Davis headlines SEC leading Tigers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The headliner for the LSU basketball squad? Glen Davis, of course. And why not? The sophomore is as wide as a house yet has figure skater feet and sculptor's hands. And how can you not love a guy named ‘Big Baby'?

But for all the deserved attention heaped on the big fella, there is another LSU player that may be more valuable, and he casts a considerably smaller shadow than Davis.

                                

Senior guard Darrel Mitchell runs the LSU offense from the perimeter and provides a steady hand of leadership for a young squad that is reaching new heights with each passing week.

 

"Darrel Mitchell should be a candidate for outstanding player in the league," said LSU coach John Brady following the Tigers' 77-66 win at Vanderbilt on Wednesday. "I don't think there is player that has been more consistent. He has also been asked to play the point guard position, which he has never played. That is significant."

 

Mitchell was a key figure in LSU's victory over Vanderbilt which clinched the SEC West division title. Mitchell scored 21 points, added five assists and settled the team down when the Commodores made a run in the second half.

 

"He's a super senior," said freshman Tyrus Thomas, who had 15 points and 14 rebounds. "That's what he's supposed to do. Whenever we need a basket, the play is run for Darrel. When we need somebody to step up, we know Darrel is going to do it. He's our leader. He is the glue to this team."

 

Mitchell came to the rescue twice against Vanderbilt. In the first half, Kenner, La., native Shan Foster shot Vanderbilt out to a 21-14 lead, and the Memorial Gym crowd of 13,122 was ready for Vanderbilt to take control.

 

Enter Mitchell. He assisted on Tasmin Mitchell's bucket, then scored eight consecutive points to give LSU a 24-21 lead. His three-point play capped a stretch in which he drew four Vanderbilt fouls in just two minutes.

 

"That is what seniors are supposed to do," Brady said. "We called his number three or four straight times because we wanted something to happen. He got us going when we were down in the first half."

 

Mitchell briefly turned his ankle in the second half and had to limp to the bench, leaving five freshmen on the floor. Mitchell was out for just a minute, though he later said he was in pain and he had an ice pack on it while talking to reporters.

 

The ankle didn't prevent Mitchell from knocking down the shot of the game, a three-pointer that staved off a late Vanderbilt rally. Derrick Byars nailed three straight threes for Vanderbilt to cut the LSU lead to 61-58, but Mitchell came up big at the other end and answered with a three of his own.

 

"It felt good coming out of my hands, and when it went in, it was sort of like a dagger," Mitchell said.

 

The dagger quieted the Vanderbilt crowd, though the Commodores again pulled to within 64-62 with 3:16 to play. Mitchell then broke the Vanderbilt press and fed Davis for a dunk, and Vanderbilt was never able to pull within four again after that.

 

"We made a few stupid turnovers, but other than that, I thought we played pretty well," Mitchell said.

 

Well enough to clinch the SEC West for the second consecutive season.

 

"It was one of our goals coming into the season," Mitchell said. "It is big with all of these young guys to win the West."

 

Speaking of the young guys, Mitchell said he feels their eyes turn to him on the road when things get hostile, since he is the lone senior on the floor. But he also knows his young teammates have improved as the year has gone on.

 

"We're more mature, we're more calm," Mitchell said of the difference between the early season Tigers who lost five pre-conference games and the one that is putting together an impressive SEC season. "We know what we have to do and who needs to do it."


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