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Gators surge past Tigers

Anthony Hickey provided 12 of his team-leading 15 points during the second half, but the LSU basketball team was handed a 74-52 defeat by No. 11 Florida Saturday at the Maravich Center.

Anthony Hickey led LSU in scoring

In the process, the Tigers (9-4, 0-2 SEC) lost their fourth consecutive decision to Florida (12-2, 2-0 SEC). It also marked the first time that LSU has started SEC play with two defeats since the 2009-10 season. The 52 points on 21 field goals made were both season lows for the Tigers.

“I think we played not only one of the best basketball teams in our conference, but one of the best teams in the country today,” LSU head coach Johnny Jones said. “I think Florida is a very talented basketball team. They were only a few plays away last year from making it to the Final Four. With a number of players that they have back, they showed their experience throughout the game tonight.”

Hickey canned 6-of-12 from the floor sparked by a trio of three-pointers. He also added four assists, four steals and three rebounds. The Hopkinsville, Kent., native has reached double figures in his last five outings going back to the UC Irvine game on December 18.

After being limited to a season's low four points at Auburn, Shavon Coleman bounced back in a big way and notched 11 points to go along with five rebounds.

Andrew Del Piero logged a career-best 33 minutes. He tacked on seven points and five rebounds, one shy of a career-high. Malik Morgan and Andre Stringer chipped in six points each, while Morgan also secured five rebounds and three steals.

“We really want to commend our guys,” said Jones. “I thought they gave a tremendous effort. They played every second of every play and expended a lot of energy. We had some guys down today, and some guys that were not 100 percent. I thought the guys that were out there gave us everything they had against a very talented team.”

Florida was paced by Kenny Boynton's 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting. It marked the fifth time that Boynton has eclipsed the 20-point plateau on the season. The Gators also received double figures from Patrick Young (14), Erik Murphy (12) and Will Yeguete (10). Yeguete also matched a season's best 13 rebounds to claim his second double-double of the season.

After falling behind 4-0 in the game's opening minutes, LSU grabbed its first lead at 8-6 on a Hickey triple with 15:52 remaining. The Gators switched to a 2-3 zone defense en route to nine of the next 11 points to regain momentum and grab a 15-10 advantage.

LSU fought back behind a Morgan three-ball from the left baseline followed by a Del Piero lay-up in transition to knot the score at 15-15 at the 8:14 mark. With the score all square at 19-19, Florida turned back up the defensive intensity and held the Tigers without a field goal over the final 5:38 of the opening half.

Conversely, the Gators scored eight of their next 10 points in the paint coupled with a Scottie Wilbekin jumper as time expired to come away with a 29-20 lead going into the locker room.

LSU was only able to muster two field goals in the opening 7:31 of the second half. During that time, Florida capped its 31-6 spurt led by eight points from Boynton and five points from Murphy, respectively, to take their largest lead at 50-25.

"Because of their length, we had a tough time getting them off the boards on the defensive end,” said Del Piero. “ So, they got a lot of offensive rebounds and second chances. Florida out rebounded us by close to 20. That really hurt us."

The Tigers turned to full court pressure and ripped off a 14-3 run to pull back to as close as 50-37 with 9:53 left. Hickey buried a three-ball and added a pair of lay-ups from steals to spark the run.

Murphy ended the LSU momentum with a triple of his own from the top of the key. The Gators fired back with 11 of the next 13 points over the next three-plus minutes capped by a Yeguete lay-up to go up 61-39 at the 6:06 mark.

LSU returns to action Wednesday versus South Carolina. Tip time is slated for 7 p.m. inside the Maravich Center, and the game will be carried online via ESPN3.com and the Watch ESPN APP.

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