LSU Florida Basketball

LSU forward Wayde Sims (44) goes in for a layup between Florida's Kevarrius Hayes, left, and Egor Koulechov during an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, in Gainesville, Fla. (Lauren Bacho/The Gainesville Sun via AP) ORG XMIT: FLGAI322

Lauren Bacho

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In the end Wednesday night, LSU’s nine-point loss to Florida didn’t seem like a nine-point loss.

To be sure, the Tigers didn’t feel good about letting a chance at a win slip through their fingers.

Being in position to win and not finishing the job doesn’t count for much in the Southeastern Conference standings, but at least they played hard in the eyes of Will Wade, their sometimes hard-to-please coach.

The problem, which is the same one LSU encountered earlier in the season, was an early second-half lapse that eventually spelled doom for the fourth consecutive time on the road.

Florida seized the opportunity to take control of the game, which the Gators eventually turned into a 73-64 win — but not before the Tigers, trailing by 12 at one point, made them squirm a little down the stretch.

Just as in previous league losses to Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia and Vanderbilt, it could have been a different outcome for Wade’s team.

Florida made LSU pay for a slow start in the second half and also in a rocky final five minutes to snap a three-game losing streak in conference play.

The Tigers were 1 of 8 from the field in the opening five minutes of the second half as the Gators embarked on a 17-3 run, then went 1 of 9 in a final five-minute stretch in which they were outscored 11-3.

Add it all up, and it was another frustrating second half for the Tigers.

In those 10 minutes of play, LSU hit only 2 of 17 shots for 11.8 percent.

In the other 30 minutes, the Tigers were 22 of 37 for 62.2 percent — which should be enough to win even on the road in the SEC.

“They came out and made some 3s in the second half,” LSU guard Daryl Edwards said. “The whole emphasis for us tonight was to guard the 3-point line. But they made three 3-pointers before the first media (timeout), and that’s unacceptable.”

Wade concurred.

“At the beginning of the second half, we got barraged from 3,” the coach said. “A couple of them were on offensive rebounds, which really hurt us because they got some momentum from the 3-ball.”

That wasn’t the only thing factor in Florida’s big run after LSU held a lead for the final 13 minutes, 40 seconds of the first half and held a two-point lead coming out of the locker room.

“They did the same stuff,” Wade said of Florida’s quick second-half outburst. “But we ran some poor offense, and that really contributed to our downfall.”

There were also issues late for the Tigers after they clawed back from a 12-point deficit with 15:15 to play and took a one-point lead twice — the second time with 5:45 remaining.

“I think we got a little bit antsy and took some quick shots after we got back in it,” said guard Brandon Sampson, who led the Tigers with 17 points. “They just executed and did what they had to do, and we didn’t.”

“We probably forced some stuff,” Wade said. “The difference in the first half was our 3s were going in. The pace was a little bit better, and we were able to set our defense.”

“There were also some things that we did that we weren’t real too sharp at,” Sampson said. “Those things ended up hurting us in the long run.”

Unlike their lopsided 25- and 23-point losses at Auburn and Tennessee, respectively, LSU had a chance late despite the two second-half lapses.

“We have some fiber to us,” Wade said of bouncing back to take a slim lead in a hostile environment. “We prepared well, and this was as hard as we’ve played in a while. We just didn’t make some plays when we needed to.”

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.