With 4:32 left in the game and the shot clock winding down, KeVaughn Allen had a decision to make.
Was he going to pull up for a perimeter jump shot, or was he going to attack the basket? In a flash, he decided, weaving past LSU defender Brandon Rachal in the lane to put up a floater as he got fouled.
After three straight conference losses, senior guard Chris Chiozza — leader of the reeling Florida men’s basketball team — is ready to see som…
The shot fell gracefully through the net, granting Allen the chance to give the Gators a four-point lead.
After struggling offensively in recent SEC contests, Florida made key shots down the stretch in a 73-64 win over LSU on Wednesday night at the O’Connell Center.
The win snapped a three-game conference losing skid.
“I guess you could say it was a sense of urgency,” freshman guard Mike Okauru said. “We just had a mindset to win, that’s it.”
Coach Mike White decided to stick with the lineup change he’d made in Florida’s previous game against Alabama, giving usual sixth man Jalen Hudson his second consecutive start.
The change proved helpful for UF (16-8, 7-4 SEC), which scored more than it had in its last four SEC contests.
Hudson led the Gators with 18 points and 9 rebounds, forward Keith Stone added in 15 points and Okauru had one of the best performances of his young career with nine points in 17 minutes.
White also enjoyed the intensity he saw on the defensive end from Hudson.
“That’s as hard as he’s played,” White said. “That’s as hard as he’s played in any game or any practice. I was proud of his effort.”
The Gators spent most of the first half playing from behind.
After jumping out to an early 9-7 lead five minutes into the game, LSU (13-10, 4-7 SEC) went on its own 7-0 run and held the advantage throughout the rest of the half.
Although the Tigers built as much as a nine-point edge through the first 20 minutes, Florida managed to keep the game within reach behind the play of Stone.
The redshirt sophomore led the Gators’ first half scoring with 11 points.
However, defensive woes kept Florida from taking back the lead. LSU shot an even 50 percent from the field in the first half, led by guard Brandon Sampson.
The junior scored 12 first-half points and had 17 for the game to lead the Tigers.
But in the second half, Florida played with a new level of defensive intensity.
The Gators closed out on defenders, forcing LSU to hoist tough shots. The Tigers began the second frame 1 of 8 from the field.
Meanwhile, UF took advantage of the Tigers’ sloppy start. It regained the lead on a triple from Hudson less than 45 seconds into the second half, building a slight 36-35 edge.
Over the next four minutes, the Gators went on a 12-1 run that included eight points from guard Egor Koulechov.
While LSU refused to lie down, battling back to take a 59-58 lead with 7:00 left off a dunk from Sampson, Florida hit clutch shots when it mattered most.
After Allen’s and-one finish, Hudson drained an outside shot to take a commanding seven-point lead.
“Some of it was us, and some of it was the defense too,” White said about his players being aggressive on offense. “We drove through contact a little bit better, got to the foul line.”
Florida limited LSU’s leading scorer — freshman guard Tremont Waters — to nine points on 3-of-15 shooting.
The Gators held their opponent to 40 percent shooting in the second half, and the team showcased plenty of defensive hustle.
“We really picked it up from where we’ve been,” junior forward Kevarrius Hayes said. “I feel like we kind of needed that to realize what we’re capable of.”