Billy Donovan knew what to expect.
Coming off a loss to rival Georgia, the Gators returned to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Tuesday night looking to get back on track versus the LSU Tigers.
They came in knowing what they were about to face in the LSU Tigers. Donovan even said as much on Monday.
“They’re a very, very explosive team offensively. Extremely explosive. Everybody on that floor for them, you could honestly say that on any given night, any one of those guys could go for 25 [points].”
It wasn’t quite 25, but LSU forward Jarell Martin did score 22 as LSU (14-4/3-2 SEC) defeated Florida (10-8/3-2 SEC) 79-61, handing the Gators their worst home loss since November 16, 2010. That one was a 93-75 drubbing from Ohio State.
The Gators started hot with big play from senior center Jon Horford, who got things rolling with a layup, an assist to Jacob Kurtz and another layup as the Gators took the slight 6-5 lead.
But then the Tigers heated up from beyond the arc and Donovan’s squad was never able to cool them down. LSU finished the night shooting 61.5% from 3, compared to the paltry 18.8% that the Gators put up from the same distance.
Despite being forewarned at the speed on the Tigers offense, it was still a shock to Dorian Finney-Smith.
“I think how quick their guards were was a surprise”, Finney-Smith admitted. “We knew they had great bigs, but how quick their guards was a surprise.”
One of those guards, Keith Horsby, was able to finish 50% from the field, including going 3-6 from three.
The Gators showed flashes of the offense needed moving forward. With 8:34 left in the first half, Michael Frazier sent a pass from half court to Kasey Hill waiting in the post who was able to lay up the alley-oop for Devin Robinson.
Then there was the minute and 23 second run in the second half when Chris Walker was able to record a steal and take it down for the layup, followed quickly by an Alex Murphy block, a Frazier 3, and another steal this time from Hill which he was able to feed to Murphy for a layup. It was enough to force LSU into a timeout. But it wasn’t enough to do any real damage. The lead only changed in this game three times, with LSU applying a chokehold for the majority of it.
Because while Finney-Smith may’ve been shocked by the speed of the guards, it was the post duo of Mickey and Martin (Jordan Mickey & Jarell Martin) who combined for 36 points and 22 total rebounds.
All of that combined, resulted in a Tigers victory that caused Alex Murphy to stand in the dim light outside the Gators locker room with a flabbergasted look on his face and say, “they played harder than us. Better than we did. They beat us in all facets of the game.”
Finney-Smith backed up this observation, adding, “they was the better team. They executed on offense and we didn’t”.
The Gators now have just over three days to prepare to stop the Ole Miss offense. The Rebels are averaging 74.9 points per game and will be waiting as Florida rolls into town on Saturday. It’s a game the Gators will find extra motivation in winning, as the victory will keep them above .500 in SEC play.