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FSU 83, Florida 71: Seminoles slam Gators after loss of Keyontae Johnson

The most important moment of Florida’s trip to Tallahassee was its star player’s trip to a Tallahassee hospital.

NCAA Basketball: Stetson at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After four superb minutes of play in Tallahassee, the Florida Gators had an 11-3 lead on the Florida State Seminoles, and high hopes of ending FSU’s six-game winning streak in the rivalry.

But then Keyontae Johnson collapsed to the floor and had to be taken from it on a stretcher and transported to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.

And without him, the game on the floor proceeded much more like ones of recent vintage in this rivalry, with Florida State erasing the Gators’ early lead, putting together a 17-0 run late in the first half, and controlling the second period en route to a 83-71 victory.

Touted Seminoles freshman Scottie Barnes turned in the best performance of his young career with 17 points and five assists, including two poster-worthy plays in the first half, and M.J. Walker — who made all 12 of his free throws to score the lion’s share of his 17 points, and made his second shot from the field on a dunk in the second half that he followed by stepping over a fallen Gator — and Anthony Polite (four threes and 15 points) joined Barnes in double figures for an FSU outfit whose length and size once more troubled Florida.

Scottie Lewis scored 19 points of his own to lead all players, and additionally filled out his stat sheet with four assists, three rebounds and blocks, and two steals. But Lewis and Tre Mann (17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) were the only truly effective scorers for the Gators after Johnson’s departure. (Johnson’s five points in limited action came on a converted and-one opportunity and the dunk end of a spectacular alley-oop from Tyree Appleby.)

20 Florida turnovers helped fuel FSU’s potent transition game, and the Gators were also whistled for 24 fouls to FSU’s 18, which produced 30 free throws for the Seminoles and just 16 for Florida.

But it’s hard, verging on impossible — logically and emotionally — to derive any sorts of conclusions from this game, given how staggering Johnson’s sudden departure from it was. In the immediate wake of him hitting the floor, multiple Florida players shed tears, with the ESPNU broadcast showing Noah Locke, Lewis, and Mann visibly distraught.

Both teams huddled and reportedly said prayers for Johnson as well, and it was reported that FSU’s Leonard Hamilton gave Florida’s Mike White the opportunity to call off the game — a decision that White appeared to have involved his players in, which is possibly why Florida ultimately played on.

And with Johnson in critical but stable condition — and with reporting suggesting that he tested positive for coronavirus this summer now out in the world — the Gators have far, far bigger worries and grief to deal with than another loss to FSU.