GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)Keyontae Johnson had a career-high 25 points to go along with 11 rebounds – his fourth double-double in Florida’s last six games – and the Gators handled LSU from start to finish in a 81-66 victory Wednesday night.
Freshman Scottie Lewis also enjoyed a career night for Florida, finishing with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
The Gators (18-10, 10-5 Southeastern Conference) won for the fourth time in five games, bolstering their NCAA Tournament resume with less than three weeks remaining before Selection Sunday. Florida now has six wins against teams in the top 50 of the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings, the primary method used to select and seed the 68-team field.
This one was as impressive as any of the others as Florida handed LSU (19-9, 10-5) its worst loss of the season. The Tigers have dropped four of their last five on the road.
Andrew Nembhard chipped in 17 points for Florida, which shot 55% from the field and hit 9 of 21 from 3-point range.
Emmitt Williams led the Tigers with 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting. Trendon Watford added 13.
LSU’s leading scorer, Skylar Mays, had his worst game of the season. The senior guard finished with three points on 1-of-6 shooting. There was one stretch in the first half in which he clanked a dunk, missed a wide-open 3-pointer from the corner and then whiffed on a layup.
Johnson, meanwhile, dominated from the opening tip.
Florida jumped out to an early lead, hitting its first six shots and building a 12-point lead. Tigers coach Will Wade called timeout to help his team regroup, and it seemed to work.
But nothing Wade did – changing defenses and defenders – could stop Johnson. The sophomore made his first eight shots and finished the first half with 17 points. He added a 3-pointer on the opening drive after intermission.
Johnson’s opening 20 minutes included several driving layups, a steal and a score, a dunk and a three-point play the old-fashioned way. Coach Mike White challenged Johnson this week to play with more confidence.
Johnson accepted and showed he’s capable of playing at this level on a consistent basis.
LSU: This was a rare lopsided loss for the Tigers, who trailed by as many as 19 points midway through the second half. Of LSU’s nine losses this season, five have been by three points or less.
Florida: Johnson notched his seventh double-double of the season, second on the team to Kerry Blackshear Jr.’s eight. They are the first Florida teammates with at least seven double-doubles in the same season since Joakim Noah and Al Horford in 2006-07.
LSU: Hosts Texas A&M on Saturday. The Tigers have won five in a row in the series, including a 89-85 victory in overtime in mid-January.
Florida: Plays at Tennessee on Saturday. The Gators have dropped three straight and four of the last five in the series.
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