The Gators are still looking up at most of the SEC. But UF's 72-58 win over LSU is a step forward towards Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, who are running away from the rest of the division.
The Gators (12-5, 1-2 SEC) shot 50% from the field and 41% from the three point line. With Chandler Parsons starting for a sick Dan Werner, all five UF starters made it into double figures. The only starter who shot less than 50% was Kenny Boynton, who was 6-13 shooting and led all scorers with 18 points. Staying out of foul trouble, Vernon Macklin was 6-9 for 14 points. Erving Walker had 14, with Parsons and Alex Tyus each scoring 11. Macklin and Tyus each had eight rebounds.
Without Werner in the lineup (he played 20 minutes and scored 1 point, while attempting zero shots) Florida seemed to play better on the offensive end. But LSU (9-8, 0-3) has been allowing high 60s or worse against major competition. The Gators do get credit for getting out in front early and holding back a LSU rally late in the first half. UF started the second half on a 20-4 run to put LSU away. The Gators have been a rally team, but they haven't done it enough to create a lead or put teams away. Unlike the Kentucky and Vanderbilt games, LSU was not good enough to answer UF's rallies.
Most importantly is that this is a league win, when starting 0-3 would have been death. With UK, Tennessee and Vandy at 3-0, Florida might have to run the table at home (going 7-1) and split the road games (4-4). Splitting the road games gives UF insurance if Tennessee comes into Gainesville on January 31 and blows the doors off. Florida also has a home date with Xavier squeezed between SEC games, too.
Thursday night, UF goes to Arkansas, then home to South Carolina and Georgia. A nice little win streak gets UF to 4-2 when they face Tennessee. But Florida cannot take the same luxury we have in counting games not yet played. That has been their downfall the past two seasons, as they thought winning select games would get them to the dance. They need to start winning every game and the only way to do that is by doing what they did against LSU; long scoring runs and putting teams away.