Poor Defensive Effort Dooms LSU Basketball in 81-66 Loss at Florida

Harrison Valentine

Three weeks ago today, LSU held a two-game lead atop the SEC basketball standings. Now, after losing five of their last seven, the Tigers are tied for third with question marks swirling as they head into the most important stretch of the season.

Florida began the game on a 9-0 run, and LSU was never able to catch up, falling to the Gators 81-66 on Wednesday night inside the O'Connell Center.

For LSU, the game never felt winnable from the minute the ball was tipped. Senior leader Skylar Mays didn’t act or play like himself, accounting for a season-low three points on 1-of-6 shooting. Sophomore forward Emmitt Williams was the lone bright spot, recording a team-high 25 points and three rebounds in a losing effort.

For the Gators, it was the Keyontae Johnson show, who registered his seventh double-double of the season, scoring 25 points and 11 rebounds in a dominant performance. Scottie Lewis and Andrew Nembhard also finished in double-figures, posting 18 and 17 points respectively.

"We've never been able to guard Johnson,” Wade said postgame. “That's two straight years we haven't been able to guard him. His face lights up when he sees purple."

The biggest stress for Will Wade’s team heading into Gainesville was to show some improvement on the defensive end, but the Tigers had no answer for the Gators in all phases.

Florida shot 34-of-62 [55%] from the field and 9-of-21 [43%] from three, scoring 48 of their 81 points in the paint.

In fact, this might have been LSU’s poorest showing defensively of them all, as Florida scored at will, tallying countless possessions of uncontested layups, wide open dunks and mid-range shots.

“We got destroyed. There’s not really a whole lot to say, not a whole lot of analysis or anything,” Wade said. “We got our tails whipped.”

With tonight’s loss, LSU moves to 19-9 overall and 10-5 in SEC play. For a team that once seemed like a March Madness lock, the Tigers inch closer and closer to the NCAA Tournament bubble with every defeat, currently projected as an eight-seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology.

Next, LSU will return home to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Saturday to face Texas A&M for an 11 a.m. tip. on ESPN2 in what feels like a must-win contest.

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