LSU basketball notebook: Tigers can’t match 2005-06 squad’s hot start, which led to the Final Four _lowres

LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) defends as Florida guard KeVaughn Allen (4) looks to shoot during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun via AP)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The LSU men’s basketball team had a chance for its first 3-0 start in Southeastern Conference play in a decade when it faced Florida on Saturday afternoon.

But after beating Vanderbilt on the road and thrashing No. 9 Kentucky on Tuesday to start 2-0 in the league for the first time under fourth-year coach Johnny Jones, the Tigers came up short Saturday and fell 68-62.

The 2006 team coached by John Brady, which started 3-0 with wins at Arkansas and Mississippi State sandwiched around a victory at home over Tennessee, won its next four as well. The Tigers won the league and advanced to the Final Four.

Recipe for a loss

Jones’ team went into the game leading the SEC in field-goal percentage at 47.8 percent, while Florida was last in the 14-team league at 41.6 percent.

The roles were reversed when Florida barely out-shot LSU.

The Gators were still below their season average in shooting 38.1 percent, making 24-of-63 field-goal attempts, but LSU was well off the mark, connecting on just 35.7 percent from the field in going 20-of-56.

It was LSU’s second-worst shooting game this season; it hit 31.1 percent in a 70-58 loss at the College of Charleston on Nov. 30. It didn’t help that LSU committed 17 turnovers to Florida’s six.

Bad times in Gainesville

LSU’s opportunity to win a second consecutive game in the O’Connell Center for the first time in nearly a quarter century also went by the wayside.

After blowing out the Gators 79-61 on Jan. 20, 2015, the Tigers could never get over the hump Saturday.

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The last time LSU won two games in a row in the Gators’ backyard was in 1991 and ’92 — Shaquille O’Neal’s final two seasons with the Tigers. Since then, LSU was only 4-7 in Gainesville.

Recognizing Hawthorne

LSU play-by-play announcer Jim Hawthorne, who is retiring at the end of the season, was honored before tipoff.

Florida play-by-play man Mick Hubert brought Hawthorne to midcourt and presented his counterpart with a framed picture of an alligator lurking with its head just above the water.

The inscription read, “From The Bayou to The Swamp and beyond. Congratulations on a storied career.”

Hubert told Hawthorne, who has been behind the microphone for 3½ decades, that Hawthorne is the last announcer still working to call a game from “Alligator Alley,” the Gators’ cramped gym that closed in 1980.

No lineup changes

After using five different starting lineups in a row earlier in the season, Jones sent out a unit of Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Antonio Blakeney, Craig Victor and Ben Simmons for the sixth consecutive time.

That group was 4-1 going into the game.

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.