No. 22 Florida hopes to hold poll position vs. LSU

NCAA Basketball

No. 22 Florida’s stay in the Top 25 might be brief after an upset loss Wednesday.

LSU’s potential to be an NCAA Tournament team might also be slipping away as the Tigers face Florida in an SEC game Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge, La.

The Gators (10-5, 6-4) entered the Top 25 after an upset victory at then-No. 11 West Virginia last Saturday for their fourth consecutive victory, then lost to visiting South Carolina 72-66 on Wednesday.

Florida coach Mike White wouldn’t attribute the loss to a letdown against the struggling Gamecocks after a big win on the road, but he did say the Gators had a sub-par performance.

“Quite bluntly, we’re just an average defensive team and that showed up,” White said. “We’d gotten away with it in a couple wins in which we just out-scored the opponent. Down the stretch, when (shots) don’t go in the basket, the lack of defensive prowess showed up glaringly.”

Florida was out-rebounded 27-16 in the second half and for the game allowed 20 second-chance points on 13 Gamecocks offensive rebounds. South Carolina scored 50 of its 72 points from the paint.

“They just hit us in the mouth,” said Tre Mann, who led the Gators with 17 points and eight rebounds. “They made winning plays that we didn’t make. They had offensive rebounds. They got whatever they wanted late.”

South Carolina finished the game on a 13-1 run over the final 5:45 as the Gators missed their last eight field-goal attempts.

Florida, which defeated LSU 83-79 on Jan. 2 in Gainesville, Fla., is in a tie with LSU, Arkansas and Tennessee for the third-fewest losses in the SEC.

The Tigers (11-6, 6-4) have lost four of their past five after a 78-60 loss at first-place Alabama on Wednesday.

“They came with more energy,” said Javonte Smart, who scored 14 for the Tigers. “Our offense wasn’t at its best and they hit some tough shots and stretched the lead out. We just couldn’t find a way to jump back in it.”

LSU trailed by just six points at halftime, but the Crimson Tide started the second half with an 18-4 run.

“Overall, at halftime, I felt good,” Tigers coach Will Wade said. “I thought we executed pretty well until the game got a little bit out of hand and we couldn’t bring it back. We started the second half 0 for 8 — that’s not going to get it done. After we made our first basket, we had a two-for-16 stretch there in the second half.

“We’re just not capable of overcoming that, especially on the road against a very good team.”

LSU shot just 27.3 percent in the second half and 30.8 percent for the game. It was out-rebounded 51-35 and outscored in the paint 52-26.

“We missed a few shots that we always make,” said Cameron Thomas, who led the Tigers with 22 points. “We missed layups and I don’t really think it was the defense. That was really us.”

–Field Level Media

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