A tenth of a second proved to be the difference between the Gators and LSU on Tuesday.
Down 11 with 3:24 to go on the road against the current conference leader appeared to be a death sentence.
But somehow, the Gators trailed by just two with half of a second left in the game. Guard Andrew Nembhard inbounded the ball to forward Keyontae Johnson, who appeared to score a layup to beat the buzzer, tie the game and send it to overtime.
But upon further review, the ball was still on Johnson’s fingertips when the clock expired, giving the Tigers the 84-82 win. That extra split second was the difference between another miraculous comeback for Florida and another “quality loss” come tournament time.
Such is life in college basketball.
Winning on the road against LSU (14-4, 6-0 SEC) was always going to be a difficult task for the Gators, especially since it fell right in the middle of a daunting three-game stretch that ends on Saturday when No. 1 Baylor comes to Gainesville.
The thing about the Gators (12-6, 4-2 SEC) recently is that they haven’t lost games because of their offense, something that has been fairly common throughout Mike White’s tenure.
Florida has scored at least 65 points in each of its last seven games, and it shot over 50 percent from the field against LSU. The Gators’ offense also ranks in the top 30 in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.
The problem for Florida has actually been its defense, something that has been White’s calling card during his time in Gainesville. The Gators have given up an average of 79 points in their last four losses, while the offense averaged roughly 70 points.
UF has finished in the top 25 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric in White’s four previous seasons, but that hasn’t been the case this season.
The Gators are currently ranked 48th by that metric, which would be the program’s worst mark since the 2011-12 season.
Offensive performances like the one Florida produced on Tuesday night should end in victories most of the time, but defensive performances like the one it had in the second half will prevent them from doing so.
UF allowed the Tigers to shoot over 50 percent from the field in the second half, and LSU plastered it on the offensive glass, grabbing 15 offensive boards for the game. The Tigers only scored 11 second-chance points, but that also includes a crucial two points scored by LSU forward Darius Days off his own rebound to create that 11-point gap in the first place.
LSU’s offense was aided by 24 points on 31 attempts from the free-throw line, but it was still a poor defensive effort from Florida on Tuesday.
The offense has significantly improved since its struggles at the beginning of the season, but the same hasn’t happened on the defensive side of the ball.
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