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Florida 67, LSU 56: Gators follow slow start with strong finish for SEC road win

LSU’s early lead(s) did not stop or stymie the Gators.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

LSU started Tuesday night’s meeting with Florida in Baton Rouge with a 7-0 run that spanned the entire first segment prior to the first media timeout.

From then on, the Gators chased down the Tigers time and again — and, at the tail end of their 67-56 win, prevented LSU from doing any chasing of its own.

Colin Castleton led Florida with 18 points — 12 of them at the foul line, where a handsy LSU team allowed him one fewer attempt (15) than the Tigers earned, suffering the ill consequences of fouling Florida’s big man so often that he recorded just five shot attempts — and added seven rebounds and five blocks, but this game turned on Florida’s other defenders elevating their games to match the Gators’ shot-stopper. The Gators pilfered and poked all night, generating 10 steals and 16 turnovers in a game that was never even close to reaching 70 possessions.

Will Richard had three of those steals in what amounted to a series of cameos, his foul trouble eventually earning a disqualification, but Myreon Jones and Kyle Lofton had two steals each, and three other Gators chipped in one. That fueled a lot of transition offense, which in turn helped Florida erase three separate LSU leads of five or more points.

Jones and Lofton also made crucial plays on offense in the half court, with Jones twice getting assists on passes from the baseline that set up corner threes and Lofton contorting himself and putting significant spin on back-to-back layups early in the second half. And they were among the six Gators who scored seven or more points, though neither Jones (eight) nor Lofton (seven) joined Castleton and Kowacie Reeves (11 points on 12 shots, buoyed by a 4-for-4 night at the line) in double figures.

Perhaps that balance and a resurgent defense is Florida’s new winning formula? It sure doesn’t seem like relying on shooting — the Gators went five-for-25 from three — or relying on Castleton to dominate every offensive possession is as good a strategy for this team, which has seen a lot of double-teams of and varied approaches to Castleton’s post touches disrupt its offense (and Castleton’s scoring) in recent outings.

But in their last two games, both against conference foes who came in with double-digit wins and just three losses, the Gators are 2-0.

This isn’t the script most would have written for this team.

Of late, it’s still made for winning episodes.