Florida fought valiantly in the final minutes of the game against LSU to try to claw back from a double-digit deficit and while some huge shots from Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson almost made it happen a key slip from Scottie Lewis stepping out of bounds seemed to put it out of reach. However, after the Gators generated a turnover following a Kerry Blackshear put back they were given the chance to tie with a baseline out of bounds play with 0.5 seconds on the clock. They executed the set perfectly which freed up Keyontae Johnson for a layup but ultimately the ball left his fingertips a fraction of a second after time expired and the Gators took the loss. After being outplayed for most of the second they showed an exuberance of heart and toughness to will their way back in the game but ultimately it wasn’t meant to be. The final score was 84-82 in favor of LSU.
LSU was the best defensive team that Florida has played this year by the metrics and the Tigers played up to that billing, especially with their backcourt of Skylar Mays and Javonte Smart. It was Smart doing the work in the first half with Mays taking over in the second and ultimately it ended up with them both having monster games. Mays finished with 18 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, and 4 steals while Smart ended with 13 points, 7 assists, and 2 rebounds. It’s not often a team has 14 assists between their starting backcourt and in giving that up the Gators put themselves behind the 8 ball. Both Mays and Smart are physical guards with great size for their position and they gave Noah Locke and Ques Glover all kinds of problems and they both used speed advantages well when getting checked by Andrew Nembhard. These two players got to the rim whenever they wanted and could finish themselves or dish off to a big for an open dunk. Of the Tigers’ 84 points they only hit two 3-pointers so they were living in the paint all night long. LSU is a tremendous offensive team that’s better than anyone else Florida will see this year but still the Gators will have to learn how to contain explosive backcourts.
Battle On The Boards
Florida had length on LSU but the Tigers were the more physical team on the glass coming away with 13 offensive rebounds. Those rebounds turned out to be extremely valuable with many of them turning into second chance opportunities and in a 2-point game it was one of the major swing points. A lot of the offensive rebounds came from plays where Skylar Mays or Javonte Smart got all the way to the rim and Florida’s bigs had to rotate over and if the shot was missed there wasn’t anyone in orange and blue to box out. Florida hasn’t been a great defensive rebounding team this year and it bit them Tuesday night.
Doubling it Up
Though he had a tough night at times from an individual scoring standpoint Andrew Nembhard finished with 15 points and 10 assists for another double-double. It’s extremely difficult to get double doubles in college basketball but Nembhard was able to make one happen with his outstanding vision and some timely buckets. He finished 6-16 from the floor with 4 turnovers so it wasn’t his most efficient night, but he still was an excellent quarterback out there for most of the game and was able to find his team buckets.
Ques Glover is a freshman still learning the college game and he had a “welcome to the SEC moment” in the first half. In a 13 second span he had two turnovers picked off which went the other way for a three-point shot and a layup and he was looking overwhelmed against the veteran LSU backcourt. In the second half, as soon as Glover entered the game for Nembhard Skylar Mays went at him play after play and used his size advantage. This will definitely be a learning experience for Glover as he gets used to SEC basketball but it was a tough night for him against the Tigers.
Florida scored the ball well enough to win. They shot 50.8% from the field and finished with a non-great but manageable 12 turnovers and when you shoot about 50% you’re going to win a lot of nights. Unfortunately, it was their defense and rebounding that didn’t hit the mark and the biggest takeaway from this game has to be their inability to stop LSU’s offense, particularly the backcourt of Skylar Mays and Javonte Smart. That will be one of the best backcourts they will see all year but even with that being said they didn’t have any adjustments to keep those two out of the paint. They’ll see plenty more elite perimeter players the rest of the season, starting Saturday with Baylor, and they’ll have to figure out how to stop dribble drive threats if they’re going to compete.