BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The past week had been tough for LSU’s Jarell Martin.
Plagued by foul trouble, Martin had little impact in the Tigers’ road games against Tennessee and Texas A&M.
With his team needing a victory to keep alive its NCAA tournament hopes, Martin responded with a career-high 28 points in the Tigers’ 70-63 victory against Florida.
Martin, who had scored a combined 22 points in the two previous games, was 8 of 15 from the field and 11 of 16 at the foul line. The 11 made free throws were also a career-best for Martin. He also had 13 rebounds.
Martin highlighted his performance with a steal and a between-the-legs dunk that gave LSU the lead for good at 28-26.
"I wanted to give our fans something to cheer for," Martin said. "I have wanted to have a big dunk for a while now."
Jordan Mickey added 14 points and Keith Hornsby had 12 for LSU (19-8, 8-6).
"Our guys did a great job coming out of the locker room with the energy and the focus that was needed to get a nice lead against Florida," LSU coach Johnny Jones said.
Hornsby knocked down a 3-pointer, Mickey converted a three-point play and Tim Quarterman followed with a layup as LSU opened up the second half with an 8-2 run for a 41-28 lead.
A field goal by Martin and two foul shots from Hornsby put the Tigers in front 47-31. Florida answered with a 13-4 run, capped by Eli Carter’s basket with 7:59 remaining, to cut its deficit to 51-44.
The Gators drew closer at 54-48 when Devin Robinson made a 3-pointer with 6:04 left in the game. The Tigers then rebuilt their advantage to double figures by scoring nine consecutive points. Jalyn Patterson sank a pair of 3-pointers during the stretch to help LSU take a 63-48 lead.
Eli Carter scored 14 points for Florida (13-14, 6-8), which has lost five of their last six games. Devin Robinson added 12 points
"We don’t have anyone who can handle (Martin) one-on-one," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "We never have and never will. He can do it on his own. There are very few guys in the country where you can throw them the ball at any spot on the floor and he can create a play for himself."
The first half featured three long runs — two by LSU and one by Florida.
The Tigers struck first by scoring the game’s first 12 points. Martin and Hornsby each accounted for five points. The teams exchanged points for the next six minutes. Two free throws by Hornsby put the Tigers in front 22-9 with 10:59 remaining.
Then the Gators then put together a 13-0 run over about a five-minute span. A 3-pointer by Jon Horford with 8:59 left started the run. Florida tied the score at 22 when Jacob Kurtz made 1 of 2 foul shots. The Gators took their only lead of the game at 26-24 on a basket by Robinson with 2:41 left before halftime.
LSU scored the final nine points of the first half for a 33-26 lead.
LSU: The Tigers swept the season series against Florida this year. LSU beat the Gators in consecutive games for the first time since it won three straight during the 2007-09 seasons. The Tigers beat Florida 79-61 in Gainesville on Jan. 20.
Florida: The Gators were without their two top scorers Michael Frazier and Dorian Finney-Smith. Frazier has missed four straight games due to an ankle injury, while Finney-Smith has sat out the past two games due to an indefinite suspension. Frazier is averaging 13.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, while Finney-Smith is contributing 12.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.