GAINESVILLE — In his continuing effort to find creative ways to teach his team, Florida coach Billy Donovan decided last week to put his players through a game-simulated practice prior to Saturday's game against LSU.
The Gators practiced, took about 8-10 minutes midway through to watch film on LSU, then returned to finish. The objective was to make sure the Gators understood the importance of withstanding opponents' second-half runs.
"Our last practice, we did like a two-session practice where we went in and watched film, and played it like it was halftime," freshman guard Kenny Boynton said. "The main focus of that was to come out after halftime strong, and that's what we tried to do tonight."
The changeup translated well into the real world.
Having allowed LSU to pull within seven to end the first half, the Gators opened the second with a 15-2 run in the first 5:22 to put the game out of reach, earning a 72-58 win over the Tigers at the O'Connell Center.
The Gators (12-5, 1-2 SEC) avoided going 0-3 in conference play for the first time since 1982.
"There was no talk about (the possibility of going 0-3), but we knew," junior forward Alex Tyus said. "We came out and got the win, and now we're a little bit more relaxed and we can keep getting better. That was one of the most balanced games we've played all year. And for the first time we came out in the second half and didn't really have a letdown."
Florida led by as many as 15 in the first half, but the Tigers (9-8, 0-3) rallied late to pull within 37-30 at halftime, just missing on a late jumper that could have made it a five-point deficit. Senior forward Tasmin Mitchell scored eight of LSU's nine points in the final 5:34 of the half.
The Tigers seemed poised to start the second half with some momentum, but things never materialized that way. In the midst of Florida's 23-6 run, forward Chandler Parsons scored six consecutive points.
Parsons, who got his first start of the season because Dan Werner was suffering from the flu most of the week, finished with 11 points (3-of-6 from beyond the arc) and five rebounds.
LSU's Storm Warren scored a basket with 18:51 left, then the Tigers went scoreless for the next 4:29. Mitchell, who had 15 of his 17 points in the first half, scored his only second-half basket with 5:27 remaining. LSU struggled most of the night to find its shot and at times played with three freshmen on the floor.
"We are having a hard time, physically, coming back-to-back with maximum effort, which is what you expect with a young and inexperienced team," LSU coach Trent Johnson said.
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.