Hamilton's big night doesn't save LSU at Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Justin Hamilton scored inside and out, making layups, dunks and even his first 3-pointer of the season.
It wasn't enough against No. 17 Florida. Not even close.
Hamilton scored a career-high 27 points to go along with eight rebounds, but the Gators beat LSU 76-64 Saturday night.
"We know he's a great player. We expected him to have a good game," Florida's Erving Walker said. "We battled and made him work for his points."
The 7-footer made 13 of 22 shots, nearly as many as the rest of his team.
LSU (12-7, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) shot 44.4 percent from the field, but Hamilton's teammates made just 15 of 41 shots.
"It was one guy that had a great night and we did a pretty good job with the rest of their team," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.
LSU had trouble dealing with Florida's balanced scoring.
Erik Murphy scored 15 points, one of five players in double figures, and the Gators extended their home winning streak to 16. Walker added 12 points, and Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal and Mike Rosario chipped in 11 apiece for Florida, which made 7 of 21 shots from behind the arc.
No worries, though. The Gators (15-4, 3-1) shot 74 percent (20 of 27) from inside the 3-point line.
"I think we're getting better at understanding how to play with each other," Donovan said.
Hamilton helped LSU trim the lead to 68-60 with 3 minutes remaining, but the Gators pulled away down the stretch. Walker hit a 3 with 2:27 remaining — his first of the game — to make it 73-60.
Florida shot 64 percent in the first half and used a 15-4 run to build a big lead. The Gators essentially put the game away with a flurry of 3-pointers just after the break.
Rosario, Murphy and Scottie Wilbekin hit shots from behind the arc in a 3-minute span that pushed Florida's lead to 53-38. LSU trimmed it under double digits several times, but couldn't get enough defensive stops to pull within striking distance.
"We made runs," Hamilton said. "We just needed to make the extra effort to keep it going. We kept on getting within eight and we just couldn't break that barrier."
Anthony Hickey was the only other LSU player in double figures with 10 points.
"We competed and we had some shots that didn't go down for us in the second half," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "We have to tip a hat to them. They're explosive, they're skilled and the guy who's running the show is probably one of the best coaches in the country."
Florida, which didn't have a midweek game, was cold at the start. The Gators missed their first four 3-point attempts, but seemingly scored at will in the paint. They finished the first half with 20 points in the paint and led 38-26.
The Gators pressed early and often, forcing LSU into 10 turnovers in the first 15 minutes. The Tigers settled down after halftime, but it was too little, too late.
"The intensity of their defense, especially their full-court pressure, made it hard for to get in a rhythm on offense," Hickey said. "The crowd also made it hard for us to come back.
"From this game, we learned we have to match the intensity and energy of the opposing team to have a chance of winning at the end."