GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Justin Hamilton exploded for 18 of his career-high 27 points during the second half, but the LSU's men's basketball team fell 76-64 on the road to No. 14 Florida Saturday at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.
LSU (12-7, 2-3 SEC) dropped its third straight decision to Florida (15-4, 3-1 SEC). In the process, the Gators also won their 16th straight home game.
For Hamilton, he eclipsed the 20-point plateau for the fourth time in his last six outings. He buried 13 of his 22 shots and became the first LSU player to pour in more than 25 points since Bo Spencer at Auburn during the 2009-10 campaign. The Alpine, Utah native also hauled in a team-best eight rebounds.
Anthony Hickey tallied 10 points, three rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes before fouling out. Ralston Turner and Eddie Ludwig chipped in eight and seven points, respectively. The seven points for Ludwig was his highest effort since the Grambling game on December 29.
The Gators went 27-of-48 en route to a crisp 56.3 shooting clip and had five players garner double figures highlighted by Erik Murphy's 15 points on 6-of-7 from the floor. Erving Walker added 12 points and three assists. The trio of Bradley Beal, Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario banged in 11 points apiece.
LSU came out clicking on all cylinders in the game's opening moments and knocked down three of its first four attempts. The Tigers raced ahead 8-2 at the 17:47 mark of the first half behind a pair of three-pointers from Hickey and Stringer sandwiched between a Warren dunk.
Florida fired back with eight of the next 10 points over the next 3:08 to knot the score at 10-10. The spurt was capped by three consecutive Patric Young jumpers.
Ahead 20-16 with 8:48 remaining, the Gators took advantage of LSU being in foul trouble. The Tigers played the reminder of the opening half without starters Hickey, Turner and Warren. The trio each picked up two fouls.
Florida stretched its lead to 38-26 at intermission and converted on 14-of-22 from the field. The Gators used a balanced attack as five different players collected six or more points paced by Beal's nine.
UF pulled out to its largest lead, 48-32 with 13:38 left, after Rosario canned consecutive triples from the right baseline and the top of the key.
LSU chipped away at the deficit and fought back to within 58-50 at the 7:45 mark. The Tigers broke down the Florida full court pressure as Hickey found Ludwig on a 75-foot pass for a three-point play, Hamilton powered home a dunk and Hickey buried a transition three-ball from the right wing.
LSU kept the contest in single digits until the final 72 seconds of regulation. A Boynton jumper and a Walker free throw closed out the 76-64 Florida victory.
Up next for the Tigers is a Wednesday trip to face No. 15 Mississippi State. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m., and the game will be televised by the SEC Network along with ESPN3.com
The LSU Sports Radio Network also will broadcast the game on 100.7 FM (The Tiger) in the Baton Rouge area. Jim Hawthorne, Kevin Ford and Ricky Blanton will call the action.