LSU Basketball Squeaks Out 84-82 Win Over Florida After Late-Game Scare

Glen West

LSU led 79-69 with 1:20 to go in Tuesday's game. The Tigers had not won a conference game by more than four points in 2019. So, naturally, Florida went on one of those mesmerizing late game runs that left LSU fans, coaches and players in an anxious panic.

A combination of three LSU turnovers in the final minute and change as well as three Florida triples left the score at 84-82 with .5 seconds to play. And it was Florida’s ball.

The second half heroics of senior guard Skylar Mays and the persistent energy provided by fellow senior Marlon Taylor suddenly seemed insignificant. Instead it came down to making one stop, one LSU couldn't come up with. 

LSU (14-4, 6-0) was bailed out after a defensive breakdown from the Tiger defense allowed an uncontested layup from Florida forward Keyontae Johnson. Only Johnson wasn't able to get the shot off in time.

Instead LSU squeaked out an 84-82 win by a mere tenth of a second to stay undefeated six games into conference play for the second straight year.

“We have to keep it close. That’s how things work out,” Mays joked. “It has worked for us, so why not stick with it. I have seen crazier things happen in my time here, but that was just a great game. Credit to (Florida), they are a quality team. They are resilient just like us. Luckily we were able to pull this one out.”

While the game certainly didn't end the way the team would've liked, LSU did get some phenomenal second-half play from the seniors Mays and Taylor.

Mays scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half while Taylor's energy was unmatched by any other player on the court, grabbing a team-high 11 rebounds to go along with 10 points off the bench.

“Marlon was awesome. He is kind of finding his footing,” Mays said. “It has kind of been bumpy for him because he has been out so long, but credit to him because he has continued to work and just have the right mindset. Now things are turning for him, so we are just hoping he can keep that up.”

The team as a whole did three things throughout the night that ultimately turned out to be the three most important keys to the game. LSU out-rebounded Florida 38-28, went 24-for-31 at the free throw line and pounded the Gators in the paint 50-32.

"We're starting to build and trend in the right direction. I'm excited by what this team can accomplish once we get back to full strength," coach Will Wade said.

LSU offensively was a roller coaster in the first 20 minutes. The Tigers couldn't find any rhythm after knocking down five of their first seven shots, missing their next 10 shots from the field and falling into a six minute drought where no points were scored.

But the old saying of defense leads to offense rang true as the Tigers forced Florida into four turnovers that led to easy buckets the other way to help the offense break out of its funk. 

The energy spark Taylor presented off the bench was the main factor in getting the team and the crowd back into the game. Taylor grabbed seven of his 11 rebounds in the first half while also adding five of his 10 points in the opening frame.

LSU would connect on eight of its last 12 shots from the field to cut what was once an eight point first half Florida lead to two and carry that efficiency into the second half, connecting on 51% of its shot attempts in the final 20 minutes.

LSU will now prepare for the SEC-Big 12 Challenge where it will take on Texas Saturday at 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

“We just want to keep winning and keep the winning streak going,” Smart said. “If it comes down to a six-minute game, we work on that every day in practice. Coach tells us you can’t foul, stay solid on defense and make free throws so we can come out with the win.”