GAINESVILLE, Fla. — LSU lost its shooting touch at the worst possible times Wednesday night.
After hitting 52.7 percent of its field-goal attempts in a 94-86 win against Arkansas on Saturday, Will Wade’s team was back at it in the first half of its Southeastern Conference matchup against the Florida Gators.
The only problem is the Tigers couldn’t sustain it.
LSU connected on 12 of 24 shots in the first half against Florida, but went cold in the first five minutes of the second half and in the final five minutes of the game.
The Gators, who came in with three losses in their past four games, took advantage both times for a much-needed 73-64 win over the Tigers and snap their two-game losing streak in Exactech Arena.
After holding a 33-31 lead at halftime, LSU (13-10, 4-7 SEC) started the second half just 1 of 8 from the floor with two turnovers. That helped Florida (16-8, 7-4) mount a 17-3 run that nearly did the Tigers in.
“I thought our guys played extremely hard,” Wade said.”That’s as hard as we’ve played in a long time. … We just didn’t play very smart.”
Later, when LSU fought back from a 12-point deficit and regained a one-point lead twice with less than seven minutes to play, the Tigers relapsed and couldn’t make anything at the most critical time in the game.
They had just one basket in the final 5:44, going 1 of 9 in that stretch while the Gators took over and sealed the deal with a 13-3 run.
“We just didn’t execute and make plays when we needed to,” Wade said. “At the beginning of the second half, it got away from us and then late in the game there.
“But I was proud of our guys. We fought back from down 12 and took the lead twice. We just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch.”
It all started to unravel when guard Daryl Edwards was called for a charge with LSU down one at 62-61 with 5:01 to play. From that point on, the Tigers’ only field goal came on a 3-pointer by Tremont Waters with 3:48 left to trim the Gators’ seven-point lead to four.
From there, KeVaughn Allen hit a basket with 2:43 left and Jalen Hudson’s three-point play with 75 seconds remaining finished off LSU, which will try to bounce back when it returns home to face Ole Miss at 3 p.m. Saturday.
LSU wound up shooting just 40 percent (12 of 30) in the second half and 44.4 percent for the game. Florida, which was shooting below 40 percent in back-to-back losses to Georgia and Alabama, hit 51.9 percent.
Brandon Sampson came off the bench to lead LSU with 17 points, while Edwards, who helped lead the second-half comeback after the Tigers trailed by a dozen points with 15:15 left, had nine.
Waters also had nine points and six assists, but he was just 3 of 15 from the floor and committed seven of LSU’s 16 turnovers after a 27-point, 11-assist game against Arkansas.
“I think he forced some things and tried to make some things happen that were not there,” Wade said. “He wasn’t himself tonight.”
“I don’t think it was a lack of anything (in the second half),” said Sampson, who was 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. “We made a lot of aggressive mistakes with some of our passes. They’re a handsy team and they got their hands on some passes.”
Florida was led by Hudson, who had game-high totals of 18 points and nine rebounds. Hudson was quiet early on, but he erupted for 13 points and six rebounds in the second half.
“Hudson made some plays when we took the lead and then we just missed some open shots,” Wade said. “Their guys made some big-time plays at home.”
The Gators also got 15 points from Keith Stone, with 11 coming in the first half, while Egor Koulechov finished with 12 points — 10 after halftime.
LSU did a solid job defensively on point guard Chris Chiozza, limiting him to just five shots. He made one and finished with three points, but was a big factor with six assists and added three steals on the defensive end.
Wade credited Edwards with doing a solid defensive effort on Chiozza, who went in averaging 12.3 points a game. But he had some help.
“They came out and made some 3-point shots at the start of the second half,” Edwards said. “They had three of them before the first media timeout. That gave them a lot of momentum from there.”