Florida battled a stronger, longer, and more physical basketball team all the way down to the wire of fiery overtime game in the O’Dome but a poorly executed final possession with the game on the line allowed the LSU Tigers to come away with the win by a score of 79-78. A frantic final play in regulation saw a Jalen Hudson three put the Gators ahead by 2 with 6 seconds left but Tremont Waters was able to burn Andrew Nembhard in transition on his way to a routine layup to send the game to OT. In the extra frame the constant pressure on the glass applied by LSU gave them the lead and with a chance to win the game with 7 seconds left the Gators had a disaster of a possession. First, Jalen Hudson slipped with the basketball and had to throw it away and it ended up in the hands of KeVaughn Allen who was seemingly unaware of the clock situation and didn’t attempt a shot in time before the final buzzer went. A win for the Gators would have ensured they were in the NCAA Tournament but with this tough loss they’ll now look towards a game against Kentucky in Rupp Arena to try and secure their fate before the SEC Tournament.
Wednesday was Senior Night in the O’Dome, a chance to honor Kevarrius Hayes, KeVaughn Allen, Jalen Hudson, and Mak Krause for their service to the program. How did these seniors fair? We better start with Jalen Hudson whose 33 points were a season high and was one of the only reasons the Gators were in the basketball game. We did get to see some pretty difficult heat checks that weren’t close to falling but also saw some elite shot making—both sides of the Jalen Hudson experience. We also got to see the good and the bad of Kevarrius Hayes as though he had some missed layups that have plagued him for most of his career, we also saw a defensive clinic and 15 rebounds for a player tasked with battling on the glass with some of the best rebounders in the country. For KeVaughn Allen, unfortunately it was probably more bad than good. He was 1-6 from the field for 4 points and was relatively quiet on a night when the Gators needed some production behind Hudson. Senior nights are always special and though it was tough to send these guys off with a loss they got to have one final epic battle on their home floor.
Sporting a lineup bigger and longer than the Gators at pretty much every position the jumbo-sized LSU Tigers dominated with 21 offensive rebounds. Those extra possessions were extremely key in this tight ball game as the Gators actually shot a better percentage from the field than LSU (44.8% to 43.1%) but the offensive rebounds LSU generated just gave them more shots than the Gators. Part of the rebounding problem for the Gators is size but it was also the fact they were really scrambling on defense at times, giving up really good shots and not being in a position to box out. They’re about to face a Kentucky team that is excellent on the offensive glass too and they’re going to need to improve by then.
After struggling in the first matchup this season point guard Tremont Waters came alive in round two and was a dominant presence on both sides of the ball. His 19 points and 6 assists don’t even seem to do justice to how good he seemed offensively, regularly cooking Florida’s perimeter players and causing the Gators to scramble. He had the layup at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime (an end-to-end rush he seemed to make with ease) and also hit some key shots in overtime to put LSU ahead. As if that wasn’t enough, he contributed 3 steals on the defensive end and was a pest all night long with his quick hands and dribble anticipation.
This game was close and Florida had a chance to win at both the end of regulation and overtime and that really shows their gumption because quite frankly, I didn’t think they deserved to be in the game. They gave up a run in the first half that saw LSU get points on 13 of 15 possessions and they weren’t good enough on the glass to keep the Tigers to one shot per trip. KeVaughn Allen was incredibly quiet, and they couldn’t get any production from secondary players. Still, there was some good. We finally got to see a glimpse of the Jalen Hudson from last season and Keyontae Johnson continued to impress with his ability to get to the rim. Every game left in Florida’s season is going to have some serious intrigue, so you better buckle up for the ride.