NASHVILLE, TN (WAFB) - It’s one-and-done for the No. 1 seed LSU Tigers after they were upset 76-73 by No. 8 seed Florida in the quarterfinal round of the SEC Tournament in Nashville, TN.
Forward Naz Reid finished with a double-double, scoring 26 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. Ja’Vonte Smart, who was cleared to play just before the game, had 13 points.
Tremont Waters chipped in nine points and dished out seven assists, but he also had four turnovers. Kavell Bigby-Williams had 11 rebounds.
In the end, it was Florida guard Andrew Nembhard with the dagger that sealed the Tigers’ fate. With the game tied 73-73, he nailed a three-pointer with :01 left for the win. He finished with 20 points and six assists.
The most talked about play happened with 3:45 left in the game. Reid was called for a foul on a made three-pointer and then, interim head coach Tony Benford was called for a technical foul. After that turn of events, the Gators held a 66-63 lead over the Tigers.
“The shot was after the whistle, I thought," said Benford. "Everybody around me said it was after the whistle and then, they counted the three. And I was confused by that. I thought, ‘There’s no way.’ I just questioned them about that. And unfortunately, I probably shouldn’t have gotten the ‘T’ [technical foul] looking back on it. We’re not going to get any calls. I heard a guy say when there’s ‘interim’ in front of coach, you’re not going to get any calls. I thought they were fouling. I thought we fouled some, but we didn’t get the calls. That’s part of the game.”
LSU (26-6) started out hot and held a 35-25 lead at halftime. The lead had been as much as 13.
Florida (19-14) fought its way back in the second half by hitting its shots from the floor and getting points off LSU turnovers. The Tigers turned the ball over 13 times in the game.
For Ja’Vonte, I have to start with, I’m afraid, do you have any knowledge of the offer will wade was quoted on the FBI wiretap and when did you find out you were going to play?
“No, sir; I have nothing to do with that,” Smart answered. “And I found out this morning, actually. Coach called me and told me I could play.”
Coach, personally, what has it been like just kind of wondering every 24 hours - is Coach Wade going to be retained, is he going to be fired? What’s that been like for you, personally?
“Jacques, good question; I just concentrate on the kids. That’s what it gets down to - their experience. I have talked to coach. But it’s about these kids. They’ve been through a lot this year with losing their brother. I’ve spoken about that, losing Wayde. And now, going through what they’re going through now, they’ve had to grow up really fast. They’ve had a lot of tremendous success this year. They’ve been a family, so to speak. These guys, I’m just going to continue to keep the focus on these guys,” Benford explained.
“It’s definitely been different,” said guard Marlon Taylor. “We play a different type of style. It’s obvious that we need him out there. We miss him.”
Skylar, what do you think this team needs moving forward to the NCAA tournament?
“We have a chance to win it,” said guard Skylar Mays. “We don’t have much going in but we’ve got the talent. We’ve got a very tight group. We’ve got a chance to do special things.”
“Great basketball,” added guard Tremont Waters. “We just have to stick together and know how to play through adversity like we’ve been all year.”
LSU shot nearly 48 percent from the field to Florida’s 46.4 percent, but the Gators were almost 60 percent from the floor in the second half.
Florida was 16-of-26 from the charity stripe, while LSU didn’t even attempt a free throw in the first half. The Tigers ended up only 7-of-11 from the stripe.
LSU committed a total of 24 fouls in the game.
The Gators will next face No. 5 Auburn.