Tigers down Auburn 59-54 on plains

Four key free throws by Charlie Thompson staved off an Auburn comeback attempt and helped LSU assure itself a winning season by defeating the home-standing Tigers, 59-54, Saturday afternoon at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Though they trailed the majority of the contest, Auburn (12-15, 4-12 Southeastern Conference) blocked 12 shots and junior guard Adam Harrington unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers to overcome a 14-point halftime deficit to get within four with only 33.4 seconds to go. Harrington finished the game by leading all scorers with 20 points.


Thompson hit a pair of one-and-ones with 13 seconds remaining to ice the game. The win puts the Tigers at three games above .500 and ensures them of a winning season this year heading into the Southeastern Conference Tournament next week.

By winning four of their last six, including two of three on the road, LSU is all but assured to receive a berth in the National Invitational Tournament later this month.


"You have to congratulate our players and really compliment them on what they have gone through," head coach John Brady said. "To hold up like they have and win some close games late and play some good basketball."


LSU (16-13, 6-10 SEC) opened the game trailing 9-6 with 14:12 remaining in the first half before Torris Bright tied the game with a 21-foot three-pointer. A second consecutive Bright three-pointer put the Tigers ahead 12-9 at the 13:39 mark, and LSU would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game.


LSU broke out with a 22-3 run and took a 34-20 run into the halftime break.

Ronald Dupree, the Tigers' leading scorer who was good for 25 points against Auburn in the teams' last meeting, was held to seven points in the game, all in the first half.


LSU made a 7-of-25 field goals in the second half, allowing Auburn to pull within ten points a couple of times in the last 20 minutes of play. LSU, however, was able to increase its lead to 16 after a failed three-pointer by Harrington allowed Antonio Hudson to score on a layup to make the score 49-33 with 10:03 remaining in game.

Auburn responded with a 15-4 run, cutting the Tiger lead to five, 53-48, with 1:23 left.


After an Auburn time out and with 1:06 remaining in the game, Hudson nailed a pair of free throws for a 55-48 LSU lead. Auburn forward Marquis Daniels missed a three-pointer at the 50-second mark, and Dupree was fouled at the other end of the court, giving the Tigers a chance to make it a three-possession ball game with 38.9 seconds to play. However, Dupree missed the front end of the one-and-one before Harrington drove the length of the court and nailed a layup to cut LSU's lead to five. Harrington was fouled on the play and sank his free throw to complete the three-point play to make the score 55-51 with 33.4 seconds remaining.


Hudson, who led LSU with 16 points, was fouled on LSU's next possession, but he, too, would miss the front end of his one-and-one. After a number of tips and scrambling, he was able to pull down his own rebound and dish the ball to Thompson, who was immediately fouled.


Thompson swished both of his freebies to increase LSU's lead to six, 57-51 with 22.1 seconds left on the clock. Auburn's next trip yielded a missed trey, and Thompson was once again fouled after pulling down the defensive board. Thompson hit both from the charity stripe for a 59-51 Tiger lead with less than 14 seconds remaining in the game.


Despite a late leg injury, Harrington roared down the court once more to nail a monster three-pointer to cut LSU's lead to five, 59-54. Auburn, however, chose not to foul LSU on its last possession and the final seconds ticked away uneventfully on the Tiger victory.


"Charlie Thompson and Antonio Hudson are two players who are going to play a lot of basketball for us," Brady said. "They played well today down the stretch, and we were able to win the game without Ronald playing well. That's significant for our team to be able to do."


"Any time you come into this building and Ronald Dupree shoots only 2-for-11 for seven points and misses four free throws," LSU assistant coach Butch Pierre said, "and we still win the game on the road? It's a compliment to all the other guys on the team."


"People need to give this team credit," Brady said. "Let's just say we are able to go to the NIT. That's two post-season tournaments in the last three years on a team that's still feeling the effects of scholarship limitations. I don't know of any other program in the country that would have been able to survive it and do as well.

"There are good things happening with LSU basketball," Brady continued. "We're only losing one (starting) senior, and we have a good recruiting class coming in. I don't think there's anything but positive things about to happen here in a significant way."

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