GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After giving away a game it absolutely should have won on its home floor Saturday, the LSU basketball team took a big one Tuesday night.
Still stinging from a three-point loss to Texas A&M, when it blew an 11-point lead with less than 10 minutes remaining, LSU put together a strong performance in a 79-61 thrashing of Florida in — of all places — the O’Connell Center.
After building a double-digit lead with 10:42 to play, when, coincidentally, they held an 11-point advantage at 58-47, LSU made it stand up this time and emphatically ended Florida’s 20-game Southeastern Conference homecourt winning streak.
Florida (10-8, 3-2 SEC) hadn’t lost a league game in the raucous O’Connell Center since March 4, 2012, when Kentucky came in and took a 74-59 victory on its way to winning the national title in New Orleans.
The streak hardly mattered to LSU (14-4, 3-2) when the Tigers did what they couldn’t do in their 67-64 loss to A&M on Saturday, as well as in a loss at Missouri earlier this month — hold on to a nice lead down the stretch.
“That (A&M) loss was so disappointing to us,” LSU guard Keith Hornsby said. “Actually, it was in all of our minds tonight when we had the lead and huddled up. We blew an 11-point lead Saturday, so we were like, ‘There’s literally no way we’re going to let this happen again and feel the pain we felt with A&M.’ ”
Fueled by a short 5-0 run at the end of the first half, when forward Jarell Martin hit a pair of free throws and Hornsby drained a 3-point shot, they took a 37-32 halftime lead and continued adding to it in the second half.
Then, after Florida pulled to within three points twice, LSU blew the game wide open on a 3-point basket by guard Jalyn Patterson — giving them the 11-point margin — and they never trailed by fewer than 10 points the rest of the way.
It was the second SEC win on the road in seven nights for LSU, which defeated Ole Miss 75-71 last Wednesday night. The Tigers, who had not won at Florida since 2008, snapped a six-game losing streak against the Gators, who suffered their worst home loss since a 93-75 setback to Ohio State in 2010.
“I thought we took care of the basketball and we were able to finish plays by throwing extra passes,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “Late in the game, we caused their defense to have to shift and we got in the gaps and our guys were able to finish at the rim.”
Indeed, LSU had a big night from the field.
The Tigers, who shot 29.4 percent from the floor in the second half of the loss to Texas A&M, shot 50 percent in the first half, 54.2 percent in the second half and 51.9 percent for the game.
LSU made just 1 of 13 field-goal attempts from beyond the 3-point arc Saturday, was 8-of-13 from long range against Florida. Hornsby was 3-of-6 and Patterson was 2-of-3 on 3-pointers.
In the loss to Texas A&M, the Tigers launched too many quick shots. But they had 11 assists on 14 baskets in the first half Tuesday night and finished with 17 assists on 27 baskets.
“We were real patient and didn’t try to force shots tonight,” said Martin, who had 22 points and eight rebounds. “We didn’t commit bad turnovers. We got the ball across halfcourt, and we were being patient in our offense.”
Hornsby and Tim Quarterman added 15 points each, while Jordan Mickey had 14 points and 14 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season. Quarterman knocked down 5 of 7 shots from the field.
“When I came down, I just tried to slow down the pace and get good shots,” Quarterman said. “We wanted to run the offense, just get into it, and we wound up making good plays and helping each other on defense.”
Florida got 10 points each from Alex Murphy and Dorian Finney-Smith and little else as the Gators scored just 17 points in the first 12:48 of the second half en route to their second consecutive loss in conference play.
Georgia handed Florida a 73-61 loss in Athens, Georgia, on Saturday to end the Gators’ 24-game winning streak against conference foes.
“We knew it was going to take a tough effort here for us to have an opportunity to get a victory, and I’m really pleased with our team and the way it performed,” Jones said. “They bounced back from the game the other night and they responded well like they have all year long.”
Mickey added: “Tonight, we stayed with what was working for us. We got to the goal and we took open 3s. We were able to take it to the rack, and that’s big because that’s the way we’re going to have to win games.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.