NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The LSU Tigers knew that having a chance to upset No. 13 Florida would mean playing their best. The Gators made sure they came nowhere close to that.
Charles Carmouche scored only two of his 14 points in the second half, and the LSU Tigers couldn't effectively shoot or rebound Friday in losing to Florida 80-58 in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
"Unfortunately for us, I didn't think that we were hitting on all cylinders today, weren't as effective and didn't execute at the level that we needed to have an opportunity to compete," LSU coach Johnny Jones said.
The ninth-seeded Tigers (19-12) led only twice, the last at 5-4. Florida dominated on the boards with a 47-27 edge, and the Tigers shot only 33.3 percent (18 of 54) compared to the Gators, who hit as many 3-pointers (11 of 20) as they did free throws (11 of 22).
"They came out and played from the beginning to the end, and you got to give them credit," Carmouche said. "They just played their best basketball today and playing a team like this, we can't have any setbacks."
Now the Tigers hope to hear from the National Invitational Tournament after rebounding from an 0-4 start to the SEC schedule by winning 10 of their last 15 before running into Florida again.
"It's something we hope for and something we'll be looking at," Jones said. "We'll be excited by the opportunity should it present itself."
Erik Murphy scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed a career-best 12 rebounds helping the Gators take the first step toward trying to add a Southeastern Conference tournament title to their regular season championship. Murphy hurt the Tigers both inside and out as he hit 11 of 15 shots, including five 3-pointers that matched his career high in that category.
"Shots were falling today, so it always feels good," Murphy said.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive presented Florida coach Billy Donovan with the regular season trophy before tipoff. Then the Gators (25-6) started working toward their first tournament title since 2007 when they wrapped up a three-peat.
Scottie Wilbekin added 16 points, matching his career-best with four 3-pointers. Michael Frazier II had 11 and Patric Young 10 for Florida.
The Tigers looked a step slow with too many shots just short a day after beating Georgia to advance.
"Florida did exactly what they needed to do and the type of team that they are, I think you have to be at your best," Jones said. "And we weren't there today."
The Gators missed their last 11 shots in losing at Kentucky to wrap up the regular season for their third straight road loss in SEC play. It's why Donovan put them through some challenging practices before the tournament, and they are healthy enough that he wound up playing 11 of his 12 Gators at least four minutes in the rout.
"Overall, I was pleased with the way our team played really from start to finish," Donovan said. "I thought it was a very good game by them."
Florida led 43-28 at halftime and pushed that lead to as much as 35 when Murphy scored seven straight points, the last with 8:41 left for a 73-38 lead.
Murphy got Florida going as he scored in the opening minute, and the Gators hit five of their first eight shots. They did just about everything they wanted whether it was driving to the basket or hitting from outside. Even when they did miss, they usually got the rebound for second and third chances.
Mike Rosario answered with a layup with 18:02 to go putting the Gators ahead to stay at 6-5. Murphy followed with his own layup and then a 3-pointer. The Tigers stayed close with Carmouche hitting his first three shots all behind the arc, the third coming midway through the half to pull LSU within 18-17.
Wilbekin hit a jumper, then stole the ball feeding Frazier for a bucket. Wilbekin then capped a 9-0 spurt with a 3 pushing Florida's lead to double digits. With Johnny O'Bryant III going 1 of 5 in the half, the Tigers struggled to score inside and settled for too many jumpers. O'Bryant finished with eight points.
The final seconds summed up the first half. The Tigers dribbled looking for a final shot that Hickey bounced off the rim, then Frazier beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer giving the Gators a 43-28 lead.
"A big boost for them going into halftime," Carmouche said.
In the second half, the Gators even worked out the final kink in their game hitting their first four free throws as the nation's top team in scoring margin just kept pushing the lead bigger. LSU managed a quick late flurry whittling down the final score but never got closer than 22 in the final minute.