BATON ROUGE, LA (AP) Emmitt Williams scored 19 points, Skylar Mays capped an 18-point performance with two crucial free throws in the final 10 seconds, and LSU remained unbeaten in SEC play with an 84-82 victory over Florida on Tuesday night.
Keyontae Johnson had 16 points for Florida and briefly believed he’d forced overtime with a layup on a backdoor cut as time expired. But officials determined on video review that the half-second on the clock when the ball was put in play ran out before the ball left Johnson’s hand.
Javonte Smart scored 13 points and freshman Trendon Watford punctuated his 14-point night with a two-handed dunk on a baseline cut to give LSU (14-4, 6-0) a 79-69 lead with 1:20 to go.
Noah Locke also had 16 points for Florida (12-6, 4-2), which created a tense finish by scoring 13 points in the final 1:11 on Andrew Nembhard’s layup, Locke’s 3, two more 3s by Johnson and a layup by Kerry Blackshear.
Nembhard and Balckshear each finished with 15 points.
LSU led for the final 14:08 and appeared to be taking control with an 11-3 run in the middle of the second half. Williams converted a layup while being fouled early in the surge. Mays added a jumper and Darius Days’ layup made it 61-52 with a little less than 10 minutes to go.
LSU’s lead hovered around six until Mays hit LSU’s second 3 of the game with 4:02 remaining. Mays followed that up with a steal from Nembhard and Days pushed the Tigers’ lead to 73-62 when snagged the long rebound from his missed 3 and drove past scrambling defenders for a layup.
The play prompted Florida coach Michael White to call timeout while LSU coach Will Wade stomped onto the court triumphantly, pumping both fists and hollering approvingly at his players.
Little could Wade know how very close the Gators would make it after that.
Florida briefly led by as many as eight points in the first half when Scottie Lewis’ transition 3 capped a 12-6 surge and made it 25-17.
LSU responded by pressing defensively and scored nine straight, highlighted by sequence in which Marlon Taylor followed his 3 with a steal and fast-break dunk to put the Tigers in front 26-25.
The game remained tight for the remainder of the half, with Florida taking a 36-34 lead into the break on Lewis’ jumper with 2 seconds on the clock.
Florida’s size and talent intermittently gave LSU fits. The Gators shot 50% and hit 11 3s. But untimely turnovers — 12 in all — and defensive breakdowns did them in.
LSU has won five five straight by four or fewer points, with the largest of those wins coming in overtime. While they’ve shown composure in games that have come down to the wire, the Tigers seemed to have a much more comfortable win in hand against Florida before nearly collapsing. in the final minute.
Florida hosts No. 1 Baylor on Saturday night in the Big12/SEC Challenge.
LSU visits Texas on Saturday.