Sensing it was going to be a festive Friday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, the third-ranked LSU gymnastics team broke out new black leotards with Mardi Gras colors splashed across the front and back.
The Tigers were right, it was an electric night from start to finish.
Taking on No. 2 Florida, which shared the NCAA title with Oklahoma last spring, third-ranked LSU put on a big show for the largest home crowd in program history in taking a 197.950 -197.425 win.
With 12,217 fans wildly cheering the Tigers’ every move, LSU (9-1, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) was consistent through the first three rotations in grabbing a 148.375-148.200 lead over Florida (5-2, 4-2 SEC) en route to its second-highest total this season.
The Tigers scored a 49.425 on vault before throwing up a 49.500 on bars. Then, LSU virtually put it away with a 49.450 on balance beam and capped it with a 49.575 on floor exercise, while Florida was struggling on its final two rotations — finishing with a 49.225 on beam and 49.325 on floor.
“This was what we wanted,” a jubilant LSU coach D-D Breaux said. “We wanted it to be tight going to the floor. I felt like there were two good teams here tonight and Florida had ‘national champions’ behind its name.
“I just wanted it to be a tie or very close going into that last rotation, and it was,” she added. “That’s how it’s supposed to come out at home. I think we had only one big deduction tonight.”
The beam was the turning point for LSU, which followed the script for the most part, after the Tigers held a slim 98.925-98.875 advantage at the halfway point of the meet.
After freshman Myia Hambrick scored a 9.70 with a deduction for a wobble midway through her routine, the next four competitors picked up the slack to help create a little separation between the teams.
Freshman Erin Macadaeg followed Hambrick and came up with a clutch score of 9.90. Ashleigh Gnat had a 9.875, leaving All-Americans Rheagan Courville and Jessie Jordan to put up scores of 9.90 and 9.925, respectively.
“The scoring tonight was pretty right on, Myia had the wobble and took the deduction,” said Breaux, whose team leads the nation on beam. “After that, the pivotal routine was by Erin Macadaeg. She turned the corner and didn’t follow what was in front of her, and did a great job.”
Courville said she was proud of what Macadaeg and Gnat, a sophomore, did in keeping it together after Hambrick’s slight miscue. Her 9.70 was thrown out as the lowest of the team’s six scores.
“All that matters is that each of us did what we needed to do in our lineup,” said Courville, who won the all-around title with a 39.625 and bars title with a 9.950. “Erin and Bugs (Gnat) really came through.”
Jordan won the beam title with her 9.925.
“As gymnasts, you have to be there for your team,” she said. “If there’s a mistake, everybody else has to rally and do well in that event.”
In the final rotation, LSU thrilled the large crowd — which shattered the all-time attendance record of 8,574 that showed up for a dual meet with Alabama on March 8, 2013 — with five scores of 9.875 or better on floor exercise.
All-American Lloimincia Hall finished it with a 9.975 for her 28th floor title, breaking a tie with April Burkholder and Ashleigh Clare-Kearney, while Gnat had a 9.925. Jordan and Jessica Savona threw up 9.90s and Courville had a 9.875.
LSU also posted the top three all-around scores.
With her 39.625, Courville is now tied for the most all-around titles with Burkholder with 25, while Jordan and Gnat finished second and third with scores of 39.575 and 39.550, respectively.
It didn’t hurt that the LSU athletes found out after Thursday’s practice that they were going to be wearing the shiny new black uniforms with purple, green and gold trim just three days after Mardi Gras.
“There was a huge buzz in the gym about the leotards,” a smiling Jordan said. “We couldn’t go to Mardi Gras because we’re in training, so we have a meet and celebrate it while doing gymnastics. That’s incredibly cool.”
Beating the No. 2 team in the nation is also cool. Breaux said it ranked third on her list of significant wins in her 38-year career -- right behind making the Super Six for the first time and finishing third in the nation a year ago.
“This (the crowd) is an amazing lifetime achievement,” Breaux said. “This is why I get up every day and come to work every day and stay enthusiastic about this program. Thank you, Baton Rouge … thank you, LSU.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.