Tigers outlast Ole Miss, 59-56

LSU forward Jermaine Williams made the most of his last game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. After being honored on Senior Night, he made 6-of-7 from the field to lead the Tigers to a 59-56 win Wednesday night over Ole Miss at the Maravich Assembly Center.

Williams' 13 points, along with 19 from Ronald Dupree, helped LSU secure its second winning season in John Brady's tenure at LSU and kept alive the Tigers' chances for receiving a bid to the National Invitational Tournament.


The Tigers (15-13, 5-10 Southeastern Conference) overcame a seven-point halftime deficit with 60 percent shooting in the second half and limited Ole Miss to 38 percent shooting for the game.


The Rebels (19-9, 8-7) led 46-44 with 4:55 left to play but LSU used a 10-0 lead to go on top and protected the lead for the rest of the way.


"We didn't need 65 points to win the game," said Brady. "Our defense is good and we compete as well as anybody. I don't think that anybody can say that there is no fight in these Tigers. They've got heart."


The highlight of the game came with 35 seconds left when Antonio Hudson went up for a layup and, finding an Ole Miss defender in his face, spun around and lobbed the ball up in the air to Dupree who came down with a thunderous slam dunk. It gave LSU a 56-51 lead and helped seal the deal against the Rebels.


"I thought he might dish it but I didn't think it would be that late," Dupree said of the pass from Hudson.


Ole Miss led most of the game but LSU began to turn things around following a quick series of fouls on Tiger guard Charlie Thompson in the second half. The questionable calls brought on a thunderous cascade of boos from the Tiger faithful and seemed to pump up Brady's team. LSU followed with a 9-4 run that tied the score, 44-44, with 6:54 to play.


Ole Miss pulled ahead again by two when Justin Reed sank two free throws, but Dupree laid it in after a miss by Thompson to knot the score up again.


Williams put up LSU for good, 48-46, with 3:29 to play on a fast break dunk with an assist from Torris Bright. Then LSU began spreading the floor on offense to slow the pace of the game and to add to their lead. On the other end, the Tigers closed the door on the Rebels with the pressure defense they employed for most of the second half.


Over the remainder of the game, LSU got high percentage shots close to the basket out of its spread offense. And despite a few of unwise fouls from the Tigers, Ole Miss didn't take advantage of their free throw opportunities to draw the game closer with the clock stopped. The Rebels were 1-of-4 from the stripe over the last 2:23 of the game and 11-of-17 for the game.


"You have to give LSU credit," said Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes. "I thought their kids hung in there. In the end they made plays to win and we didn't get the job done."


Williams provided first opening and closing scoring for the Tigers, finishing the night with a free throw with 14 seconds to go and hitting the game's opening shot on a driving one-handed jumper. The two teams struggled offensively during the first half, as it took Ole Miss until the 16:54 mark to score its first points – a David Allen layup that tied the game 2-2.


LSU increased their lead to 7-2 before Ole Miss began to take control. David Sanders tied the game 9-9, and Justin Reed sank a close jumper to put the Rebels ahead with 9:13 remaining. The visitors would hold the lead the rest of the first half.


The Tigers turned the ball over twelve times in the opening 20 minutes which allowed Ole Miss to hold a 27-20 lead despite shooting only 29 percent from the field. The Tigers trailed Ole Miss at halftime.


Most noticeable of the Tigers' struggles were those of Dupree, who only scored two points and was benched by Brady after only thirteen minutes of action.


"I wrestled a little with Ronald Dupree in the first half," Brady said, "I sat him down and at halftime we talked about how we needed him to play and he responded."


Dupree responded with 17 points in the second half, including several clutch shots down the stretch. He was 8-for-17 from the field for the game.


In the second half, LSU changed their defensive strategy and began pressing more and occasionally trapping Ole Miss in the paint. This clearly frustrated the Rebels and forced them into making more mistakes, as evident by their ten turnovers in the second half.


"Our full-court press slowed them down a little bit and we picked up a lot of energy," said Brady.


Both teams continued to battle before the fouls on Thompson sparked LSU to victory.  The Tigers improved their shooting, going 60 percent (15-25) from the field after shooting only 47 percent (8-17) in the first half. LSU also had a remarkable cut down in turnovers, giving the ball up only four times in the second half.


While Dupree led the Tigers in scoring, Williams was the real star of the game. The Baton Rouge native scored 13 points, pulled down four rebounds, and had three steals and a block.


"It feels good," Williams said, "I didn't know it would happen like this."


"Jermaine had a big game. Definitely the game ball goes to him," said Torris Bright.


Thompson turned in perhaps the best game of his LSU career, contributing six points off of the bench with a 4-of-4 showing at the free throw line. He also played excellent pressure defense against the Rebels' Jason Harrison. His two personal fouls in the second half helped send a message to Ole Miss and really ignited the Tigers' game.


"We all got fired up," Thompson said of the team's reaction to the two fouls called on him. "It's a great feeling to give the team a lift off the bench."


"Charlie gave us a great lift," Dupree said. "When he picked up those fouls it sent them a message that we were going to be physical. The crowd got into it and we just gained a lot of energy."


"(Our) guys kind of got down when the fans got into the game," said Ole Miss guard David Sanders.


Sanders led the Rebels with 18 points, shooting 3-for-6 behind the three-point line before fouling out with 22 seconds left in the game. Reed was second on the team with 17. Both had eleven points in the first half but were slowed in the second by LSU's pressure defense. Reed in particular struggled with double teams inside.


Rounding up the scoring for LSU, Bright contributed ten points, along with six assists and four steals. Antonio Hudson added nine points to the effort with Brad Bridgewater putting up two points.


LSU's final regular season game will be on the road at Auburn this Saturday. The Bayou Bengals are in the hunt for a berth in the NIT and another victory would help that cause. If they fall at Auburn, LSU would get another chance at next week's SEC Tournament in Atlanta where they are guaranteed to be no worse than the No. 5 seed from the West Division.


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