Florida beats LSU 68-62 despite big game from Simmons
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida was nearly perfect down the stretch against LSU.
The Gators had to be to overcome star freshman Ben Simmons.
John Egbunu scored 13 points, including six in the final 2:08, and Florida beat LSU 68-62 Saturday despite Simmons' latest dominating performance.
Dorian Finney-Smith and Justin Leon added 14 apiece for the Gators (10-5, 2-1 Southeastern Conference), who played with the energy and effort they lacked in a 14-point loss at Tennessee four days earlier.
''It was going to take that type of effort to have a chance,'' Gators coach Mike White said.
Simmons led the Tigers (9-6, 2-1) with 28 points and 17 rebounds, his 11th double-double of the season. He made 14 of 16 from the free-throw line, and had four assists and eight turnovers before fouling out with 14 seconds remaining.
Simmons scored the final 12 points for LSU, and his 3-point play cut Florida's lead to 63-62 with 1:17 to go. But he had two costly turnovers down the stretch, traveling with 40 seconds left and then getting called for an illegal screen with 17 seconds remaining.
''A lot of plays down the stretch were kind of my fault,'' Simmons said. He later added that ''some of the calls were definitely not fouls. Personally, that's what I think. But I guess you get those calls when you're on the road.''
Tim Quarterman, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds in an 18-point win at Kentucky on Tuesday, struggled against Florida. He sat most of the first half after picking up two quick fouls and was ineffective when he was on the floor.
Quarterman finished with three points, three rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes. He was 1-of-6 shooting, including 1 of 5 from 3-point range.
LSU finished 3-for-20 shooting from 3-point range, with Antonio Blakeney and Keith Hornsby making a combined 2 for 11.
''We let a few things that didn't go our way get to us,'' Hornsby said. ''And we didn't respond in the right way. But that's how it goes on the road.''
LSU outrebounded Florida 50-38. The Gators won despite making 3 of 18 from 3-point range and hitting 17 of 30 from the foul line.
Egbunu came up big late, making four free throws sandwiched around a turnaround hook shot in the lane.
Finney-Smith and Leon were huge, too. They guarded Simmons for much of the game, making him take tough shots and earn his points from the charity stripe.
Finney-Smith made all five shots from the free-throw line, and Leon added two treys in the final 10 minutes.
''We challenged ourselves as a team,'' said Finney-Smith, who needed four stitches above his lip after getting whacked. ''The coaching staff challenged us to know that wasn't us, but that's what happens when you don't come out and play with a lot of energy every game.''
Florida has struggled from the free-throw line all season, but the Gators made them when they counted Saturday. They hit 9 of 10 from the stripe in the final six minutes. ''Just the way we drew it up,'' White said.
One of the key stats was turnovers. The Tigers committed 17 while the Gators had a season-low six.
LSU: Never led in the game. ... Fell to 2-6 this season when trailing at halftime. ... Fell to 0-2 this season when scoring less than 70 points.
Florida: Hit a 3-pointer for the 812th consecutive game, a streak that began in January 1992. Gators missed first 12 treys before Finney-Smith hit one early in the second half. ... Former Florida golfer Billy Horschel was behind the Gators' bench. ... Florida unveiled plans for its $64.5 million O'Connell Center renovation project, which will reduce capacity by 1,000.
LSU hosts Mississippi on Wednesday.
Florida plays at Texas A&M on Tuesday.