Florida opened their home conference slate Saturday against LSU with a thrilling back-and-forth battle before eventually defeating the Tigers 83-79.
The first half was very even as neither team lead by more than five points. The Tigers started fast, making their first three attempts from beyond the arc. The Gators, however, who came into this game shooting 38.9% from three on the young season, struggled early from beyond the arc, making only two of the first 10 attempts before ending the first half with an Anthony Duruji buzzer-beater that tied the game at 40 as each team went to the locker room.
The second half, for the second straight game, was the Colin Castleton show for Florida. After being forced to sit for a majority of the opening half due to a pair of early fouls, he responded by scoring the Gators first 15 second-half points on his way to a 21-point performance, all but two of which coming in the final 20 minutes. In two SEC games, Castleton has 44 points on just 23 shots. He grabbed six rebounds on top of the scoring flurry. He lead the Gators out to leads as large as 11 in the second half, but the Tigers fought back in the final minutes to bring the game as close as two points before Florida free throws iced the game.
Castelon wasn’t the only one stuffing the stat sheet for the Gators on Saturday. A quartet of Gators reached double-digit points for the game, the fourth game of the young season that many players have reached that mark. Mann finished with 19 points and five rebounds and was one of the bright spots from long range, shooting 3-6 beyond the line. Duruji followed up his strong first half against Vanderbilt with 16 points and seven rebounds, including six on the offensive end. Scottie Lewis put the finishing touches on the game, making five of six free throws in the final two minutes on the way to finishing with 17 points, five rebounds and a pair of steals and blocks each.
LSU did some scoring of their own. Freshman sensation Cameron Thomas, who led the SEC in scoring (24.1 ppg) entering the game, continued his impressive pace with 28 points and seemed to be willing to pull up from anywhere on the offensive side of the court, making quite a few deep and contested threes. Trendon Watford and Ja’Vonte Smart also shined with 21 and 20 points, respectively, but no other Tigers scored more than four points.
The Gators, now 5-1 for the year and 2-0 in conference play, will take the court next on Tuesday against the Alabama Crimson Tide.