EditorsNote: 2nd update, restores missing words in 6th graf
With his team’s NCAA Tournament hopes still teetering, Florida freshman point guard Andrew Nembhard made his biggest shot at the biggest time of the season.
Nembhard sank a 3-pointer with one second left to break a 73-73 tie, lifting the Gators to a 76-73 upset of No. 9 LSU in the SEC tournament quarterfinals in Nashville, Tenn. The Gators will face No. 22 Auburn in a semifinal Saturday. The Tigers beat South Carolina 73-64 in a quarterfinal Friday.
Nembhard led five Florida scorers in double figures with 20 points as the Gators (19-14) rallied back from down 10 points at halftime to pick up a win that should secure an NCAA Tournament berth.
Forward Keyontae Johnson added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the eighth-seeded Gators, posting his third double-double of the season. Guard Jalen Hudson scored 13 points, guard KeVaughn Allen had 12 points and center Kevarrius Hayes had 11 points and eight rebounds.
Freshman forward Naz Reid led top-seeded LSU (26-6) with 26 points and 14 rebounds. With LSU down 73-70, Reid hit a 3-pointer to tie the score with 16 seconds left before Nembhard’s big shot.
LSU played its second game under interim coach Tony Benford, who factored into the outcome. With LSU up 63-60, Benford was whistled for a technical foul for arguing a foul call as Johnson hit a 3-pointer for the Gators. It wound up being a six-point play for the Gators as the four-point play was completed and Allen then made both technical free throws to put Florida up 66-63.
Benford is coaching in place of Will Wade, who remains suspended amid reports that his voice was on a wiretap trying to negotiate to secure the recruitment of LSU freshman point guard Javonte Smart. While LSU continues to hold Wade out, claiming he has not cooperated with school officials, Smart was cleared to play on Friday against the Gators and finished with 13 points.
LSU outscored Florida 26-10 in the paint in the first half to build a 35-25 halftime lead. Reid had his way inside, finishing with nine points and seven rebounds in the first half. An inside layup by Reid gave LSU its biggest lead of the first half, 24-11, with 9:06 left in the half. The Tigers stayed ahead by double figures for most of the rest of the first half.
Florida was unable to counter from the perimeter in the first half, shooting just 34 percent (10-for-29) from the floor and 13 percent (2-for-15) from 3-point range.
—Field Level Media