BATON ROUGE — LSU held the last parade on Fat Tuesday, and the reward was no mere handful of beads.
The No. 18-ranked Tigers waltzed off the Pete Maravich Assembly Center court with a most unlikely share of the SEC title by knocking off Florida 81-75 before a crowd of 13,345, the largest of the season.
The closing atmosphere was so festive, even dour LSU Coach Trent Johnson enthusiastically fist-pumped the crowd as he ran off the court with an arm around the neck of Athletic Director Joe Alleva, the man who hired him.
Picked to finish second in the West Division, LSU clinched the division title and can claim the outright SEC title with a victory at Kentucky on Saturday.
“I’m so happy for them, the players, you have no idea, ” said Johnson, who rarely shows emotion or talks beyond the next game. “We had to play really well obviously.”
LSU (24-4, 12-1) won its ninth straight game and 12th consecutive conference game. The Tigers have a three-game lead on Kentucky and South Carolina, who play each other tonight.
Garrett Temple, along with Tasmin Mitchell, played on the 2006 Final Four team before suffering through two losing seasons. Temple also had a wrist injury that required surgery this past offseason. He said he wasn’t quite ready to celebrate.