LSU 73

(17-4, 7-3 SEC)

(22) Florida 70

(14-7, 5-5 SEC)

    3:00 PM ET, February 14, 2004

    Stephen C. O'Connell Center, Gainesville, Florida

    1 2 T
    LSU 32 4173
    #22FLA 33 3770

    Tigers win sixth straight

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- LSU has the Southeastern Conference's respect. A road win over a ranked opponent should go a long way in making the rest of the country pay attention.

    Darrel Mitchell scored 18 points, including the tying basket and go-ahead free throws in the final 2 minutes, and the Tigers won their sixth straight game, a 73-70 victory over Florida (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) on Saturday.

    LSU (17-4, 7-3) trailed by eight points with 4:02 remaining, but closed the game on a 15-4 run.

    "I think we'll get a lot more recognition now that we have this win," Mitchell said.

    Said Tigers coach John Brady: "We have some nice wins, but winning at particular times in the season become more significant than others."

    Jaime Lloreda had 19 points and nine rebounds for LSU, ending his streak of double-doubles at five. He struggled after rolling his right ankle early in the first half and again midway through the second, and missed two free throws with 20 seconds left.

    "The second time really hurt, and I didn't think I was going to get back into the game," said Lloreda, who also has an injured left leg. "But as I sat on the bench, the pain kept getting less and less. So, the trainer just tightened up my shoes and I went back into the game."

    Anthony Roberson hit a 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds to go to bring the Gators (14-7, 5-5) within 72-70. After Lloreda made one free throw a second later, a play designed for Roberson broke down and Christian Drejer's 30-foot heave at the buzzer fell short.

    Florida, which missed six of its last seven shots, lost for the third time in four games.

    The Gators were No. 1 in The Associated Press' poll released Dec. 8, but could fall out when the new rankings are released Monday. That would end a school-record stretch of 94 consecutive weeks in the poll; only Duke's current run of 142 weeks is longer.

    Matt Walsh scored 24 points to lead Florida, while Roberson had 18 points, six rebounds and five assists.

    Gators coach Billy Donovan hung the loss on the defense, which allowed LSU to score on its final 12 possessions. The Tigers shot 51 percent overall, 59 percent in the second half.

    "I just can't get them to get a stop right now," Donovan said. "Whatever I'm doing teaching-wise or coaching-wise is not getting through to them.

    "Unless they decide to play defense, we are going to have trouble winning a game -- and I mean one win on the rest of our schedule."

    LSU trailed 66-58 after Walsh's season-high sixth 3-pointer, but scored the next 10 points. Mitchell's fast break layup with 1:56 remaining tied the game, and his free throws 24 seconds later gave the Tigers their first lead since 29-28.

    "We executed perfectly down the stretch, said Mitchell, who was 6-of-9 from the field and 2-of-3 from the line. "In order to win tough games on the road in an environment like this, you have to execute."

    Mitchell hit three 3-pointers and a jumper for 11 straight points as LSU took an 18-12 lead. Mitchell finished 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, making him 13-for-19 over his last three games.

    The Tigers briefly pushed the lead to nine points, but Florida steadied itself until Roberson could take control. His 3-pointer and fast break layup on consecutive possessions sparked a 12-0 run, and the Gators led 33-32 at halftime. Roberson also had three rebounds and a steal, all leading to Florida baskets.

    Walsh hit a 3-pointer on the second half's first possession, then followed with a bank shot off an inbounds pass and another 3. That put the Gators up 43-34 and capped a 22-5 burst.

    The Gators eventually took a 10-point lead, but Tack Minor's jumper with 9:47 to play started LSU's game-ending tear in which it made nine of 11 shots.

    "Florida needed to win, with its tough schedule the rest of the way out," Brady said. "We took their best shot and were able to win it."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    2003-04 Season

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