Morrow's 18 points, 20 rebounds, power No. 9 LSU past Florida, 106-66

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Ninth-ranked LSU sought a resounding response to its first two-game skid in more than a year.

All three of the Tigers' newest starters — transfers Hailey Van Lith and Aneesah Morrow, along with freshman Mikaylah Williams — came through with big games, providing evidence that the revamped defending national champions still have plenty of upside.

Morrow had 18 points and 20 rebounds, Van Lith and Williams each scored 21 points, and LSU's defense stifled Florida in a 106-66 victory over the Gators on Sunday.

“I just decided to be myself,” Van Lith said, noting that figuring out her place after transferring from Louisville to LSU’s reloaded roster has been an adjustment. “I went in to rebound and played defense and I had energy. I don’t even care about the points … I have to bring it or we’re not going to reach our potential."

Angel Reese added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Tigers (19-4, 6-3 SEC), who raced to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and led by as many as 45 points in the second half.

LSU was coming off a surprising road loss last Monday night at unranked Mississippi State — a result that followed a disheartening Jan. 25 home loss to unbeaten and No. 1 South Carolina after the Tigers had led most of that game.

LSU coach Kim Mulkey urged anyone that pounced on her team's periodic stumbles this season as a sign that the Tigers have been a disappointment, or might not up to defending their national title, to “stop the negative stuff.”

“We’re relevant. We’re in the conversation,” Mulkey said. "We’re getting everybody’s best shot. And that’s going to make you better.”

Flau'Jae Johnson scored 10 points to give all five starters at least that many. Morrow, a former DePaul standout, scored from all over the offensive end, complementing her putbacks and generally powerful play in the paint with a pair of 3s.

“Morrow brings a tremendous amount of physicality," Florida coach Kelly Rae Finley said. "She’s unselfish and she attacks the glass. She definitely has brought a different dimension to their team as a whole.”

Aliyah Matharu led Florida (11-9, 2-6) with 16 points and five steals and Leilani Correa added 13 points.

After Florida opened with a 6-2 lead, LSU took control by scoring 10 straight in a span of 1:57 — part of a run that grew to 14 straight. The surge included a pair of transition jumpers by Williams and Johnson's right-wing 3, and put LSU ahead for good.

Williams scored a lot of her points on jumpers, including three 3s. Van Lith — who was able to move from point guard to shooting guard when reserve guard Last-Tear Poa joined her in the lineup — hit several mid-range jumpers coming off screens. Reese scored from the paint and foul line — and also finished with a team-high six assists.

BIG PICTURE

Florida: The Gators struggled to stay with LSU on both ends. They shot 35.3% (24 of 68), allowed LSU to shoot 49.3% (37 of 75) and were outrebounded 59-34. ... Reserve forward Eriny Kindred fouled out in just 11 minutes on the court.

LSU: The Tigers avoided what would have been their first three-game losing streak since Mulkey took over before the 2021-22 season. They have had just two two-game skids and never lost two straight last season, when they won the national title. ... Morrow had her team-leading 14th double-double in 23 games played, while Reese had her 13th in her 19th games played.

HONORING GUNTER

LSU honored the late Hall of Fame coach Sue Gunter, who won 422 games with the Tigers between 1983 and 2004, by placing her signature on the basketball court.

The halftime ceremony was attended by LSU women's basketball alumni, including many players Gunter coached.

LSU assistant coach Bob Starkey, who also worked with Gunter, delivered a recorded message on the Pete Maravich Assembly Center video board.

"Coach Gunter planted seeds for LSU basketball, for collegiate women's basketball, for USA basketball and for the WNBA," Starkey said. “You look at all those things, and Sue Gunter's fingerprints are on them.”

Gunter's name now sits near the opposite sideline from that of former LSU men's Dale Brown, who was honored similarly in 2022.

UP NEXT

Florida: Hosts Arkansas on Thursday night.

LSU: Visits Vanderbilt on Thursday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball