LSU forward Naz Reid didn’t shy away from the media after the Tigers’ 82-77 overtime loss to Florida on Wednesday.
He barely waited for the first question directed toward him, Kavell Bigby-Williams and Skylar Mays finish before he leaned toward the mic and gave his thoughts on the game.
“They simply wanted it more than us,” Reid said. “That was it.”
LSU (21-5, 11-2 Southeastern Conference) got off to a slow start, and Florida (15-11, 7-6) matched the Tigers haymaker for haymaker in the upset victory that saw nine lead changes and an extra period.
Florida opened the game on an 8-2 run in the first four minutes of the game, controlling the pace and getting easy buckets. The Gators’ first four field goals of the game consisted of two layups and two dunks.
“It was was not the level of desperation we needed,” Mays said. “They came out more desperate, and you could tell in the first few minutes of the game that it was going to be a street fight.”
LSU eventually stepped up on defense and started scoring at a higher rate, cutting the Gators’ lead to two points at the halftime break.
Darius Days, a native of Gainesville, Fla., only played six minutes in the half, but he made the most of them, shooting 3 of 4 for six points and grabbing a rebound.
He finished the game with 8 points in 11 minutes off the bench.
Reid once again came out after a slow first half and dominated the second half to help keep LSU in the game and once again put together a monster stat line of 16 points and 15 rebounds.
But LSU star point guard Tremont Waters was a virtual non-factor until overtime. He finished the game with 10 points, eight of which came in the overtime period.
“They took (Waters) away tonight,” said LSU coach Will Wade. “They did a great job taking him away. Their point guard (Andrew) Nembhard played very, very well.”
Florida shot 3 for 5 from the 3-point line in overtime , taking a 78-71 lead with 47 seconds left that proved too much for the Tigers to overcome and prompted fans to start filing out the PMAC.
Wade said he didn’t blame fans for leaving early, adding that he would have left at that point in the game if he had been able to as well.
“Our fans were great,” Wade said. “It’s embarrassing we lost two home games. We’re 7-0 in the SEC on the road, and we’ve lost two home games. I feel terrible for our fans, the hard-working people that work and spend their money to watch us play. It’s sickening to me. Absolutely sickening.”
Still, LSU had a chance to tie the game after cutting that lead back to 3 with 21 seconds left and forcing a turnover on the ensuing inbounds play after a timeout. Waters attempted a long 3 shortly after the steal, but it bounced off the front of the rim, and Florida grabbed the offensive rebound.
Florida guard Noah Locke hit two free throws to seal the game after that, handing LSU only its second loss in SEC play.
Wade also voiced his displeasure with the fact that Waters took that shot after getting an opportunity to change the game.
“We were supposed to drive it to the basket,” Wade said. “Then get back in our press and try to turn it over again.”
Kevaugh Allen led the Gators with 21 points thanks to 5 for 9 shooting from the 3-point line.
LSU uncharacteristically struggled at the free throw line, shooting 16 of 25 (64 percent) from the stripe.
Skylar Mays led LSU on the scoreboard with 18 points followed by Naz Reid with 16 points and 15 rebounds.
Wade said the Tigers will have to learn how to play against a team like Florida if it wants to avoid an early exit in the postseason. Luckily for LSU, they get another chance at the Gators on the road on Wednesday, March 6, in its penultimate game of the regular season.
“When our season ends, we’re going to lose to a team like them,” Wade said, referring to Florida. “This is the same type of team Missouri is. There’s a certain type of team that gives us a lot of problems. Whenever our season ends, wherever that is, it’s going to end just like this in the same way.
“We just don’t have some of that stuff we need to beat these teams. We’re either going to develop that over the next couple weeks, or that’s just how it’s going to end. It’s really that simple.”
Despite the loss, LSU still controls its own destiny. If the Tigers beat Tennessee on Saturday it will regain first place in the SEC and give themselves a chance to win the conference by winning out.
LSU will host the Volunteers on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the PMAC where it hopes to turn things around and get back on track.