Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators hold on to beat LSU after blowing 20-point lead in O’Dome

By OnlyGators.com Staff
February 13, 2024
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators hold on to beat LSU after blowing 20-point lead in O’Dome

Image Credit: UAA

Another dominant first half made it look as if the Florida Gators were headed toward a second-straight blowout win only for another disastrous second half to allow the LSU Tigers back into the game Tuesday night inside the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Ultimately, Florida pulled out an 82-80 victory, but it was not without some nails being bitten and hair being pulled in its home arena.

The Gators improved to 17-7 with the victory, sitting 10 games above .500 during a season for the first time in seven years. Head coach Todd Golden has Florida playing far better basketball than it did a year ago, but as the blown 20-point lead proves, the Gators still have a long way to go.

Let’s take a look at what went down in Florida’s sixth win across its last seven games.

It was over when … the buzzer sounded. The Gators led by 20 points early in the second half on the back of a 10-0 run. However, everything fell apart from there. A 12-2 stretch by the Tigers, including seven straight free throws, cut that advantage in half to 66-57 with 9 minutes to play as Florida missed nine straight shots. LSU then completely erased its deficit, using a 7-0 run to pull even with 93 seconds remaining.

Redshirt senior forward Tyrese Samuel hit 1 of 2 free throws with junior guard Walter Clayton Jr. racing up the court for a layup on the back of a steal by redshirt senior point guard Zyon Pullin. Suddenly, the Gators back ahead three with 21 seconds remaining. The Tigers responded with a quick layup, and freshman center Alex Condon also hit 1 of 2 gimmies to give Florida a 2-point lead in the waining seconds. Somehow, LSU collapsed on its final possession, unnecessarily passing the ball and then short-arming an unblocked floater that could have been an easy game-tying layup, sending UF to victory.

LSU hit 6 of 9 attempts from downtown in the second half and 7 of 10 shots over the final 5:30, while Florida missed 7 of 8 shots prior to Clayton’s layup. The Gators shot just 34.2% from the field (13/38) and 18.2% from downtown (2/11) in the second half. Most concerning was UF’s regression at the free-throw line; it’s 60% mark was the team’s second-worst in a game since Dec. 30, 2023.

First half focus: Florida trailed early only to slowly but surely climb into the lead with a pair of 6-0 runs. Ultimately, the Gators outscored the Tigers 18-8 over the final 5:17 of the period. Pullin ended the half with a 3-pointer, pushing UF’s advantage to 14 points entering the locker rooms, but it was Clayton who starred with 14 points across the opening 20 minutes. Florida dominated paint scoring 28-14 and had nine assists on 20 baskets (66.6% FG).

Exceptional efforts: Clayton was the straw that stirred the drink for the Gators, scoring a game-high 21 points on 8 of 9 shooting from inside the arc; if he had been better from long range (1/6), it would have been an even more superior performance. Samuel, who grabbed seven boards, bounced back with 15 points but again struggled with his efficiency (6/14 FG), while Pullin continued to thrive managing the game scoring 14 points on 2 of 3 shooting from 3-point land while dishing three assists and grabbing four rebounds. Clayton and Samuel each had three dimes as well.

Odds & ends: Florida improved to 53-66 all-time against LSU with a 33-22 mark in the O’Dome … Golden is now 3-0 against Tigers head coach Matt McMahon, who many thought the Gators should have tired to hire two seasons ago … Florida improved to 15-3 when leading at halftime and 15-2 when leading with 5 minutes left … the Gators are now 10-0 when shooting better than 45% from the field and 15-4 when outrebounding an opponent … Florida earned a rare win when being outshot by an opponent from the field (3-6) and downtown (5-6) … the Gators dominated the Tigers inside with edge of 46-28 scoring and 43-29 rebounding (19-8 offensive)

What it means: For anyone who has been blindly excusing Florida’s second-half struggles while holding significant advantages this season, hopefully Tuesday night was a wake-up call. The Gators beat the Tigers, .500 after the loss, because of the visitors’ miscues on the final possession. Otherwise, Florida again showed that it struggles to score against zone defense and make adjustments in the latter 20 minutes of games. Golden was outcoached by McMahon in the latter stages of the game as he has been by other peers in similar situations this season. Despite all of that, the Gators won their sixth game out of their last seven and enter the weekend with momentum.

What’s next? Florida will begin a two-game road trip on Saturday when it visits Georgia for a 1 p.m. ET tip off. The game will air live nationally on SEC Network. The Gators appeared on their way to dominating the Bulldogs in this season’s first meeting only for UGA to battle all the way back in the second half before UF ultimately prevailed 102-98 in overtime.

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