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Tigers drop SEC road opener thanks to second half surge by Florida

1 year 7 months 4 days ago Saturday, January 02 2021 Jan 2, 2021 January 02, 2021 10:37 PM January 02, 2021 in Sports
Source: LSU athletics

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – The Florida Gators used a nine-minute spurt from the last minute of the first half through the first eight minutes of the second half in which they outscored LSU, 27-12, en route to an 83-79 win Saturday in Southeastern Conference play at the Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. 

The Gators went to 2-0 in league play (5-1 overall) while LSU drops to 6-2 overall and 1-1 in the league. LSU hosts Georgia Wednesday night back at the Maravich Center in Baton Rouge. 

The two teams rambled through an exciting first half that featured seven ties and eight lead changes with LSU building a 40-35 advantage with 1:02 to go before halftime as after a Javonte Smart free throw, Cameron Thomas hit a three-pointer and was fouled. He made the free throw to give the Tigers the five-point advantage.

But Florida would get a couple of free throws from Omar Payne and then Anthony Duruji hit a three at the halftime buzzer to send the teams to the dressing room even. 

LSU got the advantage coming out for the second half after a Florida scored as Trendon Watford scored five straight to give LSU the lead at 45-42. But Florida's Colin Castleton started getting some easy looks down low that the Gators were able to capitalize on and pushed the Florida advantage to 62-52 with 12 minutes to play.

LSU fought back at the end and cut the game to two points in the final 10 seconds but never could get back over the top after that run by Florida. 

Thomas, Watford and Smart had big efforts for LSU, accounting for 69 of LSU's 79 points with Thomas scoring 28 points to give him 99 points in the last three contests as he hit 7-of-19 attempts, three treys and a perfect 11-of-11 at the free throw line. 

Watford hit 7-of-19 shots, including two treys and 5-of-7 at the line to finish with 21 points. He also had eight rebounds (six offensive) and three assists. Smart hit 7-of-12 and two treys with four more coming at the line to finish with 20 points. 

Castleton had 19 second half points to finish with 21 total with Tre Mann adding 19, Duruji 16 and Scottie Lewis 13 as Florida played its first home game since team star Keyontae Johnson collapsed in a game last month at Florida State. Johnson joined the team on the sidelines for Saturday's game. 

LSU did not have one of its better nights from the field making 41 percent of its shots (25-of-61) with seven treys, but the Tigers were 22-of-25 at the line. Florida, after shooting 57 percent in the first half, finished the game at 50 percent (29-of-58) with five treys and 20-of-23 at the line. 

Florida out rebounded LSU, 35-31. Both teams had nine assists and 13 turnovers and many of the specialty numbers were event with LSU have a 15-13 advantage in points off turnovers and Florida getting a 34-30 nod on points in the paint. Florida had the 18-14 edge in second chance points. LSU had 14 offensive rebounds and LSU 13. 

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