Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
GAINESVILLE, FL: The 12th ranked LSU Tigers traveled to Gainesville on Wednesday to take on a tough Florida basketball team in a big SEC matchup. The Gators gave LSU all they could handle, but the Tigers were able to pull out a hard fought victory on the road, 64-58.
“I thought we got off to a great start, which was huge. Give our guys credit, man. We’re a tough out. Very proud of our guys.” said Will Wade. "We're built on a rock solid foundation. We have unbelievable culture, connectedness and togetherness. We're built for moments like this." Wade continued. “We’re so connected and so tough. The tougher the circumstance, the better we are. It doesn’t get any tougher than tonight. We’re fighters, man. That’s what our program is about.”
Darius Days led the team with 20 points on the night, as he came up with several big baskets at key moments in the ball game. Eric Gaines had a great game, raising his play late in the contest to help the Tigers pull away from the pesky Gators as he finished with 15 points on the night. Brandon Murray stepped up with a solid performance, as he added 10 points. Shareef O'Neil saw his first action of the season scoring 4 points and making his presence felt on the defensive end of the floor.
LSU finished the contest shooting 50% from the floor and shot 3-9 from behind the three point line for 33%, while the Gators finished 36% from the floor and 7-31 from behind the arc for 23%. The biggest stat of the game came from the free throw line. The Tigers made 7-11 for 64%, but Florida lost the game at the charity strip hitting only 11-22 from the line for a dismal 50%.
With the win, LSU is now 15-1 overall and 3-1 in SEC play, while Florida falls to 9-6 overall and 0-3 in the SEC...
The Tigers controlled the opening tip and quickly went up 4-0 during the first minute of the play on two baskets by Darius
Days who was on fire early. LSU would outscore the Gators 8-4 over the next two minutes as LSU increased their lead to 12-4 at the 16:24 mark.
LSU held a double digit lead, 27-13 with 7:45 left in the first half and seemed as if they were taking control of the game, but foul trouble by Efton Reid and Tari Eason would force the big man and the Tigers' leading scorer to the bench.
Florida began to slowly chip away at the LSU lead, cutting it to six, 34-28 with 1:12 left on the clock, but a nice shot off the glass by Shareef O'Neal and a layup on an incredible drive to the basket by Eric Gaines at the buzzer gave LSU a 38-30 lead at halftime.
Both teams shot well from the floor in the first half as the Tigers were 16-34 for 47% while the Gators managed to hit 42% of their shots. LSU was 50% from three point land, hitting 3-6. Defensively the Tigers forced 8 Florida turnovers while out-rebounding the Gators, 18-15.
Darius Days went to the locker room leading the team with 12 points. Eric Gaines added 7 points, while Brandon Murray scored 6. Shareef O'Neal and Tari Eason both contributed 4 each, while Wilkinson finished with 3 points and Efton Reid added 2.
LSU started the second half with a 6-0 run over the first three minutes, taking a 44-30 lead at the 17:05 mark, however, Reid and Eason both managed to pick up their fourth personal fouls early in the half, hampering LSU's attack.
The Gators were able to find another gear as they began to eat away at the LSU lead, cutting it to two points, 48-46
with 12:08 on the clock after Kowacie Reeves and Phlandrous Fleming each hit a three pointer to end a 16-4 Florida run.
Tari Eason and Efton Reid would both foul out of the contest, leading to LSU's struggles. With Ried on the bench, Florida would begin to feed Colin Castleton under the basket who would score 17 second half points, helping Florida stay right on the Tigers' heels. With Eason on the bench and Xavier Pinson out with a knee injury, the Bayou Bengal's offense would sputter with several hick ups in the second half.
With the Tigers only leading by two, 56-54, Eric Gaines began to step up his play with 3:46 left in the contest. After Gaines sank two free throws, he then hit a huge jumper, before scoring on a beautiful reverse layup to help give LSU some breathing room.
With 25 seconds left, Alex Fudge would close the contest out with a monster dunk, giving the Tigers a hard fought 64-58 victory.
Next up LSU will host the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Saturday, Jan. 15th at 1:00pm...