NCAA News Wire
Florida streaks toward perfect SEC season
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The No. 1 Florida Gators won their 21st straight game and 31st in a row at home, extending both school records, while handing the LSU Tigers a 79-61 defeat on Saturday at Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The win brought the Gators (27-2, 16-0) one step closer to the first 18-0 finish in Southeastern Conference history.
Kentucky had a trio of 16-0 teams, and 14 teams have finished the SEC schedule unbeaten since the 1932-33 season.
Florida also set a school record for the best start to a season. The 2007 national title team started 26-2. The Gators are also trying to secure their first No. 1 seed since ’07.
But the Gators aren’t ready to celebrate. In fact, Gators coach Billy Donovan asked his four senior starters if they wanted to cut down the nets after the win — having already clinched the regular season title after Kentucky lost to Arkansas on Thursday night.
They passed on the idea.
“I didn’t want any distractions,” Donovan explained. “I trust the four seniors and they didn’t want to do it, and I didn’t want to either. There’s a lot in front of our team and a lot we still need to play for. We just want to close out the rest of the season as best as we can.”
LSU (17-11, 8-8) was dealt a blow to any NCAA tournament hopes. The Tigers had one of their worst offensive showings of the season, not getting untracked until the Gators had the game well in hand.
Florida hit 13 of 23 shots (56.5 percent) from behind the 3-point arc, the most they had made this season.
Forward Dorian Finney-Smith led the Gators with 16 points, hitting 4 of 8 3-point attempts.
Forward Casey Prather and guard Michael Frazier scored 14 points each. Frazier made 4 of 6 attempts from beyond the arc. Guard Scottie Wilbekin nailed 3 of 5 treys on the way to 11 points.
“It’s a great opportunity to be in position to (be unbeaten in the league) because it’s very hard and not many teams can do it,” Wilbekin said. “We haven’t done it yet, so we’re just trying to lock in and focus throughout these two games and do our best to get two more wins.”
Forward Johnny O’Bryant III led LSU with 18 points.
“It’s a tremendous venue, a great basketball team that we played today,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “They were hitting on all cylinders. They executed on both ends of the floor. They were great defensively and they made big shots.”
Florida led 41-25 at halftime behind 55.6 percent shooting (15 of 27).
Florida scored the first eight points as LSU had three turnovers and a missed shot in its first four possessions.
O’Bryant, averaging 15.5 points a contest, was held in check; he didn’t score in the first 10 minutes.
At the same time, the Gators had seven players score while quickly building a 21-9 lead after a layup by forward Chris Walker with 10:44 left.
O’Bryant’s first bucket and a 3-pointer by forward Shavon Coleman cut the deficit to 21-14. But Frazier’s second 3-pointer pushed the lead back to 10.
LSU came into the game ranked third in the SEC in scoring offense (77.3 points a contest) and fourth in field goal percentage (45.2), but was held to one of its worst first-half efforts of the year (32.1 percent shooting).
“They’re an extremely good basketball team and they shot the lights out tonight,” said Tigers forward Jordan Mickey, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. “They had 13 threes and were great on defense, so they had it going on both sides.”
NOTES: The 25 points were the Tigers’ second fewest in a first half; they scored just 24 against Tennessee. … Florida’s 1989 team, which won the school’s first SEC regular season title, was honored at halftime. … LSU is now 3-15 vs. No. 1 teams.
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