues to play slow ball. Someone tell me why is it we have to play against the clock and the other team. If we were able to come back on Bama, Gamecocks, and LSU in the end, why not play like that all the time?

  3. Youth and inexperience show up when you can’t beat a press. It happens when you still haven’t learned how to move without the ball. They seem to have improved a little in that regard, but each of them other than Nembhard still stands around too much in his position waiting for Nembhard or whoever else has the ball to do something. And, when you have too guys pressing you, you have to get rid of the ball right away, but you can’t if your teammates don’t move to open areas where you can see them. Also, I don’t know if Coach White wants it that way, but when an opponent drives, you almost never see anyone else but his own defender converge, whereas whenever a Gator drives he seems to find two or three defenders in his way to the basket. But, perhaps as they get more experience they will learn to do stuff that they don’t know now.

  4. I would agree. They have definitely improved on moving without the basketball but there are times when they stand around. Sometimes I think they are overthinking their sets, especially against the press. If player A is supposed to break to the middle of the court and doesn’t or can’t, the other players panic and don’t help because they are not sure what they are supposed to do. If someone forgets to set a screen or doesn’t cut, there is a moment of confusion on what to do next.

    On defense, it is the same thing. I’m sure White has certain opponent’s players that he wants to help on and double. Other players he wants 1-on-1 to avoid open shots. The players are young and have not played together and they look uncomfortable with their switches and fighting over or under screens. I think one reason you see the convergence on the Gator players is because opponents do not fear our 3-pnt shot. Last night we made 11, but shot 30. As a team, we shoot 30%. Locke is the only player shooting over 40%. Basically, the opponents are dropping every defender to help except for the man covering Locke.

    This team is young. Six freshman, 3 sophomores and a senior who is in his first year with the program. The youth on this team is a result of White’s poor recruiting in Year 2 and 3. He is to blame for having such a young team. However, it does not change the fact that they are young and the leaders of the team are a sophomore and a first-year senior. Hopefully you are right and as the season goes along, we will see continued improvement.

  5. 4 of the 5 Gator starters were in double-digits in scoring last night. The meat of this loss is this, in my opinion, ”The Tigers are 5-0 in the SEC and have won the last four by a combined 11 points.” -Gatorsports.com. So, now the Tigers have won the last 5 games by a combined 13 points. So this ”young Gator B-ball team” (minus Blackshear, a Grad. transfer) is learning on the job. However, I would suggest to the Gator players, start these ”comebacks” earlier, like at the 3-5 minute mark. Not at the last minute. Still, this ”journey” has a ways to go.
    Go Gators!

  6. Regarding the comments about the Gators playing slow, I don’t think the Gators are ever going to play fast with Nembhard at the point. Hopefully, there’ll be the occasional fast break, but they’re just not going to run all the time. Still, they scored 82 points in regulation with Nembhard dishing 10 assists.

    Giving up 84 is a big problem when you score 82. The defense, despite holding LSU to 14% from 3-point range, gave up way too many offensive rebounds and second chances. Coach White’s screen switching strategy in man-to-man, and the 1-3-1 that seems to morph into a 2-3, often leave a Gator guard matched up inside trying to defend an opponent’s big man. If I’m not mistaken, Glover was burned 3 times in 4 possessions trying to guard a big man in the paint. There was nothing he could do. If LSU didn’t hit the first shot, it was too easy to get the offensive rebound against the Gator guards. This has been mentioned before by others on these comment boards. This time, it cost UF the game.

    I think Nembhard is right about the time when under one second. Half a second is supposed to be enough time for a catch-and-shoot. In the refs’ review, I wonder if they’re allowed to look at when the clock started, and if they are, did they? But let’s remember, that shot would’ve only tied the game. There’s no guarantee the Gators would’ve won it in OT, but it would’ve been nice to have the chance.