The 6-4 junior transfer from Kilgore Junior College scored 38 points, including eight threes, including the game-winner with 3.8 seconds left to give LSU an 81-80 victory over Auburn.
Thornton's 38 points are the most for an AU opponent since Ole Miss' Joe Harvell scored 38 against the Tigers on Feb. 29, 1992.
Thornton made the game-winner in dramatic fashion, falling away from well beyond the three-point line in front of the LSU bench. The win snapped an eight-game losing-streak for LSU and sends Auburn on a two-game skid.
"I thought we played very well tonight," Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo said. "We just got beat by one guy. He was absolutely as good as anyone I've seen in a long time, making unbelievably tough shots."
Auburn's Quan Prowell played one of his best games, scoring a career-best tying 26 points, grabbing seven rebounds and getting two assists.
Prowell was six for six from the free-throw line and two for two from three, and he played in all 40 minutes.
Auburn had one of its best free-throw shooting performances, going 14-15. The only miss came on the front end of a one-and-one that would have extended Auburn's lead to four points at the end of the game. Quantez Robertson missed the shot with 21 seconds left, LSU took the ball and Thornton made the three for the win.
Commenting on his game winning shot, Thornton said, " I just tried to free myself up and get some space to get it off. I knew if I had enough space to get it off I had a chance for it going in or somebody tipping it back in and going to overtime."
On his three-pointer that cut AU's lead to 80-79, Thornton said, "Coach called a 45 handoff and I just took it from there and tried to make something happen as quick as possible because I knew time was running down."
Auburn got a strong performance from Prowell. "Quan was outstanding tonight," Lebo said. "That was the best I've seen him play, and I thought Lucas (Hargrove) again gave us good minutes off the bench."
Hargrove had 11 points, five rebounds and two blocks. Frank Tolbert also turned in a solid performance, scoring 12 points of his own while Rasheem Barrett had 15. DeWayne Reed played well in his 37 minutes, scoring 14 and hitting four threes.
"Auburn can shoot the ball," LSU coach John Brady said. "They shot it and made some big plays, but we were able to counter and make big plays and our team hadn't been able to do that all year."
Auburn played well defensively at times despite LSU shooting 50.9 percent from the field. The Tigers were up five with 56 seconds left before Thornton hit his last two shots.
Auburn started the game on a 10-0 run before Thornton went on a 12-0 run of his own. Auburn led for much of the game, but the lead did change 15 times. The score was tied nine different times and everyone in Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum likely knew it would come down to the final seconds.
"They tried to bump, grab and hold to keep me from shooting," Thornton said. "So then my teammates were able to come in and help me out."
Anthony Randolph scored 21 points and Terry Martin added 12 to LSU's cause. Randolph also had six rebounds and two blocks. LSU was able to keep from turning the ball over as much as Auburn would have liked them to, only committing seven.
"We were finally able to make some baskets," Brady said. "We have had moments in games where we couldn't make the right play at the right time, but we were able to do that tonight."
Thornton's 38 points led all scorers. He also added seven rebounds. Thornton was 8-15 from three and 14-23 overall. He scored from all angles and from all over the floor. He also made both of his free throw attempts. Coming into this game he was averaging 18.7 points per game and 5.9 rebounds.
He now has five consecutive 20-point games, the longest 20-point game streak in the conference, including the 27 he scored the last time these teams met.
"We got beat on three-pointers that were absolutely, insanely tough," Lebo said. "My hat's off to Thornton, I'd seen him go off like that for portions of games, but never the whole game--that was an incredible performance for him. The two that he made at the end were absolutely incredible--the double pump in the corner and the step-back shot with a guy hanging on him at the end."
Lucas Hargrove looks to make a move to the basket in front of the Auburn bench.
This was the third game LSU has played in that was decided by three points or less. Their previous two tight games were losses to Villanova and Ole Miss. It was also Auburn's third game decided by three points or less. The previous two were both wins for the Tigers against Ole Miss and Alabama State.
Thornton and true freshman Anthony Randolph were accounting for 47 percent of LSU's offensive production coming into this game. On Wednesday night, Thornton accounted for 46.9 percent of LSU's offense. The all-time record for points scored at Beard-Eaves Memorial is 44 by another LSU Tiger, "Pistol" Pete Maravich, who did it on the coliseum's opening night in 1969.
"Guys get paid to do that right there," said Lebo, whose team fell to 2-4 in the SEC and 12-7 overall while LSU improved to 8-12 overall and 1-5 in the SEC. "You see those guys that do that--they are in another world. He was in it, we got beat by an individual performance tonight."
Thornton said the game was one he will remember and noted he had never been that hot shooting the basketball. "Not from the start to the end like that," he said. "I was trying to give my team a chance to win the game. It felt good.
"You feel like you can shoot it from anywhere on the court, just put it up and it's got a chance to go in," he added.
The Tigers return to action at 4 p.m. Saturday against 18th-ranked Vanderbilt (17-4, 2-4 SEC) at Memorial Coliseum in Nashville, Tenn. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports South.