Forward Keyontae Johnson had the ball in the corner with less than 10 seconds to play. The No. 8-seed Gators were tied at 70 with No. 1-seed LSU in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals, and Johnson had a chance to push his team through to the next round.
He pumped, faking out Tigers guard Marlon Taylor, and drove to the basket. Almost immediately, that gap was filled by 6-foot-10 forward Naz Reid.
Thoroughly mismatched, Johnson quickly kicked it out to guard Andrew Nembhard, who popped from three.
The basket sank, along with LSU’s tournament title hopes. It tied the bow on a 20-point performance from Nembhard.
Down three with just one second to play, LSU threw a half-court pass to Reid, but Johnson immediately ripped it away, sealing Florida’s 76-73 upset victory over LSU.
UF will face No. 5-seeded Auburn at 1 p.m. in Saturday's semifinal round.
The Gators (19-14) were lucky to be in it in the first half. Florida’s exasperated offense couldn’t get anything going.
Guard KeVaughn Allen tied the score at five with an early three, but it was the last field goal the Gators hit for over six minutes.
Meanwhile, he Tigers (26-6) scored at will. Reid bullied UF on the inside. He scored 25 combined points in his two previous outings against Florida, but he managed 26 points in Friday’s game alone. He earned a double-double, as he brought down 14 rebounds.
Guard Javonte Smart was suspended by LSU after suspended coach Will Wade’s comments on the FBI wiretap — in which Wade implied a cash offer during Smart’s recruitment — came to light.
However, he was cleared to play prior to the matchup with the Gators, and he scored six points off the bench in the first half. He finished the game with 13 points.
LSU shot 53 percent in the first half, while Florida only shot 35 percent. The Tigers led by as many as 13 points in the period and took a 35-25 lead to the locker room.
“We’re playing tired,” coach Mike White told ESPN at halftime. “We’ve got to wake up.”
And wake up they did.
LSU struggled in the second half, and Florida took advantage. Though the Tigers briefly extended their lead back to 13 early in the second half, UF upped its intensity.
The Gators crawled back within single digits, shooting nearly 60 percent in the second half. Alongside Nembhard, four other Gators — Johnson (16 points), Hudson (13), Allen (12) and Hayes (11) — scored in double figures.
Florida took its first lead with 6:05 to play but traded it with LSU in the final minutes. The Gators took a three-point lead in the last 30 seconds, but a three-pointer from Reid tied it with 14 seconds left, right before Nembhard’s game-winning bucket.
With the win over the Tigers, Florida may be able to avoid a date in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio. UF can now focus on further removing itself from the bubble this weekend and trying to raise its seed line.
Follow Tyler Nettuno on Twitter @TylerNettuno and contact him at [email protected].