2019 SEC Tournament scores: Florida upsets No. 9 LSU, locks up NCAA Tournament bid

By Adam Silverstein
March 15, 2019
2019 SEC Tournament scores: Florida upsets No. 9 LSU, locks up NCAA Tournament bid

Image Credit: UAA Communications

Nothing is guaranteed in life, but the Florida Gators appeared to lock up a bid in the 2019 NCAA Tournament with a rousing 76-73 upset victory over the No. 9 LSU Tigers on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the 2019 SEC Tournament. Florida (19-4) and LSU (26-6) dueled for the third time this season, but on this occasion, it was the Gators picking up a regulation victory thanks to a game-winning three with just 1.2 seconds remaining.

Let’s take a look at what went down in UF’s second straight win.

It was over when … Freshman point guard Andrew Nembhard drained an NBA-length three from the top of the key with 1.2 seconds remaining to break a tie and give the Gators a 76-73 lead.

Florida was down as many as 13 points in the first half but battled its way back after the break, using a streak of eight straight field goals to cut LSU’s lead to a single point. UF did not take its first lead until there was 6:05 left in the game, but it failed to increase its advantage beyond three points as the teams battled back and forth until the final buzzer.

Freshman forward Keyontae Johnson drained a three with 3:45 left to tie the game, but the Gators actually scored six points on the possession as a foul on senior center Kevarrius Hayes and a technical team foul on the Tigers allowed the underdogs to go up 66-63. LSU answered immediately, as it did all game whenever Florida got on a roll. It also erased two late Gators leads as Tigers freshman Naz Reid, a 6-foot-10 center who does not often shoot from deep, drained his first three-pointers since Feb. 20, the last to knot the game at 73 with 14 seconds remaining.

Exceptional efforts: Nembhard had himself a game with a career-high 20 points on 7 of 14 shooting (3 of 7 from downtown) with 6 assists and 4 rebounds in one of his most complete games of the season. The floor general only sat 3 minutes the entire game and did not commit a single turnover. Also stellar once again was Johnson, who posted a double-double for his second straight game with 16 points on 7 off 11 shooting with 10 boards, though he did miss all five off his foul shots. Senior guards KeVaughn Allen and fifth-year Jalen Hudson were not overly productive, but they combined for 25 points and hit 10 of 11 free throws while their teammates were inefficient from the line.

Odds and ends: Still cold is freshman G Noah Locke, who went 0 for 3 from the floor and only played 10 minutes … the Gators only got four bench points with all five starters in double figures combining for 72 points … Hayes was efficient once again with 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting with eight boards … Florida shot an astounding 59.3 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from three in the second half after going 34.5 percent and 13.3 percent, respectively, in the first half … UF improved to 11-0 this season when making more than 46 percent of its baskets, 14-4 when shooting better than 40 percent … the Gators under head coach Mike White are now 5-2 against the Tigers with a 2-1 advantage this year … Florida is now 4-11 in Quadrant 1 games and 2-8 against ranked opponents this season … UF is 12-22 against AP Top 25 teams and 3-8 against top 10 teams under White … this was the third time in the last four games that Florida faced a top 10 team

What it means: The Gators probably earned an NCAA Tournament bid after beating Arkansas on Thursday, but they absolutely locked one up by beating the SEC Tournament’s top seed and the No. 9 team in the nation on Friday. The question now is where Florida will be seeded, but there’s still two days to go until that happens, and UF first has a conference championship for which it is contending.

Up next: UF will face either Auburn or South Carolina in the SEC Tournament semifinals on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. The game will air live nationally on ESPN. Florida lost to both teams in the regular season.

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