LSU turned the ball over, and then freshman Tre Mann had it in his hands. He threw it down to a streaking Ques Glover, who was free on a two-on-one. Glover took a peek at the rim and threw the ball up where it found the hands of forward Keyontae Johnson, who slammed it down and sent the crowd at the O’Dome into a frenzy.
Johnson’s 25 points were a career high, and the Gators scored a big Quadrant 1 win at home with an 81-66 victory over the LSU Tigers.
Florida (18-10, 10-5 SEC) nearly ran LSU (19-9, 10-5 SEC) out of the building in the first four minutes of the first half. A three-point play from Johnson capped off a 12-2 start for the Gators where they hit five of their first six shots from the field. Johnson finished the half with 17 points in as many minutes. His first miss of the night didn’t come until there were 29 seconds left in the first half.
“Coach was like, ‘They’re aggressive’, so it gave me more of a chance to blow by a defender, or they like to chase me coming off the screen,” Johnson said. “It’s just like reading, they all ball watch, and we saw their film.”
Florida hit 13 of its first 17 shots for a 29-16 lead about midway through the period. The Gators cooled off after that, making six of their next 14, but their defense kept LSU in check enough for a 41-31 halftime lead.
The threes wouldn’t fall for UF in the first half (2 for 11), so it looked for alternative forms of offense. Johnson and guard Scottie Lewis found great success driving to the basket, and the Gators outscored LSU 34-14 in the paint.
LSU came into Wednesday night’s matchup with the second-most efficient offense in the nation, according to KenPom. But LSU, much like a tiger on ice, never found its footing. The Tigers, who shot 44 percent for the game, just couldn’t keep up while their defense fell apart. Leading scorer Skylar Mays was limited to just three points and two assists.
The Gators didn’t shoot as well from the field in the second half, but they made up for it with a hot start from the outside. Five of their first six attempts from three tickled the twine, bolstering their lead to 19.
It wasn’t just Johnson putting the team on his back Greg Jennings-style, either. Nembhard rebounded from a three-point first half for 14 in the second, and Lewis finished with a career-high 18 points. That made up for guard Noah Locke, whose point total for most of the night could have been sponsored by Krispy Kreme.
Florida never let its lead dip below 10 points in the second half and mostly cruised to an 81-66 win.
Coach Mike White praised his team’s strong play at both ends of the court and the way they have played down the stretch.
“We played about as well as we’ve played for, I would say, 30 of the 40 minutes,” White said. “I think we’re getting closer to the way that we want to play, and we continue to develop in that category.”
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