The last home game for LSU seniors Akilah Bethel, Ann Jones and Anne Pedersen probably isn’t one they will want to press in the memory book of their college basketball careers.
The visiting Florida Gators played the role of unsentimental party crashers, never trailing for a second Thursday as they rolled to an 82-56 victory at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
LSU dropped to 9-19 and 3-12 in the Southeastern Conference. It’s the most losses ever for the Lady Tigers in SEC play, eclipsing the 1992-93 team which went 0-11.
Florida, which beat LSU 53-45 in Gainesville in January, improved to 21-7 and 9-6 in SEC play. It was LSU’s worst home loss against the Gators and second-worst all time against Florida, eclipsed only by an 88-46 defeat in 1995.
Coming off a historic 57-56 upset Sunday of then No. 24 Tennessee – the loss knocked the Lady Volunteers out of the national polls for the first time since 1985 – the Lady Tigers were unable to build on their season’s brightest highlight.
“We obviously wanted our seniors to go out on a better note at home,” LSU coach Nikki Fargas said. “Credit to Florida for executing their game plan.”
Perhaps all their emotion and concentration simmered off during the pregame ceremony to recognize LSU’s seniors.
Whatever the issue, forward Alexis Hyder felt her team didn’t have it mentally against Florida’s physical and fast-paced attack.
“Tonight Florida played their best basketball and we didn’t get close to our potential,” said Hyder, who led LSU with 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. “We had head cases. We didn’t have the chemistry like we usually do. They press well, but those were self-inflicted things.”
LSU committed a season-high 30 turnovers – two more even than they had in an 86-40 December loss at No. 1 Connecticut – that Florida recycled into 35 points. The Gators turned it over 18 times, but LSU managed just 10 points off of those.
“I didn’t do a good job taking care of the ball,” said point guard Rina Hill, who had 11 points and eight turnovers with just two assists. “I take responsibility for that.”
In their first meeting, Florida coach Amanda Butler said LSU took her team aback with its deliberate style, setting the tone of the game.
In this game, Florida made LSU play at its speed and the Lady Tigers couldn’t keep up.
“Scoring 82 points on them is quite a feat,” said Butler, whose team was the first to crack the 80-point mark on LSU since UConn. “It’s a great tribute to our balance and tempo. We had people step up in big ways. Forcing 30 turnovers is the best version of ourselves.”
Bethel finished her final LSU home game with 10 points and seven rebounds. Pedersen had seven points and Jones four, while Florida’s Cassie Peoples led all scorers with 22.
LSU got no points and only nine minutes out of reserve guard Jenna Deemer, who missed nine straight games with an undisclosed illness before playing the last three. Fargas said Deemer was again feeling unwell and spent part of the game in the locker room.
LSU wraps up the regular season Sunday at No. 2 South Carolina before heading to Jacksonville, Florida, for next week’s SEC tournament. Seedings, parings and game times will be decided after Sunday’s play.