Da Boot Sports
LSU Sports Communications
By: Kent Lowe
GAINESVILLE, FL. – The LSU Tigers could not stand the second half onslaught from the Florida Gators, falling 79-67, in the final game of the 2022-23 regular season Saturday at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The Gators were able to turn a four-point LSU lead at halftime and then a 12-point, 44-32, lead with 15:45 to play completely upside down, outscoring LSU, 47-25, the rest of the game.
KJ Williams, just missing a ninth double double with 19 points and nine rebounds, led the Tigers hitting 6-of-13 field goals and 7-of-10 free throws. Derek Fountain had his fourth college double double with 13 points and 12 rebounds while Adam Miller added 10 points.
Riley Kugel went off in the second half, scoring 21 points, 17 of them the second half, while Will Richard had 18 points and Kyle Lofton added 16 points and five assists.
For the third straight game, the opponent shot over 50 percent from the field, hitting 16-of-30 shots (53.3%) and then 5-of-10 from the arc. LSU made 11-of-30 in the second half and 1-of-5 from distance.
Florida finished 28-of-61 for 45.9 percent and 10-of-25 for 40 percent to go with 13-of-20 from the free throw line. LSU finished 23-of-60 (38.3%) and just 3-of-16 from distance (18.8%) along with 18-of-25 from the charity stripe.
LSU turned the ball over 13 times, eight in the second half, leading to a 13-4 points off turnovers advantage for the Gators, including an 11-2 margin in the second half.
The Tigers led for 8:27 of the first half which featured seven ties and three lead changes, and LSU came out after halftime and outscored the Gators 11-3 to push the LSU lead to 44-32 as Williams scored the last six points of the run.
But Florida began to press and slowly worked itself back into the game with a 9-1 run that cut the lead to four at 45-41, with 14:04 to play. LSU was able to keep the lead for the next seven-odd minutes before an LSU turnover led to a Kowacie Reeves fast break dunk to give Florida the lead, 54-53.
Fountain came back after both teams missed and scored to give LSU a 55-54 advantage but Florida took the lead for good on a Richard layup, 56-55, with 6:12 to go and the Gators would quickly get the lead to double figures to clinch the game.
LSU now goes to the SEC Tournament in Nashville, where it will face Georgia in the second game on Wednesday at approximately 8:30 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena.
LSU Head Coach Matt McMahon Quotes from Postgame Radio Show
On the game plan in the first half…
“First half, I thought our on-ball defense was really good. For the most part, I thought they caught us on a couple rolls on their ball screen attack, but i thought we were doing a good jump of forcing them into contested jump shots off the dibble and they were taking some difficult ones. On our offensive end, we had five turnovers, I believe the first six minutes of the game, then did not turn it over again the rest of the half. That enabled us to get the ball into the paint and score some. Struggled from behind the arc, but we were able to finish some plays there in the first half around the rim. That was an area we thought we could take advantage of going in, they were a top 10 defensive team in the country protecting the rim with (Colin) Castleton, without him in the last five games, they have given up almost 70 % at the rim from the floor. Unfortunately, there in the second half we shot 40% on the layups around the basket and were just unable to convert on all those three-on-twos and two-on-ones and three-on-ones when we beat the press.”
On the second half…
“Got off to a good start, we were able to control where the ball was going. Guys were stepping up and able to finish some plays around the rim. I thought we really good on the offensive glass, Derek (Fountain) gets five, KJ (Williams) gets four in that stretch. That enabled us to build a lead. The first four minutes of the second half I believe we went plus eight into the first media timeout. Then at that point, they (Florida) changed it up and put us in positions to make plays and unfortunately we were unable to do so.”