Deans’ Career-High Not Enough as Gators Fall to No. 5 LSU

The Gators got a career-day from KK Deans on Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t enough to overcome hot shooting from LSU, falling to the No. 5 Tigers 90-79 inside Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Deans took over for the Gators (14-13, 3-11 SEC), matching a career-high with 30 points on 10-of-20 shooting, to go along with five assists, two rebounds and two steals. Jordyn Merritt and Ra Shaya Kyle each tallied 12 points of their own as the Orange & Blue shot 27-of-63 (42.9%) from the field and 8-of-23 (34.8%) from deep. At the charity stripe, UF was an impressive 17-of-20 (85%).
On the other end of the court, LSU (25-1, 13-1 SEC) ended their afternoon shooting 37-of-70 (52.9%) from the floor and 11-of-20 (55%) from long range. Jasmine Carson had a career-day, ending with 25 points, which was boosted by a 7-of-14 effort from deep, while Angel Reese scored 25 points to go along with 16 rebounds.
Florida did make the Tigers uncomfortable, however, forcing 19 turnovers that resulted in 10 steals for the home squad. Merritt swiped-away three steals for UF, with Deans and Kyle each contributing two of their own. The Gators scored 17 points off of the 19 forced-turnovers.
Sunday’s rebounding edge went to LSU, pulling-down 41 rebounds to Florida’s 31, 13 of which were offensive for UF. Kyle and Alberte Rimdal led the Gators’ efforts, grabbing five and four, respectively.
The O’Connell Center was buzzing on Sunday afternoon, with 3,498 fans in attendance to witness the matchup between the Gators and Tigers. Florida utilized that energy early, racing out to a 13-7 lead behind seven early points from Deans, including an and-one layup after fighting through contact from Alexis Morris with 6:18 on the clock.
LSU responded with an 8-0 burst over the next minute to take a 15-13 lead, but Kyle answered with four points of her own to regain the lead at 17-15. Both squads went back-and-forth over the final four minutes with the Tigers taking a 27-23 edge into the second quarter. There was no problem on the offensive end for either team during the opening frame, as Florida ended the quarter 9-of-17 from the floor and LSU finished 12-of-20.
The Tigers opened the second quarter on a 10-0 run to open-up a 37-23 advantage with 6:38 to go in the half. The Gators put a stop to the bleeding with a 6-0 response of their own while holding the opposition scoreless for nearly four minutes, but a 10-2 LSU run to close-out the half gave the visitors a 47-31 edge going into the break.
Defense took over for Florida to start the second half, holding LSU scoreless for the first 5:20 of the half and without a field goal for the opening 6:12. During that frame, the Gators clawed their way back to within nine, 49-40, thanks to a 9-2 start, including four coming from Merritt. A pair of triples pushed the Tiger lead back to 13 with two minutes remaining, but Deans scored the last six points to make it a nine-point game, 59-50, with 10 minutes left to play.
LSU was held to just 4-of-15 shooting during the third and turned the ball over seven times.
Both teams continued to play at a high-level into the fourth, going bucket-for-bucket until the 7:20 mark when LSU was able to reel-off six-straight to extend their lead to 14 with under six minutes remaining. The Tigers’ lead peaked at 17 before taking a 90-79 victory over the Gators.
Up Next
Florida remains at home on Thursday, Feb. 23, for senior day when they welcome Alabama to Exactech Arena for a 6 p.m. ET matchup. The game will air live on SEC Network+.
Head Coach Kelly Rae Finley
On Sunday’s matchup with LSU…
“Obviously you don’t like to lose as a competitor, but I was really pleased with our team’s performance. I thought we had a couple lulls and you can’t have those if you want to beat number five in the country. I think that LSU’s an incredibly talented team. They’re incredibly well-coached, but it’s a really fun game to play. Their team is full of competitors and our team is full of competitors as well, so it was a good basketball game. I was really pleased with our effort, our energy, the things that are required, but things that I’ve challenged our team with in terms of being Florida basketball. We compete hard, we compete every possession and we compete together. That’s who we are and that’s what we do. The challenge is to do that every single time out and we’re growing and we’re maturing as a team in that, both individually and collectively. I think that this is something good for us to build off of going into next week.” 
On playing two top-five programs back-to-back…
“Kim Mulkey and Dawn Staley are two Hall of Fame coaches. They coach with passion, two very different styles, but both extremely successful in building their programs. Obviously, that’s something that we’re striving to do in our own way here at the University of Florida. You don’t want to be them, but you do want to learn from the experiences and what you see. I thought we had a tremendous crowd here today and I thought it was electric in there, and that’s what we want to continue to build. We want to build a program that Gator Nation can be very proud of: student-athletes that are connected, that empower each other, that build and help the community. I think that both those programs have been able to successfully do that and we would like to do the same here in Gainesville.” 
– LSU holds a 33-15 all-time lead in the series.
– The Gators recorded at least 10 steals for the seventh time this season and first time since Dec. 29 against Tennessee.
– KK Deans matched her career-high with 30 points from Feb. 6, 2021 when she scored 30 against Texas while at West Virginia.
– Deans secured the first 30-point effort for Florida since Mar. 4, 2021 when Kiara Smith tallied 36 against Kentucky.
– The senior now sits alone at 15th in Florida history with 59 triples made in a single season.
– Ra Shaya Kyle went an impressive 8-for-10 from the free throw line, marking a career-best for the junior.
– Paige Clausen converted her first collegiate field goal with nine seconds remaining in the game.
– Jordyn Merritt crossed the double-figures threshold for the first time since Nov. 24 against Houston.
– Faith Dut matched a season-high with four made field goals.