LSU, Ben Simmons outlast Florida despite lackluster finish to end skid

LSU came into its game against Florida losers of three straight, looking listless and effortless at times. Many had opined as to whether or not the Tigers had simply decided the season was over, and whether or not there was anything lift to play for.

Then they came out at home and dominated the first 32 minutes of the game on Saturday. Johnny Jones’ group led by 11 at halftime, by 18 with a little over 13 minutes left, by 14 with a little bit over seven minutes left, and by 11 with under two minutes left. It looked like they were making a statement to the committee along the lines of “hey, don’t forget about us, we still might be able to make a run.”

But lo and behold, this group is apparently just not capable of a complete performance, and in the last two minutes the Tigers reminded us about what has made them so insufferably inconsistent this season.

LSU did end up defeating Florida 96-91, and Ben Simmons did give a typically spectacular performance in scoring 22 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out five assists. Also, Antonio Blakeney continued his stellar run of play over the course of the last month, pouring in 32 points including some critical free throws late.

But the win came after a series of events so incomprehensible that they would almost be funny if they weren’t so infuriating. Simply put, the Tigers showed yet again that despite having one of the 15 or so most talented rosters in college basketball — as we saw in the first portion of this game — there just isn’t anything there in the way of reliability.

The final seven minutes of this game had a deluge of missed defensive rotations leading to 3-pointers, stagnant offense with no urgency, and mystifying substitution patterns from Jones leading to missed free throws. Tim Quarterman missed 4-of-8 free throws in the final two minutes, which isn’t all that surprising given that he’s a 64 percent shooter from the stripe. Jalyn Patterson — a 67 percent shooter — missed a pair. It was about as ugly a sequence of basketball as you can possibly imagine in the closing portion of this game. Without Blakeney hitting free throws and making plays down the stretch, the Tigers probably lose. If Florida was a better offensive team, the Tigers probably lose.

This was a win that should have announced the Tigers presence as a team that could potentially make a run toward a tournament bid. Instead, it was one that made us remember how they got into their position in the first place.

Ultimately, a win is a win in the eyes of the committee, but going forward it’s hard to feel like this team is taking steps in the right direction toward fixing the issues that have plagued it all season.

Johnny Jones and LSU almost gave away yet another game this season. (USATSI)
Johnny Jones and LSU almost gave away yet another game this season. (USATSI)

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