Gators Lose To LSU, Drop To 0-3 In SEC

Florida fought hard to bring down a double digit LSU lead in the second half but ultimately an inability to get key stops when they needed it and an ice cold performance from the free throw line resulted in a 64-58 loss to the Tigers. The Gators are now 0-3 in the SEC for the first time in 40 years with plenty of work to be done if they want to compete for the top half of the league. Once again this was a game where the Gators gave up one really bad run, 11 straight points for the Tigers in the first half, but other than that played the game to pretty much a draw. Had they avoided that lull the result of the game could have been different but obviously it wasn’t, and the Gators are bad to the drawing board.

 

Old Problems Continue

 

Free throw shooting has been an issue for the Gators in a number of big games this year and the problem reared its ugly head again on Wednesday as the Gators shot 11-22, leaving a whole lot of points on the board. Given that this was essentially a two-point game before the Gators had to start fouling, a few of those free throws falling would have made a massive difference. Myreon Jones (3-6), Anthony Duruji (0-2), CJ Felder (3-6) and Brandon McKissic (0-2) were all guilty of contributing to the issue on this night, and perhaps what’s most concerning about that is that these are all veteran players, and usually free throw shooting troubles are equated to younger, more inexperienced players. However, these are all players that have struggled to shoot free throws throughout their careers, so perhaps this is a problem that could have been foreseen.

 

Drawing Contact

 

One of the reasons the Gators were able to get to the line so often was the play of Colin Castleton who was drawing fouls all night, getting to the line himself and getting the Gators into the bonus where his teammates could then head to the charity stripe. He finished the game with 19 points and 9 rebounds, huge production for a team that needed an offensive leader. Right now the Gators are searching for quality play on the perimeter and are still trying to figure out what combinations of guards work, but the consistent on the Gators has been Castleton who continues to be effective.

 

Contextualizing The Loss

 

This was a close loss to a really good team, yes, but some breaks definitely went their way. For starters, LSU was without their point guard Xavier Pinson who is the focal point of their half court offense. Then, Tari Eason, an All-American candidate and Efton Reid, a 7-foot five star recruit, fouled out of the game early due to some questionable being called. Crunch time of this game was played by a full strength Florida team against an LSU team that was without three starters–and LSU came out on top. Florida’s constant hard work and effort deserves credit, but they had a few breaks go their way and ultimately they lost some key minutes of the game to LSU’s bench.

 

Final Thoughts

 

The Gators are now 0-3 in the SEC, but they lost to three of the best teams in the league. Their effort wasn’t a question in any of these games, but it’s pretty clear that the Gators are a tier or two below these teams in terms of raw talent. Right now the Gators aren’t getting much from their guards and in 2022 if your guards aren’t excellent you’re in trouble. Experimentation with lineups was good to see from Florida’s coaching staff as they try and see what groupings of players work, and they might need to continue to blend up the rotations as they take on South Carolina on Saturday. So far none of Florida’s SEC losses have been that egregious in a vacuum, but if they lose to South Carolina…that will certainly change. 

 

Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.