With Tari Eason fouled out, Gaines and Days deliver for LSU basketball vs Florida

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

With season scoring leader Tari Eason fouling out early and starting guard Xavier Pinson injured and out, Darius Days delivered as LSU held on to beat Florida 64-58 on Wednesday night at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Eric Gaines sure did too.

Days scored 20 points and Gaines, who started at the point in place of Pinson, added 15 for No. 12 LSU (15-1, 3-1 SEC), which won its third straight including home victories last week over Tennessee and Kentucky.

This time the Tigers did it the unconventional way.

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"We had lineups in there we never practiced with," coach Will Wade said, "and our guys just found a way."

As a result, Florida (9-6, 0-3), which was playing its third consecutive ranked opponent, dropped its third in a row after losses at Auburn and Alabama. It's the first time since the 1980-81 season the Gators have opened SEC play with three straight losses.

Credit Gaines and Days largely for that.

LSU was playing for this first time this season without Missouri transfer Pinson, who sprained his right knee against Tennessee.

Making just his is second start of the season, Gaines scored six points in the final four minutes, including a jumper with 3:11 left that made it 60-56 and a reserve layup with 1:11 to go that put LSU up 62-58.

The effort came after plenty of extra pregame preparation with Wade.

"At the meetings we had, he just told me to stay disciplined, play my role, play my game," Gaines said. "I went out there and executed, did everything he wanted me to do, and stepped up and got the win."

Gaines showed poise down the stretch, and it did not take any extra encouragement at that point from Wade, or his teammates, to make it happen.

All it took was some eye contact with Days and a quick comment from Gaines himself.

"We gave each other the nod, and he told me he got me," Days said. "When he said that, that whole conversation we had without saying many words. When he said he had me, he was gonna do his thing."

With Eason picking up three first-half fouls, Days had 12 of his 20 points at the break.

LSU Tigers forward Darius Days (4) tries to make a reserve work as Florida Gators forward Colin Castleton (12) defends on Wednesday night in Gainesville.

Eason picked up his fourth foul with 18:17 left, leading to about a four-minute spell on the bench. He fouled out right after returning, however, on a charge at half-court with LSU up 46-40.

Days, who is from Raleigh, Florida, located about 20 miles from Gainesville, picked up more scoring responsibility with Eason on the bench. He helped LSU get it done defensively, too, after center Efton Reid III fouled out later in the second half.

"It was a great team effort," Days said.

"Even though Tari (Eason) fouled out, X (Pinson) not playing, Efton (Reid) didn't have one of his great games, E.G. (Gaines) stepped up a lot. Shareef (O'Neal) stepped up, a lot. ... Great team win.

"At this point, the way our team's set up," Days added, "it doesn't matter who's out. The next man's gonna step up and carry the load."

LSU returns to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Saturday (1 p.m., ESPN2) to play Arkansas (11-5, 1-3).