BATON ROUGE, LA. — The number 11 Florida men’s basketball team (12-2, 2-0 SEC) traveled to LSU (9-4, 0-2 SEC) with myriad medical setbacks and adversity aplenty, but outlasted both the stingy Tiger defense and a tightly contested opening half to pull away and dominate on the road en route to a 74-52 victory.
An up and down tempo characterized most of the first half, which featured multiple ties and lead changes despite poor shooting percentages for each team. After transitioning to a 2-3 zone, the Gators kept LSU’s offense in check and scoreless from the field for six minutes. With the ball, the Gators caught fire shooting and went on a 14-3 run at the conclusion of the opening stanza, entering halftime off a Scottie Wibekin shot that beat the buzzer pushed the lead to 29-20.
The Tigers had no answer on their home court, allowing the Gators to trample their defense and their morale in the second half. Florida opened up the half outscoring LSU 17-3, capping off a 31-6 run that spanned both halves.
With 10 minutes remaining in the game, LSU enacted a half court press, forcing turnovers on five of seven possessions, closing the gap courtesy of a 14-0 run which ignited the crowd at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Florida quickly recovered with an Eric Murphy 3 pointer that ended the drought and gave the Gators breathing room with which to pull away again.
LSU averaged 76 points per game entering the contest, but was held to 32.3% shooting from the field, going 6-24 from long range and converting on only 40% of free throw opportunities. The Tigers’ leading 3 point shooter, Andre Stringer, was held without a 3 for the first time all season and only scored 6 points.
Despite questionable shot selection and a shaky start to the game, senior point guard Kenny Boynton led the way on offense, shooting 7-13 from the field and 4-8 beyond the arc, tallying 20 points. An emphatic dunk on a fast break just beyond the midway point of the second half tied the prolific scorer with Erving Walker on UF’s all-time scoring list with 1,777 points. Moments later, Boynton added to his career total at the charity stripe and moved to within 2 points of Udonis Haslem in third.
The injury bug bit the Gators once again, this time claiming guard Casey Prather as a victim. Prather hobbled into the locker room at the end of the first half, suffering from what is presumed to be a high ankle sprain. Prather’s counterpart at guard, Mike Rosario, was also inactive due to injury.
Gator coach Billy Donovan says the status of Prather going forward is uncertain.
Will Yeguete fought off tendonitis and led the team in rebounding off the bench. The Frenchman snagged six rebounds off the offensive glass and earned an additional seven more on defense to account for more than a quarter of the Gators’ game total. Yeguete says his knee felt better as the game went on, and acknowledged the Gators need to stick together following yet another medical setback.
Eric Murphy, back in the starting lineup while recuperating from a rib injury, shot 2-7 from 3-point range and fouled out after scoring 12 points and tying for the team lead in assists with three.
LSU had only two players in double digits, led in scoring by Anthony Hickey’s three 3’s, 15 points, and four assists. Shavon Coleman entered off the bench and knocked down 11 points, while starter Charles Carmouche roped in a team high six rebounds coupled with only three points.
The Gators are back in action Thursday on the road in College Station, seeking to keep their four game winning streak alive against SEC newcomer Texas A&M, who enters play with a four game winning streak of its own.